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Q&A

Switching to fiction software

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OK, I admit to dinosaur-era technology. My first computer was the Radio Shack Color Computer 2 with a tape deck for memory storage (seriously). Websites were in DOS (let's just say you were lucky to get both upper AND lower case letters).

So I've been using Word for 20 + years (I don't remember when it split from WordPerfect). I have never found it to be lacking in any tool that I need, and I find it very easy to insert work product as running text into a query letter.

However, there are some annoyances that I guess I just never took the time to dissect. I also have concerns about compatibility as technology moves forward.

So my question is: Am I really missing out on technical advances, am I being stubborn about learning (or failing to learn) Scrivener, and am I holding myself back by continuing to use Word?

Let me add: I only write fiction with occasional scanned documents, and I also do resumes. I also occasionally use PowerPoint and Excel.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/q/20205. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I don't think you need to fear compatibility issues moving forward with Word, as it's more or less the business world's linga franca of text document file formats. And even if it goes belly-up, there's so much information corporations rely on that is captured in it, there will be conversion utilities.

What you need to ask yourself is what's missing in your toolchain? What features do you need to help you write better with your specific working processes and methods? Do they cover your entire workflow? Do you need a one-stop shop? Or do you prefer multiple applications in your toolchain? What do you want to use to write, edit, collaborate, and deliver your document? If Word does everything you want, then stick with Word. Just because there are newer toys out there doesn't necessarily mean they're better toys for what you want to get done.

Word is a pretty dang good word processor. But if you need to lay out documents in multiple columns for magazine, newsletter, or newspaper layout, it can suck royally. If you tend to write in a At that point, a page layout application might make more sense. It also sucks as a content management system (CMS). It sucks as an ebook authoring tool. It sucks for really long complex documents. (I prefer FrameMaker, but I'm a dinosaur with vi and nroff/troff skillz, and can still remember when Frame was cross-platform and produced by Frame not Adobe. :)

Scrivener isn't a word processor so much as it's an IDE for document development. It's a different kind of tool. If you're the kind of person who works with a cluttered desk, keeps multiple notes in multiple formats (text, graphics, links), and likes to have the ability to glance over all your research or ideas at once on a big board, or to be kept tidy in whatever organization you like, and to be able to refer to that material while writing, then Scrivener can help do all of that on the computer. It can foster writing in non-linear fashion. Word, not so much.

But. Keep in mind that when getting a book published, chances are good that for collaborating on edits with a copy editor and editor, chances are good you'll have to go back to Word because of the business world lingua franca thing. See Charles Stross's blog entry on "Writing a novel in Scrivener: lessons learned".

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/22093. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Re compatibility: Scrivener allows you to export in many formats; the company makes a point of not holding you hostage to proprietary software.

One of my favorite features of Scrivener is the organizing. You can have multiple text documents, nested in layers of folders, and you can have a split screen so you can see two documents at once (and copy-paste between them). You can view your documents as literal note cards on a cork board and add tags and keywords. This alone broke through a writer's block of many years for me.

There are additionally many tools to help you with the fine-tuning of the manuscript, like word-count goals, snapshots, searching for multiple instances of a word, a name generator — I probably don't even use a quarter of them.

In the end, however, Scrivener's tools are just about gathering many tasks which you can also do manually if you have Word and putting them into one interface. If you don't need those tools or features, you aren't behind the times by not using that particular program.

I started writing in MacWrite (yes, I'm dating myself) for as long as the OS would let me, and continued for a few years in Quark because that was the program I was in most of the day as a typesetter. Whatever makes it easiest for you to write is the correct method.

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