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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Does anyone use writing software? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Does anyone use writing software?
Gardener
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I was wondering if most people just write in Word (or the equivalent) or if they use any writer's software.

I dabbled in screenplays for a bit and you have to use something with the correct formatting. But I found the extras - character bios, scene descriptions, short cuts to different scenes, etc, were very helpful to use. I could pull up a character's bio to refresh my memory for small details.

Has anyone tried what's out there for stories?


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Bent Tree
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I was unaware of such software. DO you know any names?
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Wolfe_boy
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Scrivener

yWriter

Jer's Novel Writer

Liquid Story Binder

There are others out there, but these are the ones I'm vaguely familiar with that are greared specifically for writers, which is to say that they have greater outlining, chaptering, character creation, even mapping functions than your typical word processor. I still use Word myself, or Dark Room or Writeroom just for their simplicity and distraction blocking abilities. Plus nostalgia.

Jayson Merryfield


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mikemunsil
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RoughDraft is good, if you can still find it.

yWriter4 has a lot of bells and whistles.

Both are free.


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PaulUK
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I've tried some of these in the past, and for me, they're just another thing for me to fiddle with and explore when I should, actually, be writing

I'm sure many find them useful -- and I've no doubt they are useful for screenwriters -- but I'm going to stick with boring old Word for now.

Cheers,

Paul


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TaleSpinner
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For a writer's database that handles characters, locations and backstory I think New Novelist is the best:

http://www.newnovelist.com/clickbank/?hop=index2html&gclid=CIzivryxmpMCFQ2SHgodl3O9Zw

But despite spending money on it, I don't use it. Like all the other writer's applications I've tried, it doesn't format manuscripts as well as ... Word. (And, everyone seems to have Word or something compatible, so one can exchange manuscripts with ease.)

Cheers,
Pat


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JeanneT
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I use yWriter and like it. I was going to explain why but it doesn't matter.

Bye all. See you around.

[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited May 09, 2008).]


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Robert Nowall
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Just Microsoft Works whatever-version-happened-to-come-with-my-computer. (Both my first computer and this present one.) It's not without its problems and quirks, but I can make it do the job I want it to do. Whether it's ideal for a writer, I couldn't say...
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Jeff M
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During last NaNoWriMo, I discovered Q10, and I love it. It's a very simple, full screen text editor, similar to Dark Room mentioned above.
I use MS Word every day in my (non-writing) day job, plus for other humdrum activities (email, etc). What I like about the Q10 is that it puts me in "writing mode". I only use it for writing stories, so when I open it, I step into my writer's world. Nothing special about the program, per se, it just helps me focus a bit more.


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smncameron
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A quick google for "Writing Software" reveals some pretty outlandish claims about what using them will accomplish. Just because you're able to organize your characters doesn't mean you will suddenly be able to create good ones.
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mitchellworks
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Because I'm a little random, what I find most useful is a little database software called Personal Knowbase (http://www.bitsmithsoft.com)

It just keeps little notes that you can index by keyword(s). Simple, easy, flexible.

(I agree that the main writing is still best in Word.)

[This message has been edited by mitchellworks (edited May 10, 2008).]


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IcedFalcon
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I write with a typewriter mostly unless Im away then I dig out my notebook and use darkroom.
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JamieFord
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Word works for me. Plus, my agent can make comments/edit suggestions in Track Changes.
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Gardener
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Thanks for all the input. For short stories, I think Word is fine. But I have a rambling, oversized novel that desperately needs re-writing. I have my "bible" with all the backstory, relationships, etc, in a notebook (paper, not electronic). But I was wondering if I could organize it better.

Just another procrastination to avoid tackling it I guess.


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TaleSpinner
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One chapter per Word file?

