Saturday, January 24, 2009

Writing Software

Almost fifteen years ago, my husband and I went to Russia. One of the highlights of that fabulous trip was a tour I went on (while my husband was in sessions) of Tolstoy's home.

There were a lot of fascinating anecdotes about the space he occupied, and the people who stopped by (Rachmaninoff, for one), but the room that held the most fascination for me was his study. There's something about the space where a person spends most of their time. Where they do the work of their heart. That's the space that seems to hold their essence long after they're gone from this earth.

Two things stood out in Tolstoy's writing studio. First, his chair seemed a little short for the desk it sat behind. And second, there was a music stand situated in front of a window at the other end of the room.

Turns out the famous writer was a bit vain. Rather than admitting he may have a need for glasses, he had the legs cut off his chair so he'd be closer to his work. I can relate.

The music stand? To provide a work area where he could take his manuscript and continue writing, catching the last light of the day.


I resisted investing in any writing software. I thought if Tolstoy could write by hand, using primarily available daylight and shortened chairs, I could stumble through with the incredible technology available to me. After all, I'd left the IBM Selectric behind years ago and moved on to even more modern advancements.

Can you imagine what Leo would have to say upon spying our current tools of the trade?

I stood staunchly by my decision to figure everything out on my own. With notebooks and stickies and 3 X 5 cards.

But a little while ago, I caved.

My first purchase was a nice little software program called New Novelist. It has some nice features, and I was able to tweak it a little bit to fit what I wanted. I think it's a great place to start, especially for new writers. It helps immensely with structure and pacing, and has some great questions for character development.

Even before I'd heard about New Novelist, I'd caught the raves surrounding a little software program for writers called Scrivener. The raves were coming from authors I respected. Whose work just seemed to be getting better and better.

The only problem? Scrivener was developed for Mac. I had been a PC girl from the early days . . . just this side of the Selectrics.

Colleen Coble had the most influence over my decision to step over to the Other Side and see what all the fuss was about.

I tend to be a plunger, married to a man who likes to indulge me whenever he can. My PC desktop is just fine--I still use it--but I wanted Scrivener and was curious about Mac. I now have both (thank you, honey) and I love them. I'm pretty sure, based on comments I've read, I'm not the only writer who got a Mac so she could have Scrivener.

Bottom line? If you're a Mac user and a writer, check out Scrivener. If you're a PC user and in the market for a new computer, check out both. If you're a PC user, not in the market for a new computer, but thinking about some software support, take a look at New Novelist.

Still reading Deadlock.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Thank you for the advice! I've been considering trying out some writing software...PC girl all the way! lol...

  2. Thanks for the headsup about Scrivener (too bad they didn't include a pronunciation guide for the name!!). I'm going to give that a try. I finished my first novel and am about to begin the second. Good time to see if the software will help. Thanks for the helpful blogs.

  3. You are gonna LOVE Scrivener. You can download it for a trial, but I knew . . . KNEW . . . that I might as well dive in.

    Be sure and go through the tutorial. I think they tell you it takes about 30 minutes. Not for me. I think I probably spent three times that long, and I've referred to it since.

    On we go!