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Owasm
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I just picked up a trial version of Scrivener software to plan and write a novel. Has anyone used it? Any opinions on this or any other authoring software tools?

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited May 13, 2009).]


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Troy
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No. I wish they'd do something like it for Windows.
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BenM
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I've not tried scrivener as my ibook is mostly used as a doorstop, however I've played a little with yWriter (which is quite different). I'm just not sure if I like these tools philosophically, say when compared to a simple word processor.

On the one hand I think they're distracting, and the last thing I want when writing is distractions. A fan of minimalism, I use MS Word with a very spartan UI (though I've been tempted to try darkroom).

I also have my own way of organising information, I like the randomness of my notebook or the way I can cut and change the rules in a spreadsheet, and so feel these tools are trying to impose their own structures on me - something more likely to stem my creative juices than promote them.

As I work on software myself (and have grown tired of watching everything become obsolete so quickly throughout my career), I tend to ask myself if a tool really offers me something I can't do without - or if the learning curve, support, user interface distractions and product lifetime are going to cost me whatever productivity I might have gained.

I suppose it's a personality thing - I'd be happy with a typewriter on a desert island


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Jeff Baerveldt
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Yes, I have it, and I've use it.

It takes a while to figure out how you want to use the research section of the binder. I divide it into three folders -- setting, character, and plot. That's where I do all my brainstorming.

Also, their note-carding feature is a gem. It's my all-time favorite feature. But again, you have to play around with it until you figure out how to make it work for you.

However, I don't draft in Scrivener. I have three reasons for this. First, there's no convenient way move back and forth from your draft to the research section. I think on the Scrivener forum there has been talk about getting the drafting feature of Scrivener to open in a separate window. That would be a big help. Thus, I find it much easier to do all my brainstorming in Scrivener and my drafting in a Pages document.

Second, Scrivener relies too much on the physical word count of a document, whereas I like to work by page count. This is a purely personal thing. I think in terms of pages, not word count. This goes all the way back to when I first started writing, back in high school, and learned that one manuscript page equals 250 words, and since then, I've always written in proper manuscript format. So for me, writing 10 pages a day is more impressive than writing 1,812 words.

Three, I'm not convinced that the compile draft feature works as well as they claim. But maybe I'm not doing something I should be.

That being said, I absolutely love to brainstorm using it. Having all your ideas in one place but also nicely divided into folders and documents is the number one reason I bought the program. I fully intend to upgrade when the next version comes out. I love it, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.


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Zero
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quote:
A fan of minimalism, I use MS Word with a very spartan UI

I'm like you. Except I use notepad because it loads fast, it's simple, and it has zero bells and whistles to distract me. After I'm finished writing a chapter I then import it to something with a spell checker. But while I'm writing all the junk Word, etc has only distracts me.

quote:
...one manuscript page equals 250 words ... So for me, writing 10 pages a day is more impressive than writing 1,812 words.

1,812 words is also about 30% less work than 10 pages, according to your count. So no one should be surprised here.

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annepin
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I use Scrivener. I don't have Word on my computer.

It's a really good program. I like it because you can switch from outline to page view, you can use the index cards, and you can have the "inspector" open, which lets me post photographs and stuff to look at as I write. I've started to use it for research, too, importing web pages, etc, whatever I need.


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Owasm
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I played with it last night and like Jeff, found the Research section as a great way to put background in. The particular novel I am starting needs some worldbuilding with maps etc.

I've been using Word. I am not Word-phobic as others are, but I don't like having to open multiple pages to access my reference materials.

Thanks, all.


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Zero
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One downside to Word is that, for whatever reason, it includes so much data in a save file it becomes much larger than needed. I saved a rich text in wordpad (of about 40,000 words) that resulted in a 250 kb file. But the exact same document saved in Word (as a rich text, mind you) is well over 400. The formatting is identical and absolutely nothing but text is in the file.

In other words, Word is inefficient.


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extrinsic
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Word embeds a lot of formating codes that don't display and aren't editable in Word. Each and every hard return string has a font attribute, fontsize, line spacing, line height, widow/orphan, vertical advance, etc., and other formating codes for paragraphs, indents, and so on, that make a Word file verbose (formating clutter, in other words) increasing file size over what results from Wordpad or WordPerfect's sparse formating. Word's formating codes do display in and are editable with WordPerfect's Reveal Codes feature.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I know you can look at Word's codes, but it isn't as easy as selecting "reveal code" in the view pull-down menu in Word Perfect.