There was a discussion some while ago about how there's a risk that Word will corrupt a long--novel length--file ... here:

http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum1/HTML/004481.html

Hope this helps,
Pat


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mikemunsil
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Gardener, yWriter will do that for you. Give it a look: yWriter4

Roughdraft: rd_download

yWrier and RoughDraft were created by writers. RoughDraft will automatically format a manuscript for print submission and can contain notes. You must add a freeware spellchecker. The info is on Richard's site.

Consider the freeware version of Treepad: treepadfreeware

Word is possibly the WORST software you can use to write a book: it does not handle outlining or chapters easily, it is prone to corruption and it is overly hard on computer resources.

If you MUST have something that looks like Word, try using the open source Open Office, instead: http://www.openoffice.org/

See this article for outlining in Open Office: http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/7759

[This message has been edited by mikemunsil (edited May 12, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by mikemunsil (edited May 12, 2008).]


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Wolfe_boy
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quote:
Word is possibly the WORST software you can use to write a book: it does not handle outlining or chapters easily, it is prone to corruption and it is overly hard on computer resources.

Hmmm... this sounds like hyperbole at best, and disingenuous at worst. You can outline a story in Word, using either the normal view or the Outline view, though it doesn't have the same capabilities of yWriter and its ilk. If you require character templates, chronologies, and copius notes all in one document and all a click away, then Word isn't likely your cup of tea. Chapters, though? I tend to create new chapters by going Insert > Break > Page Break and typing "Chapter 2" or whatnot. Again, if you require one click access to past chapters from a list of chapter headings, then maybe Word isn't for you, but that's a pretty obscure feature that even Open Office probably doesn't have.

So far as corruption and resources, in 10 years (and a few 100+ page documents) I've never had a single corrupt document. Heavy formatting can lead to corrution in some isolated situations, but then again, heavy formatting does not equal writing. And yes, Word is more of a resource hog than some other word processors, but when all you're doing is typing and occasionally saving, it really shouldn't matter too much how hard your computer is working, unless your computer sounds like a Boeing 747 when its under load.

Man, I hate sounding like a Microsoft apologist, but really, Word isn't the antichrist. It's fine and servicable for those who have it available and don't need much more than a white area to type in.

Jayson Merryfield

[This message has been edited by Wolfe_boy (edited May 12, 2008).]


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Doctor
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quote:
Word is possibly the WORST software you can use to write a book: it does not handle outlining or chapters easily, it is prone to corruption and it is overly hard on computer resources.

Sounds like someone's been confusing Word with Notepad.

[This message has been edited by Doctor (edited May 12, 2008).]


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Gardener
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Again thanks for all the input. I will look over those software(s?) you suggested.

As to corruption - I lost half my novel to a problem with Word 97. I wasn't connected to the internet, so it wasn't a virus. Just a kaflooey. So now, I do try to keep my docs to 100 pages or less. And yes, I do keep the chapters as separate docs.

I used to be exclusively pen and paper. But now I prefer to write on the computer. I just wanted to know how other people do it. If there was a new way to go, I'm open to trying it.


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smncameron
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That's a good lesson on the importance of saving multiple copies of your work. Too bad you had to learn it like that.
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mikemunsil
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I've been using word processing software since 1979, when I wrote my thesis using Magic Wand in CPM. I've written hundreds, if not thousands, of reports since. Word is easily the worst word processor I've ever used, for many reasons, but you're right in that many of those reasons aren't related strictly to writing, per se. Many are related to the platform.

Let me restate. MS Word on MS is easily the worst word processor on the worst and most expensive operating system in common use. I submit that if you think Word is great, it is just because you don't have enough experience with other word processors on other platforms to have an opinion based on fact.

And it WILL corrupt files. If you haven't encountered that yet, you unfortunately will.


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TaleSpinner
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Well, I too have been using word processors since the CP/M days, possibly before, they're a dim memory. So there! ;-)

I've used Word since it was a baby on MS-DOS. Now, it's like an old cardigan. People sometimes tell me I should throw it away, it's got holes in it, the colour's faded, there are new more fashionable things out there, yada yada yada.

