The days of writing with pen(cil) and paper are pretty much behind us (yes, I do know a few who still prefer that time honored method but they are a minority). Most of us have also transitions from good ole typewriters (I do love the sound of those clicking keys though) to portable processors, computers and laptops.
Along with all these newfangled electronics comes an array of programs designed to help writers of all types; be it those who have to write papers for school, those who write screenplays and novels and poetry, and those who make lists and presentations.
With so many choices out there, how do you know which will work best for your purposes? Short of trying them all, your best bet is to research and ask for opinions from other writers on what they use and why they like or dislike the program. There are some free options that you can download and take advantage of and others that are reasonably affordable options.
Open Office has a basic word processing program similar to Microsoft’s Word (which many of us have experience with thanks to school owned computers or our work place machines). It’s user friendly and fairly basic. It’ll get the work done but lacks any additional frills.
Ywriter is a processing program designed by an author for other authors. While it’s not difficult to use, there is a bit of a learning curve. It breaks down your writing into chapters and scenes and, provided you input the information, it can track your characters and settings as you write which can be very helpful for epic novels and series.
Scrivener is another program for author use. There is no longer a free version (they had a beta version for a couple of years while finalizing things for PC) but it’s an affordable program with a lot of great organizational tools that I know many authors can’t live without. It’s very handy for outlining and researching and keeping all your information together. There are options for you to be able to split the screen to show your writing and your research side by side. Pretty nifty. It also has notecard features and allows you to easily move chapters around.
Celtx is a free program for writers of all types. It allows you to choose the type of project you’re going to be working on and there are templates if needed, which can be handy. While I haven’t used the program to write any of my novels, I did use it for a screenplay I wrote. Once I figured out a couple of hot keys, I found it very easy to use especially considering I hadn’t written a screenplay prior.
Then there’s always good ole Microsoft Word. I think most people have had experiences with this program but perhaps they don’t know of some of the great editing aspects such as tracking changes and comments. I think one of the biggest perks to using Word is that due to so many people knowing and using it, it makes it easier to share your work with beta readers and editors and when you get feedback you can accept their changes or easily make them on your own without having to have cut and paste or find the places in your original document.
There’s another option for the writer on the go who perhaps can’t afford a laptop, it’s called an Alphasmart. It’s a portable word processing machine. Lightweight and great on battery life are two of the perks but it does have others such as not being able to go back more than a few lines at a time while writing, which is helpful for those who do too much editing during the initial draft portion of writing, never getting to the end of the story. It has autosave and the ability to attach to computers or printers for easy uploading. There’s a part you can purchase that will allow one to wirelessly upload to Google Docs as well.
There are a lot of options out there and they all offer different things. Give them a try and ask around to see what pluses and minuses of each are. There’s certainly nothing wrong with going basic, but remember that some of the more advanced programs can help in many different aspects of your writing. You won’t know until you try.
What processing program do you use and why?