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Sunday, May 10, 2020

Word vs Scrivener: An Experiment

I've been doing this writing thing for a very long time. In a professional capacity, thirteen years.

I currently have 16 books out and another one on the way. The number of published work I have has fluctuated over the years due to publishers closing and rights being reverted. It's definitely been a marathon rather than a sprint.

I've written probably three times that though...actually, maybe more than three times that.

I've accumulated a lot of words and logged a shitton of hours.

From the very beginning I have used a writing program called Scrivener. It was a program that came highly recommended and, at first, was only available to use on Macs. I think that's changed now but I don't use any other kind of PC so I've never really looked into it.

I like Scrivener. It allows me to organize my chapters into files so I can flip between them easily instead of scrolling through an entire document. It compiles my files into a Word doc for editing. It can even format it (so I've heard) for epublishing. It has templates for character sketches and setting.

I've only ever had one major crisis with the program not working suddenly but that was fixed relatively quickly. I like it. It's worked for me.

Until recently.

Lately I've been struggling with Scrivener because it doesn't allow me to continue working on my projects if I'm away from my home computer. I can't open a Scrivener file on my work computer if I'm trying to get a few words over my lunch break. And that's kind of a pain in my ass. I need to be able to sneak in some writing whenever I have a spare minute and Scrivener stops me from doing that.

I found a work around. I'd put my writing in a Google doc and then copy and paste it into the Scrivener file later but I started to get annoyed with that too.

All of my editing happens in Word. That is standard for any publisher I've worked with. So I decided to try and use Word exclusively for my latest project which was a very short novella. I figured I could handle having to scroll through 20K or less.

I didn't hate it. It forced me to write linearly though, which meant I couldn't (or wouldn't for some reason) skip any scenes but that didn't hold me up or block me in any way. In fact, I powered through, didn't take one night off and finished the project in less than two weeks. I don't know if that was because I didn't feel like I could skip things or if it was because I need to get this done by June 1st but either way, I didn't fuck around much at all.

Being able to jump chapters or scenes is handy when you're facing 80K or more though and I do that often when I'm using Scrivener.

Scrivener also has a really nifty word counter that looks like this:

It goes from red to green as you type, both for the overall word count on the project and for the current writing session target. It's pretty nice to watch the bar move to green when you're working. Very motivating. I found a work around with Word but it wasn't the same at all. (Highlighting what I wrote and checking the word count --blah!)

Scrivener has a side panel that allows for both project notes and chapter notes that stay put while you are working. That is VERY handy because there are things that I need to remember about plot or objects or characters and having them in a place that doesn't scroll away as I'm typing is useful.

I used Word's comment feature for this purpose on my novella but I had to scroll back up to it often to remind myself of things. Again, not a problem in a short project but it would get annoying, I think, in a longer novel.

Being able to access my file from any computer is a major bonus. I fear my Mac is on it's way to the otherworld and if I lose it mid-project and I'm using Scrivener, I'm pretty screwed for however long it takes me to get a new Mac. Word is more accessible.

Is that enough to keep me working exclusively in Word going forward? I don't know. I'm going to try to write my next novel using Word exclusively again. At this time, I don't feel that Scrivener is safe because of my computer issues but if I get a new computer, I can't say I wouldn't switch back to Scrivener...I do miss the bells and whistles that come with it.

Just thought I'd share my experience with anyone who is curious.

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