Showing posts with label Scrivener. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scrivener. Show all posts

A Search for the Best Writing App



Contributed by Margot Conor

I started looking for alternative platforms for my creative writing process. Moving all my projects is a daunting thought. I’ve written everything in MS Word since I first got a computer. I have many unfinished manuscripts and short stories. This also means they have been written in various renditions of Word.

I’ve recently realized that it is not easy to move Word documents into other programs. Word has hidden coding that gets messed up when transferring. Both personal data and field codes. Which is a pain in the neck to deal with if you want to format your book for publication in a different program.

If you use Word and want to share pages of your manuscript or short stories written in Microsoft Word with colleagues, agents, or publishers it's a good idea to review the document for this hidden data or personal information and remove it. Copying content from Word and pasting it into other programs often does not convert, and shows up as garbled text.
MS Word 365 is also expensive. It will cost you $159.99 to install (at the time of this article). No doubt that the price will increase. You can only install it on one machine. Files written in new versions don’t play well with older versions.

Microsoft Word files are considerably larger than text files. Some people have complained that the interface is too challenging to learn and there are too many options: Most people only use 50% of the offered tools because of the complexity of the system. I can attest to that.
Finally, a big downside for authors, that it’s not compatible with EPub or Mobi.

I was surprised to learn there are open-source alternatives to Word. For those of you who are familiar with all the ins and outs of Word but want something more affordable, I found two Open-Source options that are like MS Word. They are available in other languages too. Both are free and can basically do everything Word can do.

However, I don’t plan to use them because they are not compatible with EPub or Mobi. In some cases, there is a workaround by getting extensions. But I am not very tech-savvy to begin with and I’m not interested in complicating my process. 

These are two WordMS alternatives:

Apache Open Office:
Has an extension: Writer2ePub:

Libre Office:

Here is the point of realization, MS Word and alternative programs like it, were created for office use, and they are not the best tools for an author. My goal is to find the most advantageous place to create stories and novels. So, then, I asked myself… if MSWord and its alternatives are not the best platform for an author, where should I be creating?

This led me to my writer's groups to ask what programs they use. I will share my discoveries and my research here. There are now some very sophisticated alternatives designed specifically for writers, which I found encouraging.

Scrivener App:

- Cost: Scrivener offers a 30-day free trial to let you explore the features and find out if it’s right for you. 

The full version for Windows or Mac OS costs $59.99. There’s an educational license for students and academics for $50.99.

- Helps you organize long writing projects such as novels, nonfiction books, academic papers, and even scripts.

- Simplifies Editing is an essential part of any writing project. Scrivener has many tools to help you edit more efficiently whether it’s correcting simple errors or restructuring entire sections and chapters.

- Helps you clarify your ideas and plan your manuscript. Scrivener’s folders and subfolders help you arrange and rearrange the various parts of your writing project.

- Formatting for screenwriters. You easily format your screenplay so you can focus on the essential elements of character, dialogue, and action.

- Features for academic and nonfiction writers. It has features such as footnotes, references, and a bibliography correctly formatted. Scrivener provides templates for writing in styles such as APA and MLA so you can focus on your writing.

- Tools for exporting and publishing. Scrivener integrates with many formats so you can export to Microsoft Word, Open Office, RTF Final Draft (for screenplays), PDF, and more.

- For Editing it lets you track word frequency. Allows you to color code to label characters, POV topics, or any other specific category you need.

- It does bookmarking, tracks your progress, has a compile tool so you can take sections from different documents into one document.

- Formatting lets you quickly change fonts, headings, block text, and titles.

- Has a metadata feature to add dates, lists, and other data to track important issues.

- I can do a split screen for an easy view of two sections of your book.

- Compatible with EPub.


The monthly subscription is $30 and the annual is $297. A lifetime subscription is only offered occasionally.

I’ve praised AutoCrit in previous articles, so I am not going to go into too much detail here about how it works. What I can tell you is that the 2.0 version went from a simple editing platform to a full-on writers' community. You can now write your entire novel on your Writer’s Desk in the app. They have a header that looks a lot like MS Word but is easier to use.

- In addition, there is a whole system built-in to edit and restructure whatever you write. There are digital notes and note boards if you are a plotter or just want to keep track of some details. 

I have a lifetime pro membership which gives me access to clubs and other special features. They also have courses and other perks if you are a paid member. And it is affordable. I went from a monthly payment plan to yearly, and then jumped on the chance for a lifetime membership when they switched to 2.0.
- With the new version, they have a voice reader with eleven voice options. This is handy for catching mistakes in your text which you might otherwise overlook.

- They offer Zoom courses on the craft of writing and give their members a lot of personal attention. They will do first-chapter critiques and feedback on your pitch to agents. (These are for an additional fee, but it is reasonable.)

I have to say, however, that the free version is very limited. A budget-limited young writer I suggested it to showed me how all the great things I told her about were not accessible to her in the free option.