But the thing is, it meets my requirements. That makes it good. I have decades of experience with other word processors, text processors (for programmers), desktop publishing systems and my lovely Parker. For me and my requirements Word is the best word processor.

That's an opinion based on facts established when I evaluated it yet again a couple of years ago, prior to purchasing it for a new laptop. I rejected Macs and Linux because I want simple, low risk compatibility with Windows users, who comprise the vast majority of my personal and professional computing partners. (Yes, I know a Mac can talk to Windows these days, but I simply don't trust it to do it all the time and I cannot be bothered arguing with computers when they sulk.)

I rejected Open Office because I'm not fully convinced it's compatible with Word in every respect--I was almost convinced and then I noticed the reviewing (commenting) feature works differently from Word's. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. I don't care to spend time finding out, nor taking the risk. And it's a feature I deem essential.

For me, I decided it's more cost-effective to purchase Word. It does formatting, page numbering, spelling checks, review comments and so forth. Almost everyone who matters to me has it so I can exchange files and work effectively. I can use the same tool both for professional and SF work, and there's no learning curve: I know it well.

It has two major failings. It corrupts files sometimes and it doesn't handle multi-file documents reliably. That's why I posted the link to the thread that discusses file corruption.

Like my old cardigan, I know where the holes are and take care to avoid them. I don't remember the last time I lost a Word file. I do know it was many, many years ago. Currently I'm doing short stories, not novels, so restricting myself to one file isn't a problem. When I get to novels, I'm confident I'll find a simple solution to handling multi-file pieces; I might even write a macro to do it.

There is no single "best" or "worst" tool. A tool is good if it meets the user's requirements, if it's fit for purpose. Sure, Word has failings. So does my old cardigan.

Cheers,
Pat


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Zero
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Best and worst are pretty much a matter of opinion, but there is a wide view that suggests Word is actually the best supported word processor out there. (I'm not saying it's the best, just best supported, supposedly) I'm inclined to think this is correct even though I still use an old version of Word Perfect, which unfortunately went the way of the dinosaurs. (Though I have yet to try Office 2007, which I've heard mixed reviews about)

I'm sorry to hear that you've had problems with the software corrupting files. I personally hate that! There is nothing worse than working for days, or years, on a project and having it get destroyed. Make sure you always have redundant backups of your work, and it might be wise to back them up as different types of files, a .doc, an .rtf, a .pdf, etc. I would suggest you reinstall it, or get it updated. Also, have you noticed a tendency for it to corrupt files when you are trying to change the extension they are svaed as? What type of files tend to become corrupted for you? Have you tried opening the corrupt files with different software, for example Open Office, after Word won't open them?

I'm just curious because there are a lot of potential perpetrators for what could be causing your problem. And it could be some combination of them as well.


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annepin
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I've been using Scrivener for the last year or so (Wolfe_boy already provided a link above). I downloaded it because I don't have Word on my Mac. However, I've grown to like it quite a bit.

When you start a book you start a new "binder", which comes preset with a draft folder, a research folder, and a trash folder (nothing gets deleted--it only goes to the trash and is recoverable at any time). You can add as many folders and child folders/ docs as you wish. You can click and drag them into any order you wish (in Word you'd have to rename them).

It allows you to create "index cards" for your scenes, chapters, whatever, and provides a virtual corkboard where you can shuffle and pin up the cards in a different order. If you are a visual persion, this can be a very effective way to deal with structural issues. You can flip easily from outline view to index card view to document view.

If you write in individual scenes, you don't have to link all the scenes together manually. There's a function to group them together and make them print sequentially. Therefore, you can write in whatever unit you want (scene, chapter, etc) and not have to cut and paste them together at the end.

There's a little window next to your work screen where you can jot down notes, post a picture for inspiration, etc. (I used to do this with two files open on Word, but this is a bit neater a solution). And, there's a whole section where you can import research. I love this aspect of the program--you can import web pages, mpgs, videos, jpegs, what have you.

