Since I often find myself being asked which word processing software I use, let’s talk about writing and word processing programs. One would think that all word processing programs are created equal. That Open Office and Word Perfect are just as good as MS Word, or that your OS’s included text editor is just as good as Scrivener – and if you’re a hobby writer (i.e. you make no income from your writing whatsoever), this is probably true.
In the professional writing world though – there are Scrivener users and there are MS Word users and arguments on writing forums regarding which is better can become as volatile as Apple vs. Microsoft vs. Linux. I actually understand both sides of this word processing debate because, as a professional writer, I use both programs for different reasons. I’ll explain why in a few.
Some writers are partial to Word while others are partial to Scrivener and there’s a reason why. That reason often equates to how a writer writes. I say often because you will, on occasion, get people who use certain software based on brand worship, which is another blog topic for another time.
Some writers are very linear in how they think. These folks write a manuscript from beginning to end and that’s that. They prefer Word for the fact that it’s simple, versatile, you can format it quickly, and MOST publishers want files in MS Word because when it comes to submissions, MS Word is often the standard. (Please note I’m not saying publishers use Word when it comes to formatting and publishing (though some do). In publishing, they’re often importing Word files to InDesign or another program to output print ready and eBook ready interior files.) Then, of course, there are some writers who have been using Word forever, love it, and see no reason to change. Or there are some writers who use Word just because it came free with their computer.
Now it’s time for a little honesty. When I first heard about Scrivener I’d already decided to hate it. I was an MS Word user. The industry has always had a fondness for MS Word, I liked Word and I saw no reason to change – insisting that I’d be damned before EVER using Scrivener. Then, one day, I broke down and decided to try the free trial just to see what everyone was raving about — and I, like so many writers before me, fell in love and succumbed to the versatility of Scrivener after a mere two weeks.
Why? Because some writers (myself included) write in pieces or parts. We like scrivener because with Scrivener we can create each individual scene and then sew them together into the final product. Scrivener allows us to drag and drop scenes and move them around, too (instead of cut and paste). Or maybe we don’t even know where a scene goes when we write it, and we discover where it goes later. So those of us who have a more haphazard creative process tend to like Scrivener because it works with our process and keeps the chaos organized. Scrivener also makes it really easy to outline books/novels etc…, and find the section you’re looking for without having to endlessly scroll through large manuscripts. Plus, let’s face it, some people just hate Microsoft (because they’re “The Man” man!) and when it comes right down to it – Scrivener comes with a cheaper price tag. It was originally made for Mac, but they also have a fabulous PC version (which is the one I use).
Of course here’s the thing — many of us still have to export text from Scrivener into Word because the publishing standard is still MS Word.
I use BOTH programs. I use Word for articles, short fiction, chapbooks, and sometimes novellas. However – I use Scrivener for big projects like novels, NF books, and larger novellas, which I then convert to word documents for final editing and submission to publishers. I actually prefer Scrivener for composition just for ease of use and functionality (via my creative process), but I prefer Word for formatting.
Which one is right for you? I recommend you try both programs and see which one works best for you. You may find you love Scrivener, you may find you love Microsoft, or maybe you’ll find you need both.
So there you go – my thoughts on the great word-processor debate. What word processing program do you use?