Writing Tools

Gdocs vs. yWriter vs. Scrivener

So! Because every wannabe artist always wants to know what tools people use to create their art, (see: video below)

Toronto Comic Arts Festival: Pencil it In from Toronto Comic Arts Festival on Vimeo.

I thought I’d share the things I do to help me organize my writing.  The Writing Excuses crew recently talked about their “story bibles” and wikidpad; I will have you know that I’ve had the idea to talk about what I use since BEFORE they mentioned what they use. Just so that we’re clear. :p

I’ve been using Google Documents since they first came into being, back in 2007, I think. I originally used it to write all of my school papers since my laptop was so broken that the only program I could open was Firefox, (and only after a thirty-minute boot-up).  Gdocs are great because they automatically save your work and you can access it anywhere there’s internet. No need for cumbersome flash drives and remembering to save or lose everything.  You also can share your documents so other people can edit or simply view your files.  They can leave comments, too, if you would prefer they not write directly on or edit the documents.  It’s been great for doing homework–but also for keeping role-play records through the years and other collaborations, such as translations or joint stories.  I still use Gdocs for brainstorming sessions and rough notes to myself. Oh, and you can watch people type = fun feature.

The cons? Well, this year they’ve taken to adding a ton of formatting to their pages, meaning that instead of a blank limitless slate, now we have pages formatted like a regular word processor. I don’t like formatted word processing pages, so I’m rather disappointed Google has gone this route. Still, the pros outweight the cons and I continue to use Gdocs for various purposes.

Currently, I have my novel OTHERSIDE all in Gdocs, and this is my default starting point for new stories and projects.

yWriter: freeware.

Back in 2009 before I left for Armenia, one of my writing buddies introduced me to yWriter.  I immediately saw the benefits and plugged my novel THE WITCH’S TOWER into it.  It’s great because I can divide by chapters and then divide the chapter by scenes; I can see the wordcount for each and what version I’m on–if it’s an outline, rough draft, second draft, etc.  I can see what povs, characters, items, and locations appear where and I can easily access all my information about each of the above.  I can add descriptions and notes to scenes and chapters, and I can keep track of character arcs, conflicts and goals if I need to.  Mostly I love keeping track of what characters and items appear where, what scenes are doing what and where they’re located.

yWriter also allows me to see how many words I’ve added to my novel that day and it keeps track of wordcount goals and figures out how many words per day I need to write in order to meet my long-term goals.

Scrivener (windows beta).

The same friend showed me Scrivener when I got home from Armenia. It’s for Macs but there is a free beta version for  Windows, which is what I’m using currently.  What I love about Scrivener is the divided view where I can see two files at once, so I can look at research while I’m typing up new material.  Research, you ask? I currently have my alternate history/future Manchurian China short story plugged into Scrivener, and the awesome feature where I can load all of my old university research papers and files into the program and have it in one easily accessible location while I work is absolutely amazing.  I don’t have to load up multiple windows or go looking through my files anymore. It’s just on the lower left of the navigation bar.

Like yWriter, chapters divide themselves into scenes. I can keep track of characters and locations–not as nicely as yWriter, but the feature is still there.  Scrivener relies heavily on pre-formatted pages, templates rather.  There’s the famous corkboard feature where you have “notecards” to rearrange scene order according to your fancy, which I don’t use. There’s also a full-screen writing feature that allows you to cut other distractions while you write, if that would be useful to you.


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