How do you get Word to let you see the codes? I'd really appreciate knowing.


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extrinsic
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Word's similar feature is Reveal Formating, but it's limited in scope compared to WordPerfect's Reveal Codes, which I'm given to understand is a proprietary feature. When Windows and Corel parted ways back in the '90s, Corel was furious with Windows for reverse engineering WordPerfect to develop Word, among other programs that Corel had allowed Windows to bundle in system apps. Their previously cordial relationship ended then. Corel put its foot down about what was unequivocably its own.
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Zero
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extrinsic,

Are there any additional complications with Word related to blungling in this extra data? I don't know much about this stuff but my gut instinct is to think there's that much more that could go wrong with it, any given saved file I mean.

In other words, am I less safe using Word than some other simpler text editor?

[This message has been edited by Zero (edited May 14, 2009).]


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extrinsic
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Word is great for what it does, which by itself is user friendly wordprocessing. I believe that's been Microsoft's priority all along. Other brands are about equal as standalone wordprocessors, one or another exports to RTF. That's ultimately what matters. The high end brand-name ones export to PDF. Either of which about covers the gamut for uploading digital files to publishers or to whoever else is on the other end. None of the high end wordprocessors are very good for writing DHTML code, though, but do do acceptable WYSIWYGs about the same as one another. All the high end ones are suitable for or are exceptional for desktop publishing.

Other features like mail merge, assorted edit tracking features, autofill fields, indexing, conformance, and layout flexibility are more or less the same across the spectrum, with slightly different procedures but similar output. I will stipulate, though, that Adobe's InDesign on Apple/Macintosh platforms is preferred by more publishers today than any other desktop or print bureau publishing application and hardware platform.

In the Word Office Suite, including Excel spreadsheets, and some suites with Access database, and in some bundles with PowerPoint slideshows, interoperability also prioritizes user friendliness. I'm not particularly versed in the other "helper" application options that ship with Office Suite, except Outlook, which doesn't do anything for me that Outlook Express doesn't.

Besides Word's embedded verbose formating codes swelling file sizes, one drawback to Word Suites is they're mostly limited to internal interoperability, they don't play nice with other application brands. Another is that some of the formating codes and special glyph specifications can cause unpredictable results when copied and pasted or imported into other applications or transfered across platforms or over varying OS servers. I think a lot of that is that other applications don't play well with Microsoft products. The proprietary competition game fiercely plays both ways.

Otherwise, I think the only signifcant issue with Word is it outputs larger than needed file sizes, but that's a tradeoff for user friendliness.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited May 14, 2009).]


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BenM
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quote:
In other words, am I less safe using Word than some other simpler text editor?

Probably not. All software is made by humans and so can have defects. Data can also be lost due to power outage or hardware fault. Many 'simpler' editors don't have autosave or autorecover features.

Are you more safe using Word than some other simpler text editor? Probably not - for most of the same reasons.


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mikemunsil
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Total Risk = RiskCreatedByYou + RiskCreatedByTool

RiskCreatedByTool-SimpleTextEditor = minimal

Therefore, using a Simple Text Editor implies minimal risk

RiskCreatedByTool-MSWord = FileSizeBloatingRisk + FileOpeningClosingRisk

FileSizeBloatingRisk = minimal due to file size

FileOpeningClosingRisk = FileCorruptionDueToFrequentEditing/AddingOfText = documented risk > minimal

So, yes, you are more safe using a simple text editor than using MS Word. You are still you, no matter which means you use, and the risks associated with you do not change.

MSWord has an observable risk associated with frequent opening/editing of the file; most commony observed when the document incorporates tables and styles and TOCs, etc. There is less risk when just using MSWord for plain text, but it still exists.

Now, we know that fancy sells to the end user, but it demonstrably does not sell to the editor. So, a fancy TOC, styles, etc. just adds risk without much end gain, if any.

So, for minimal risk, use a simple text editor instead.

On the other hand, if you are as sloppy as most people when dealing with computers, not backing up, excessive editing for style, not maintaining your operating system (defragging, anti-virus etc. in Windows), then...

RiskCreatedByYou >>> RiskCreatedByTool

...the risk you create is MUCH greater than the risk created by the tool.

Therein lies all the confusion about the risk of using MSWord.

In sum, if you are reasonably competent in minimizing the risks that you create, then go with a simple text editor. If you are not (as most people are not), then the added inherent risks of using MSWord are negligible.