While I haven't felt like writing there, I do use it for editing, and love it. Honestly, I should have transitioned fully to AutoCrit for writing, considering I’ve already paid for it. I can’t explain my reluctance.

Pro Writing Aid: 

 Cost is $20 a month, $120 per year, or you can get their lifetime subscription for $399.
- The free version offers many features, but the word count is limited to only 500 words at a time.

- You can select your document type. Fiction writers can choose from various genres, such as fantasy, historical, or contemporary. You can also analyze your writing against other famous authors.

- They check your grammar, give you feedback on your style issues, pacing, cliches, overused words, sensory details, and more.

- A big plus is that you can download it to your desktop so you’re not limited to on-line use.

- It offers writing reports, such as diction, which looks for vague words, transitions, and alliteration.

- There are no writing clubs or classes or other services.

Story Planner:

- This is an extensive writer’s app designed to help you organize what you write from the synopsis to the structure of your story. It outlines the scenes, locations, and characters.

- There are synchronization issues that some authors have complained about, and it can also be slow to render. This is an app best suited to plotters who like to outline everything.

I was not impressed with their website, mainly because there was no breakdown of what they offer in each type of account. It only says that the premium starts at $15 for three months. But nothing about what comes after that, and you must commit without knowing. I personally do not like the lack of transparency.


A paid subscription is $14 a month or $140 yearly (with 2 free months).

The artist in me is attracted to this app. First of all, the design is just beautiful, and you can customize everything. 

- You can add photos or illustrations to your character bios, and make interactive maps. The layout is great, making it possible to reference your notes while you write. You can do collaborative projects too.

- With the free tier, you get access to all worldbuilding tools, collaboration, unlimited storage, and some tutorials. 

- You can export to EPub and other formats. 

- With a paid subscription you get unlimited elements and you can edit any element.

Hemingway Desktop App:

They took an interesting approach. They use different colored highlighting to point out where things need improving. Blue for adverbs, green for passive voice, pink highlights a phrase that could have a simpler alternative, yellow are sentences that are hard to read, and orange for very hard to read. There is a simple header with a few options.

This is a simple app that could be very useful to writers who are learning their craft.

It seems to only be available in a beta version, but there is a waitlist to use it.


Cost is only $6.11 to download to your desktop.

Their premise is simplicity. They provide the ideal setting for you to concentrate and just focus on your writing. They take the minimalist approach to design, with only basic functions required for writing. Simple upload and download buttons.

- Other selections include typeface, backgrounds, and sound elements. It opens into full-screen mode so nothing disrupts your creative flow.

- The environments are meant to transport you to a natural setting with the sounds of nature. There are various music options and audio tracks.

- One cute thing they do is add keyboard sounds when you type, one is like an old fashion typewriter. I love everything about this app. It is just a beautiful design with a fresh take on what a writer needs.

I hope this gives you some ideas of what's out there and what you'd like in your writing program.


Margot Conor has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn't until the COVID lock-down that she had enough time to dedicate to the craft and bring something to completion. Having finished her first novel, she went through the grueling two-year process of editing. Now she has jumped into the author's world with both feet. She's preparing to debut her first novel, which means learning how to promote it. The last year has been spent attending many writing retreats, seminars, and writers' events. She also listened to presentations specifically on the topic of publishing and book marketing. She will be sharing what she learns with the reader.

 You can learn more about Margot and her writing at her Facebook page:

Scrivener - The Novelist's Friend

A few years ago I was introduced to a 'New' program. By then I had several novels under my belt, one had been written by hand, another in Word Perfect, a few in Word. When someone suggested Scrivener, I wasn't necessarily sure what I thought. 

For one thing, there is a learning curve. Did I really want to begin to learn a new program 'just' to write my next novel? Would the learning curve eventually pay off in rewards that I currently didn't understand? Well, the simple answer is, yes.

Reasons to consider Scrivener:

1. Plotting
    • Plotting with Scrivener is a dream! There is no other way to say it. Notecards can be written in the program and then that information is transferred to the area where text is written. This allows me to plot several chapters and then easily take the notes with me into the text writing area and write while viewing my notes.

2. Organizing
    • I tend to write from several character's perspectives. Scrivener helps me to color coordinate which character I'm writing from and allows me at a glance to see where I should go next, or if I'm spending too much time in one character's head.
    • I am also one who likes to research and gather information for my novels. This information I used to find and print and keep in folders - lots and lots of folders. Scrivener allows me to utilize a section of the program to keep all those files and all that information and then lets me write and view the research at the same time - meaning I'm not having to flip from screen to screen to get information and check to make sure I'm getting it right, and I don't have to be connected to the internet to access files, or drag them with me when traveling.