You can also add labels, something I haven't really used but which some writers swear by (one of my friends uses this program too).

Export functions are... well, functional. Sometimes the format comes out a little weird. In theory you can export text as .doc, .txt, or .rtf. Standard manuscript format is automatic; you can customize as necessary.

For most of this you can find some workable solution in Word, it's true, and frankly, if I had Word on my computer to start with I probably would have just used that. But I like Scrivener. I think you could get much of the organizational aspects by using Word in conjunction with an organization tool such as Mori.

Oh, I forgot the add that the greatest thing ever about Scrivener is I don't have to save. It automatically saves in very small time increments. So even if my computer crashes I'm set.

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited May 14, 2008).]


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Wolfe_boy
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annepin, if you ever are looking for a reasonably low-cost word processor without the hassles (or cost) of Word, but something a little more traditional than Scrivener, try Nisus Writer, in either Pro or Express versions. They're quick, customizable, reliable, and not too expensive (particularly with an educational discount). If you're running ancient Apple hardware, you might be able to find a copy of Nisus Compact out on the web somewhere - it's freeware at this point, infinitesimally small, and still pretty fully featured.

Sorry, did I mention that Nisus Writer is Mac only? Yep. Sorry.

Oh, a friend mentioned that Mellel is pretty good too, though similarly Mac-only.

Jayson Merryfield

[This message has been edited by Wolfe_boy (edited May 14, 2008).]


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TaleSpinner
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quote:

I'm just curious because there are a lot of potential perpetrators for what could be causing your problem. And it could be some combination of them as well.

I think, zero, you may have misread something. Your suggestions are fine, but there's no doubt that, even used correctly, there is a significant risk that Word will corrupt large files and even backups may not restore the work (unless they've fixed it in the 2007 version). It was discussed extensively here:

http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum1/HTML/004481.html

I think anyone using Word for an extended work should be aware of the risks of losing their work.

Cheers,
Pat


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Zero
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That's really interesting, "unstable over 200 pages." Whodathunkit?

Now I don't feel so guilty about never jumping the chasm from Word Perfect to Word, despite the advice of so many people.


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KayTi
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Multiple redundant backups, including a paper one every so often. <nods head>

I recently noticed a story of mine, about 5k words, had a filesize of something like 800k. That's a little crazy, the file doesn't need to be knocking on the door of 80k, much less 800k with only 5000 words in it (and only standard formatting, Courier font, no images, etc. etc.) MS-Word-Bloat was the diagnosis. I copied the text, pasted it as plain text elsewhere (probably wordpad or notepad or something). Opened a new file in MS Word. Copied again the plain text. Repasted it. Saved it. Filesize now? 62k

I don't know if it had to do with the fact that this document had been sent out for review and people had given me their revisions in comments and tracked changes (although I'm skeptical, because typically I take all crits and hand-merge them into my master document. I don't actually work from any of those marked-up copies other than to take the feedback and bring it into my master manually.) I'm much more careful now to watch the file size of my files, as I believe I was on the verge of losing that story.

So one of my multiple redundant backups is to print every so often. I ditch the last printout (give it to the kids as scrap paper first, then recycle) when I print a new one. Course I don't have many novel-length projets, this may take on new meaning when I get there...


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Zero
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Wow KayTi! That's horribly inefficient. My WIP is about 130,000 words and barely sitting over a meg, at that rate 5000words:800Kb my story would be around 20 megabytes. That's insane.

[This message has been edited by Zero (edited May 14, 2008).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I've seen Word do that to document files as well. I don't know why they suddenly become huge, because the text in them hasn't changed, but they do. I'm guessing that's one of the ways Word can corrupt files.

KayTi's solution is also what I've had to do in such cases.


