Writing Old School

Good Luck to all the NaNoWriMo Writers!  I’ve never participated since my writing process is more of a marathon of slowly working towards a completed first draft by writing an hour every day rather than a one month sprint, but I admire anyone who can keep up that impressive writing pace.

When did writing in Microsoft Word become old school?  To date, I’ve completed 45 blog posts, 4 picture book manuscripts, 3 middle grade novel manuscripts, and 1 young adult novel manuscript (with several other story ideas in various stages of development).  And every single one used Microsoft Word, without any tools fancier than spell check.  Who knew I was the only one still writing in the stone age?

There are two main types of writers: the detailed-outliner writers and the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writers.  I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, usually with a stack of post-it note covered notebooks by my side to help steer me towards my final destination.  Last year I made the huge technology upgrade of switching to OneNote so I could organize my many lists and reminders (in all aspects of life, not just writing) electronically instead of lugging stacks of paper.  That felt cutting edge.  But now I hear there are actually writing software programs designed with tools to research, outline, write, reorganize, and rewrite a manuscript.  And some even have apps to work on your manuscript right on your phone or tablet.  What rock have I been living under?

I just wrapped up a marathon of revising on three different manuscripts and finally have the opportuinity to start creating a first draft for a shiny, new idea.  If ever there was a time to try out one of these fancy new writing software programs, it’s now.  But which to choose?  The two front runners are Scrivener (marketed towards novel writers) and Final Draft (marketed towards screen writers but also used by novel writers).  Here’s my side-by-side comparison:

Note: Jennifer Kay does not work in the computer software industry, she has never used either of these programs, and she has not spoken with either company.  Her not-so-scientific research was entirely conducted utilizing public information available on the internet.


 Final Draft

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php http://www.finaldraft.com/
Free Trial Download Free Trial Download
$49 Computer Software (download only) $250 Computer Software (boxed)
ipad app under development (Available by   2013) Free ipad app



Features (only novel-related items   listed):

1) Cork Board: Virtual cork board with   scene index cards (moving cards moves scenes in the manuscript) 1) Index Cards: Scene summary on one side   and actual scene on other side (can color coat, reorganize, and print actual   index cards)
2) Outliner: For viewing summaries by   scene or chapter (drag and drop to re-order scenes) 2a) Scene Navigator: For viewing list of   scenes (can move scenes and track scene properties)

2b) Scene View: View and sort scenes with   higher level of scene description

3) Collections: Track a character or idea   through manuscript and view only those scenes 3)Scene Property Inspector: Scene titles   and colors to track characters, story arcs, themes, etc.
4) Scrivenings: Edit as individual   scenes,as collection of related scenes, or as whole document 4) Script Notes: Pop up boxes for notes   and ideas within the script
5) Text Editing: Full featured text   editor 5) Format Assistant: Scans script for   errors


6) Statistics: Monitor manuscript and   session word count targets 6) N/A
7) Snapshots: Save earlier versions 7) Revision Mode: Track all changes from   first draft to final

And the verdict is . . . Scrivener.  Since I’m not sure how committed I am to this type of writing software, I’m going to dip my toes in with the significantly less expensive alternative.  Wish me luck!

About Jennifer Kay

Jennifer Kay is a KidLit author and Structural Engineer. She has a VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, is an SCBWI Rockford Network Rep, edits the SCBWI IL Prairie Wind, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America. Jennifer works as a writer, freelance editor, literary agency reader, and creative writing teacher.
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6 Responses to Writing Old School

  1. I’ve used both. Scrivener has a very strong following on the Mac. Final Draft is considered the industry standard for screenplays, however with the advent of the PDF you can use anything, even Microsoft Word.

    I’ll also suggest a couple of affordable options. The first is Celtx, which is free for the PC and has an iOS app what lets you work on your story anywhere. I like it and used it when I did Script Frenzy.
    The second is from Adobe, the same company that made the PDF great. It’s called Adobe Story. They also have a free version, but the paid app integreates with their production software an allows collaboration for film, TV, and commercials.

  2. Jennifer Kay says:

    Thanks for the great suggestions, Jamie. I’m sure you weren’t surprised to hear I was writing in the stone ages since I also haven’t made the leap to Blue-ray, and I was the last person on the planet to get a smartphone. LOL.

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