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posulliv
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I've written a novel in it. I like everything about it.

Spend the time to go through the tutorial and by the end you should know if it will work for you.

[This message has been edited by posulliv (edited May 15, 2009).]


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Troy
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I've recently started experimenting with Word 2007. I was much more familiar with previous versions of the software. A few of you seem like you know what you're doing with it. Can anyone tell me how to make it stop adding an extra line every time I hit the return button? I mean: permanently. I know how to do it on a file-by-file basis. But I would like it to never, ever do that.

It's the dumbest default setting I've ever seen in a word processor.


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extrinsic
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Here's a link to a Woopid visual Flash tutorial that covers how to change double line spacing on hard return in Word 2007.

http://www.woopid.com/video/1130/Changing-Line-Spacing

Or to permanently set default document try, for XP OS and earlier, different procedure in Vista;

http://www.woopid.com/video/2314/Change-Default-Word-2007-Template-XP

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited May 15, 2009).]


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Troy
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Thanks extrinsic. Seeing what was done in that tutorial, I figured there might be a slightly even easier way, which there is. All you have to do open Word, right click on the "Normal" style. Choose "Modify", make the changes, and then check the box that says 'apply to all documents using this style'. By default it is set to the box that says 'apply to this document only.'
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extrinsic
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Cool. I think Word designers have decided to engineer the next leap in manuscript composition standards. An empty line between unindented paragraph blocks is becoming an online style formatting standard. Their designers probably think that's what is up and coming in their reality and they're forcing the change. On the other hand, knowing how to format a default template is a powerful feature for writers. Forcing a user to make it happen might be a good thing, even if it's unwelcome coercion. Though I'm not fond of that kind of coercion, I'm finding that many applications lately are doing similar nonsense.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited May 15, 2009).]


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BenM
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quote:
I mean: permanently. I know how to do it on a file-by-file basis. But I would like it to never, ever do that.

Edit your default template and choose the formatting you want, which is just the 'empty' file it loads whenever you create a new document. After finding the template, it's basically the same procedure you're already using per file.


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TaleSpinner
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I've used Word for several, several years. I think it's fine, provided you don't push its undocumented limits. (Generally, that means forgoing use of the fresh features in a new release until everyone else has fallen in the holes and told you where they are.)

The template feature is valuable especially if, like me, you need different templates for manuscripts, business reports, letters and so forth. Using the macro feature you can even turn smart quotes, ellipsises and em-dashes on or off.

But I'd be very nervous of putting a whole novel into a single file:

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


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Owasm
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My experience with Word is save often. Most of my errors are user errors.

As far as writing is concerned, I always save versions. That being said, I just finished helping my wife force Word to close after it froze up. I expect that to be user error as well, but I didn't tell her that.


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extrinsic
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I had freezing up problems with Word, WordPerfect, and similar programs. I believe the conflict was doing a resource intensive task while an autosave task performed. After turning off autosave it never happened again. Since I've gotten XP OS, more RAM, and a faster bus, I've not turned off autosave and still don't have problems with freezing up. Also, the latest Symantec security products aren't as resource intensive as they were in previous releases. They've finally gotten a handle on hogging resources.
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BenM
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I just discovered Storybook this morning. I've been looking for something to help make plotting a novel a little more organized (multiple plotlines have been making my brain explode, and I've not yet resorted to index cards). While I certainly won't be writing the novel with this, I'm looking forward to having a play with it. I wonder how similar it is to Scrivener's Corkboard.
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Tiergan
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I use ywriter. It allows you enter all characters, plots sub plots and such. Breaks down scenes by character, pov, a storyboard. I found with my last novel I could tell at a glance where I went astray.
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dee_boncci
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I've not had any problems with Word since Word 95 where I had some challenges writing a 300-page technical thesis (many pictures and tables, section headings, and all that). I used the master document feature for that in the end, and continue to use that feature for large projects of all types.

In my fiction writing, I've never had a problem with Word. I do limit my files to one chapter, so I don't get really large files until I pull everything together.

Part of the reason for the large file sizes is that Word keeps track of a lot of edits for purposes of the undo function. I believe using the "save as" option and saving under a new filename clears most of that.

I switched to WriteItNow as an experiment earlier this year and managed to have a 30,000-word project disappear into the ether. Now I'm back to Word.


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TaleSpinner
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"30,000-word project disappear into the ether"

Ouch. That must have hurt. Been there, done that, but not on that scale.


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