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Gardener
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For my short stories and flash (is that a collective noun?) I always print a copy of what I've submitted. Sometimes things change. So, I like to keep a paper copy of each version sent out. That's one of my redundant backups. The other is a flash drive.
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TaleSpinner
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I suspect Word files become huge because it's trading speed for memory, a common software engineering technique.

Programs can either go fast and consume memory, or use memory efficiently but run slowly--because they have to spend time "housekeeping", indexing and filing things efficiently in memory.

Suppose you have a file of 10,000 characters and you insert some text after the 1000th character. It's got to shift 9000 characters down a space to make room for the new one, then again for the next character you type and so on. That moving stuff around takes time, not much, but enough to annoy someone typing quickly.

It's quicker in terms of machine time to insert the new characters at the end of the file, and make a note to itself that after the 1000th character, the new stuff at the end comes next, then the 1001th character. That way it avoids spending time shuffling thousands of characters down a space every time you type a new one.

After several insertions, a file looks like several little "chains" of characters, with notes to itself about where they start and stop, and what order they should be in.

When you delete characters 5000 through 6000, it doesn't actually delete the text, because again it would take time to shuffle the remaining characters into the right places. Instead, it makes a note to itself that characters 5000 through 6000 should be ignored. The file doesn't shrink because they're still there.

And so it goes on, making ever more notes to itself about where chains of text are in the file, and what order they're in, never deleting anything, for the sake of speed. Sounds daft with modern computer speeds, but it's doing a lot of other things as well, like checking spelling, updating the displays of font, size and character format, etc--as well as figuring out what the fonts look like and doing proportional spacing.

Eventually, when the file gets too large, it just gets hopelessly confused with all the little chains of text and the notes it's made to itself.

When you save it as text under a different file name it takes the opportunity to unscramble everything, delete the deleted text and save all the characters in the correct order. That's why it suddenly shrinks back to normal.

At least, I think that's what's going on. That's how we used to program such beasts in the old days.

Cheers,
Pat


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Zero
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So then for small documents it's actually better. Because it's faster according to that trade off, no?
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TaleSpinner
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No, I doubt it. The trade-off between speed and memory consumption is one the software designer makes when she writes the program. I imagine it works the same way regardless of file size.

There are probably programs that can make the trade themselves, but I doubt that Word is one of them--could be wrong, mind... In fact, as I write this, I realise there are some techniques it could use that would enable it to reduce file size as a background activity (something it does when it realises you're not typing) so now I'm wondering why it doesn't do that... Another mystery of the PC world.

Cheers,
Pat


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KayTi
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Thanks for that explanation, Pat, and for this in particular (emphasis mine):

quote:
The trade-off between speed and memory consumption is one the software designer makes when she writes the program.

Appreciate the shout-out to non-male programmers.

I heard recently that MS released something useful about the file formats (binary file formats for MS Office.) I read about it on Joel Spolsky's blog - http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/02/19.html , which I love because it makes techtalk interesting/readable for me (a lite-non-male-non-programmer but tech geek.) Anyway - it might be interesting to you and any others who are geeked out by binary file formats (all fourteen of you. LOL)


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mikemunsil
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The very last bullet in the article noted above should be required reading for every writer here who uses Word. The salient point is that "... Everything that Word can do can be expressed in RTF,..."
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Zero
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Wow, Word really, really sucks. I just uploaded my WIP from word perfect into word and it displays it all fine, but it is very slow (this could be the fault of the computer, but I don't think so), and it shows double mice. Like it has double vision or something. It's sluggish, non-responsive, and I hate it. I'm going to try open office... and man I'm desperate.
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theworldinthewords
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I use Final Draft Pro, but that's just because formatting a screenplay in word is an unnecessary pain in the butt. Usually, word suits my purposes for prose.
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Unwritten
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All I've ever done to my 110,000 word novel is save it in Word and send it to my sister's work as an e-mail attachment occasionally. I had a paper copy once, but I through it away after enough editing rendered it obsolete. Am I terribly naive and asking for trouble, or is saving it to my sister's computer enough of a backup?
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Zero
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For some reason I like to have a *.pdf backup. I think it's cool to have a "professional" document where all of the formatting is exactly how I told it to be, and all of the correct fonts are in place. This is what I do before I print the manuscript, otherwise things tend to just get screwed up for me.
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KayTi
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Unwritten, read previous posts about MS Word's annoying tendency to corrupt large files.

