Writing Software: Pick Your Poison

This comes as inspiration from a coupon in my goodie bag from winning Camp NaNoWriMo this month, which offers 50% off from Scrivener with a code that you’ll receive on August 1.

Of course, upon further inspection, I see that this offer is something you also received from winning NaNoWriMo proper, which makes sense. That’s a story for another day: all of the coupons and goodies and free stuff and offers you can get simply from finishing that’s actually rather neat. I’d only really looked at the front page of the goodies instead of getting into it before, but now I’m definitely excited for November, considering some offers expire quickly.

Scrivener isn’t the only one that you get discounts on. There’s Aeon Timeline as well, and Storyist (for Mac only).

I had started to look into Scrivener to check out just what it was about and got pretty excited. A lot of what it has to offer seems extremely helpful, the outliner, the text editing, snapshots, name generator, corkboard for notes, being able to pile a whole novel together but separate it by chapter.

Then, I started to wonder how much of those features I would actually use.

At the moment, I use Roughdraft. Google docs is a close second because it’s a cloud based system I can get into through my e-mail, and it counts wordcount, but nothing feels as light and as fluent with my style as Roughdraft does. Which, that alone is a little funny because I was so resistant to getting it and dragging all of my files over, but none of that was a pain.

Roughdraft is lightweight, runs on RTF format, it doesn’t take much to boot up, it’s very minimalistic, you have a notepad on the side you can type in (great for when I was doing NaNo and could tell myself what needed to be changed in revisions, or clips I needed for later inspiration), a tab for inserts, a tab for lists, and a whole lotta shortcuts. This was the first program other than what I saw in Google docs that counted words, and that was nifty as hell to me in the beginning.

I am very pleased with it now, but I can’t help but wonder if Scrivener’s extra tools and features might be nice or helpful to me.

There are, of course, others who could do without it all. People like George RR Martin who still write in DOS on WordStar 4.0, who don’t need anything but to type. Then there are people who need the extra help, or who appreciate it.

Three things I do need, absolutely, is something capable of telling me my wordcount, something I can tag notes on, and the ability to turn off live spellcheck so I can ignore the squigglies when I come up with names like Sonas Barrin or Vitenia Bruch. I can live on that. Though the auto-save function is also super.

For the longest time, Wordpad and Notepad were enough for me. I used them primarily until my friend introduced me to Roughdraft, and I’d call my life changed from then on. I can handle simple, basic, but when is bare-bones too bare?

I enjoy having extra to play with, too, but what cost does it come with other than monetary? Am I going to end up using what I have at my fingertips, or will it go mostly ignored?

It is good to get outside of your comfort zone a little, I’ll be the first to say, but everyone has their limits on how much they can handle or want to handle. What the bandwidth in their head is for fancy frills that they need to keep track of. It’s all about finding your groove and what program fits it best, whether it’s DOS or the latest writing software to date.

-The Novice Wordsmith

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