The problem with the MS Word corruption issue is that once corrupt, you're toast. If you have a backup of a document that's gone wonky, it's highly likely that your backup (if you're keeping up with your backups the way you should) has gone wonky too.

Better bet would be to occasionally make that paper copy (once every 20 hours of writing, perhaps?) as well as coming up with other means for backup. Some people copy/paste text into many smaller files. Some copy/paste into a simple text document.

I should take a step back, though. There are two different types of backup we're talking about here and I think I need to separate them out so less-technical folks can catch up.

1. You need a backup plan for the *words that make up your story*
AND
2. You need a backup plan for the *computer files that represent the words that make up your story.*

For #1 - periodically make a printout. Periodically copy/paste the text into another file format (plain text or rich text format - aka RTF - is what I do. Pdf is another alternative), or create and maintain several working documents that, if combined, would be your complete story.

For #2 - emailing to a friend/another email account is a good plan. Be sure you use an email acct with good server-side storage is a good plan. Internet hosted mail such as hotmail typically includes server storage. This prevents the "I dropped my computer from 50 feet and now it won't boot" type of catastrophe. Basically you want a backup copy both on-site at home (or wherever your primary workspace is) and something off-site or accessible from other locations.

So for me - I have a folder with all my writing in it. I create sub-folders for each major project. Within the sub-folder for a project, I often have more sub-folders with critiques I've recieved from others, sometimes with background material or notes.

The whole writing folder gets backed up to my off-site backup utility nightly (I use a company called Mozy - http://mozy.com/ but there are plenty of other companies out there.) Weekly I backup the contents of my Writing folder to my local server. I also keep an eye on filesizes of my works in progress and periodically copy/paste the contents of a WIP into a new blank document and resave under a different name. To keep track of versions, I generally tag a "v2" or whatever number to the end of my document file name. When I'm done and submitting and want to know which version I stopped tweaking, I do "_FINAL" at the end. Makes the files stand out better too. I also, for big projects (over 10k words, which I don't write a lot of) I copy/paste the text into a rich text or plain text document (using wordpad or notepad on my PC.)

Anyway - that's just one person, one strategy.

Sounds like a lot of effort but the offsite backup happens automatically at night, the writing out to my server might not happen every week, but I backup my photos on my PC the same way so it's something I'm used to doing, and will do when I'm backing up a batch of photos, which is typically every week. The copy/paste stuff is just basic file management and only takes a few seconds.

Hope this is helpful! I have lost data before (catastrophic laptop crash on floor from 3 feet, crushed the hard drive. $800 worth of data recovery later I got back what I think was almost everything. Not everything, though. Pictures of my son when he was itty. ) Oh, and I've boneheadedly lost data before - deleted an entire batch of photos that I thought I had already downloaded. So...don't forget that human error is a lot of what you're working to prevent here with a backup scheme for your work. LOL

Good luck!


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Tiergan
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yWriter4.

I just downloaded it this week, and I love it. Great for novels, breaks chapters down into scenes, keeps the whole novel on 1 page, tab to chapters, then to scenes. Allows me to mark scenes that need another edit. Even the storyboard is cool, a quick glance, color coded by characters, tells me if it has been to long since I heard from he/she. All of which I have been doing by hand, or seperate files.

And its free. Donation appreciated of course. But its worth a try for sure.


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DWD
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Bringing an old thread back to the top to see if anyone has any updates on this. Why I'm asking:

I have about 20,000 words of my first novel effort in first draft. I started working in Word (from Office 2007), which I've used for many years (since Word 5.0 for DOS, in fact). I've not really had much trouble with Word writing technical documentation; it's very well suited to even quite long documents like software architecture definitions, functional specifications, and white papers. I found out very quickly, though, that a novel is a fundamentally different animal. Most technical documents could be said to have a section as their fundamental unit. Sections are organized topically and tend to fall into a very rigid hierarchy. Each section builds on information provided in one or more previous sections, and there tends to be a great deal of complexity in the formatting. A simple example would be

1. Introduction
1.1 Purpose
1.2 Organization
2. Goals and Core Requirements
2.1 Business Goals
2.2 Core Requirements
2.2.1 Functional Requirements
2.2.2 Non-functional Requirements
3. Usage Scenarios
4. Proposed Architecture
4.1 Interaction Perspective
4.2 Logical Perspective
4.3 Security Perspective
4.4 Deployment Perspective

...etc...with lots of diagrams, tables, and other figures bound to specific passages in the text.

A novel, on the other hand, is a collection of scenes that have chapters superimposed on them. One chapter might consist of six scenes while the next is really just a single scene. It's a very flat structure from the document perspective, because the real structures (the ones that matter) are in the narrative itself. The formatting is also quite simple compared to a technical document.

One would think this means a novel is even more suited to the features of a product like Word--a piece of cake, even. But that turns out not to be the case, and I think it's because Word and other programs like it focus on the document, not the content. Worse, there is no way to work with the idea of a narrative thread and its revealing throughout a series of scenes. You have a document and you can structure content within it, and that's it.

This really comes down to support of the narrative process. Word has more features than you could ever ask for to support creation, formatting, and manipulating a document, but that's not the same thing. As I write a novel, I write scenes and may want to move them around. In Word, I have two choices: Use one big document and do a lot of cutting and pasting, or create a document per scene and use a master document to put them together. (This is where the Word corruption some have talked about really comes into play. Master documents have been pretty much broken in Word since version 2.0, and it is very easy to corrupt a subdocument that is referenced in a master document.) For the latter, moving scenes around involves a very tedious and dangerous process of deleting subdocument references and re-creating them in another place in the master. Try it some time; it definitely doesn't work correctly. The most common problem is editing the master and accidentally deleting one of the section breaks Word uses to delineate the subdocuments. Suddenly the last paragraph of one of your scenes will disappear.

Anyway, I started using yWriter (current version is 5 now) and it is heaven by comparison. The unit of storage is a scene, and I can move scenes around and assign them to chapter "buckets" to my heart's content just by dragging and dropping. Some other nice features:

* I can also, as someone mentioned above, keep track of my characters, locations, and other "things" in my novel's world, associating them with the scenes that refer to them.
* There's s very nice word count feature that gives me an instant list of every word in the current text, in an individual scene or across scenes, with frequency counts. I can even look for problem words (and create my own list of words I know I use too often or want to monitor). You can do this in Word with a macro (I can send one to you that does this if you'd like it; just email me), but for novel-length documents you'll need to go get a cup of coffee while you wait for the results.
* If I need to jot down a quick note, I can do it right inside the program and it will be associated with the scene or chapter where I stored it.
* I can write a description for each scene and chapter, then export the descriptions in sequence as the basis for a synopsis.
* Lots of reports.
* I can work to a schedule that I create, and monitor my progress.

yWriter was written by a published author in Australia who is very responsive to requests and bug reports (though I haven't run into any bugs after a couple of months of use). Best of all, it's FREE. The author accepts donations, but puts no feature restrictions or time limits on the software, and it doesn't nag you to donate. I highly recommend it, but I understand people work in different ways, some even still preferring to hand write drafts. It works on Windows and Linux systems (using Mono).

I'm not dissing Word; I still use it every day at work, where it is invaluable for technical writing. And I still export from yWriter into a single big RTF (Rich Text Format) file for printing, since I can control title page, header/footer, and other similar things more effectively there.

All that said, those two products are the only ones I've worked with. Any others out there now who've had good (or bad) experiences with software tools for writing? One thing I'd love to see (yWriter doesn't have this either) is a way to do mindmapping to build and "fiddle with" the outline within the program and have the mind map just be a different way to view the structure (with the actual content "attached" to the map nodes).

I know, geeky post. Back to work...

[This message has been edited by DWD (edited June 08, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by DWD (edited June 08, 2009).]


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Pyre Dynasty
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I'd like to add something about each chapter having it's own file, chances are that's how a publisher will ask for it, if they don't then they will still love you for doing it. When I took a publishing class, the project was to bring a work through all the steps and actually print the thing. In Quark or InDesign every chapter is treated separately, because they need to have their own chapter headings. I typeset my frankly ridiculous novel for the class and found myself having to spend extra time ripping my huge file apart into polite chapters with file names that actually make sense (Cp1, cp2, cp3, etc.)

Now I just do that normally.


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Tani
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Any good programs for a Mac? I have Word, but it gets SLOW when the files get too big (and I've tried breaking them into chapters).

I like the idea of being able to organize and rearrange things too.


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Owasm
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Tani,

If you look above, you will find some. I am trying out Scrivener.


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branteaton
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Mac versions of OpenOffice are available, if you want an inexpensive MS Word work-alike.

Scrivener is great if it meets your needs (it is especially good about incremental file saves and has a built-in snapshot feature to capture the state of your project at a point in time). The full-screen editing window is a distraction-free nirvana. The programmer did not originate the full-screen concept, but his implementation of it is solid.

Don't overlook TextEdit, either. It is adequate as a plain-text editor, and benefits from the Mac's system-wide spell checker. It can save your manuscript to .RTF if you are blessed with an agent or editor who will read it :-).

Last time I checked, Scrivener (Mac only) pulls together a compelling feature set for its low price. It won't set you back as much as any copy of MS Word, even with an educational discount. Like TextEdit, Scrivener can also export to .RTF.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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My problem with using a separate document for each chapter is how to keep the page numbers correct. Does Word have anything to help with that, or do any of the other word processing programs mentioned here?

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited June 11, 2009).]


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DWD
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KDW: Yes, if you create a master document that has the header w/ page number, you don't have to worry about keeping the pagination right, but other things get complicated. In this scheme, you create separate documents for everything, even the title page. In the master document, you create references to each of those documents. Word magically sucks them in and merges them together with section breaks between each one, as if you have one big document. The page numbers are controlled by the master, so they automatically update.

So the master is really just a shell that points to the chapter docs.

The OpenOffice Writer has this feature as well, but I have no experience with it.

BUT as I mentioned earlier, it's kind of broken in Word. If you decide to use it, four things help ensure that you don't corrupt your chapter docs:

1. Back up all your chapter docs before you open them in the master.
2. All your chapter docs and the master should be based on the same template.
3. Keep the master and the subdocuments all in the same folder.
4. NEVER edit the subdocuments while they're merged together in the master. Only use the master to assemble the subdocuments for printing.

Word help has a topic on creating master documents.


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JeffBarton
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An alternative to the master document approach DWD presented is to manually merge all the chapters in to a single file. Again, this is something to be done rarely and only for printing because the result for a novel goes over the stable-document size. It's also tedious to repeat the merging every time edits make a reprint necessary.

I suppose there is another, even more tedious, way: Manually go through the chapters in order. Select Insert->Page Number->Format and enter the next number after the end of the previous chapter.

I had been dreading that step during the chapter-per-file draft of my WIP novel. Based on the glowing reviews of Scrivener and yWrite above, I downloaded yWrite. As I go through the rewrite, I am importing the chapters and breaking them into scenes. Trial exports have been almost perfect. I don't like a few of the formatting details--header, space at the beginning of a chapter, etc.--and I may have to pass the export through Word for a touch-up.


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