3. Goals
    • Perhaps one of my favorite things is setting up my goals. Why? I'm a goal oriented person and having a bell let me know that I've reached my goal of word count brings me great pleasure. It also keeps me focused on the end goal of total word count for my novels. 
4. Bonus Help
    • Name Generator: I always have difficulties with this and so having a name generator is a bit of fun
    • Word Use: Also an issue I have. I come up with a great word and then I use it and use it and use it. Scrivener will call me on it. The program lets me me know how often I use words, which is great for finding weak verbs, but also great for finding the unusual word used several times as well.
    • Multiple formats: Want to write a comic book, the format is there. How about a play? Yep, it's covered too. 
So, while I realize for you it might also mean a learning curve, I recommend giving it a try. 

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Solem was released February 2016.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception, and the co-author of The Exodus Series: The Water Planet: Book 1 and House of Glass: Book 2. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.                                                                                             

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at                                      

You can also follower her on Facebook.

Gifts for Writers

It’s time for my annual gift list for writers.  If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping consider one of the gifts below.

  1. An online writer’s workshop from Writer’s Digest -- Writer’s digest offers affordable online writing workshops.  These workshops are taught by experts in the field and cover a wide range of topics (e.g. memoir writing, blogging, query letters).
  2. Books – A perfect gift for any writer.
  3. A subscription to writer’s magazine -- I have a digital subscription to Poets and Writers for only$2.50 per issue.
  4. 365 Affirmations for the Writer by Jane Hertenstein – A kindle book chocked full of inspiration for any writer.
  5. The 2015 Writer’s Market – If you know a writer getting ready to submit their work, the Writer's Market is an invaluable tool.  This compilation of information about publishers is a perennial on my annual gift list.
  6. A Journal – Even if the writer you know generally works on a computer, give them a journal and they are sure to write in it.   Check out for a wide selection of journals.
  7.  Scrivener - A great application for managing complex writing projects or keeping track of the research for that next project.

     All writers need readers.  So, here’s a few of the books I’m giving this holiday season.
                              Picture Book:  Before You Came by Patricia MacLachlan Charest
Middle Grade:  Bird by Crystal Chan
YA:  Pig Park by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
Cross over:  Where’d You Go, Bernadatte,by Maria Semple
Non-Fiction:  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

      Do you have any favorite gifts for writers?  What books are you giving this holiday season?

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. For more information check out:  

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

Fall is off to a busy start!

I’m getting ready for November, which is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I signed up for NaNoWriMo Camp this past July. I didn’t finish but I was able to develop some new ideas for my novel. Several months ago, I purchased Scrivener, a software program for writers. I worked with it during the camp, but wanted to learn more about the program. Currently, I’m taking a class, taught by Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies. The book was published in 2012. The class is offered a few times a year. It’s giving me a better understanding of all the things Scrivener can do.You can learn more about the class and the book at Gwen’s website,

Last December, I decided I was going to read one book each week of 2013. For the most part, I have been doing this. I have only missed a few weeks. Two of these books (I’ve read one and am reading the second) concern novel writing. No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days was written by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook, by Lindsey Grant, Tavia stewart-Streit, and Chris Baty, will help you plan and plot your novel. I recommend both of these books.

Next month is the annual free online writing conference, The Muse. The conference dates are Oct 7 – 13 and registration ends October 1. There are many workshops, taught by authors, agents and others in the industry. I highly recommend “attending” this event. It’s great for any writer, no matter what the genre.

An FYI -- A new website for The Muse went live earlier this month. If you registered prior to the new website going up, I suggest logging in to make sure your account was transferred to the new database. Glitches sometimes happen. I discovered that my account, which I created a few years ago, and my conference registration, had disappeared.You must have an account and register for the conference before the deadline, in order to attend. If you don't register, you won't get access to the conference. My advice is to double check your account and registration if you originally created that account and/or registered for the conference on the old site.

I’m looking forward to The Muse and NaNoWriMo and I hope to see you there!

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

10 Gifts for Writers

Are you still finishing your holiday shopping?  Here’s my top ten gifts for the writer on your list.

·        A gift certificate for a writers retreat - A perfect gift for any writer.

·       ·          Books – Writers are readers, so a good book or a gift certificate to a book store is always a good choice.

·        ·        A subscription to writer’s magazine like Writer’s Digest or Writers and Poets

·        The 2013 Writer’s Market – If you know a writer getting ready to submit their work, this is an invaluable tool.

·        The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the perfect gift for someone who is out there marketing their book.

·       Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott – An inspirational book for any writer

·      A journal – Even if the writer you know generally works on a computer, give them a journal and they are sure to write in it.

·         An electronic reader – Kindle, Nook or iPad.  Eventually, most writers will need to join the digital age.

·         Scrivener - A great application for managing complex writing projects or keeping track of the research for that next project.

·         Voice recognition software – Dragon Naturally Speaking is a great voice recognition program that can help make the writer more productive.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life strategist who has helped writers move their writing careers forward.  Combining intuitive insights with practical know-how, Mary Jo has helped clients discover how to chart their course of action and live their authentic path—their True North.   Mary Jo offers Artist Breakthrough Sessions at reduced rates. (Gift certificates are available.)

For more information check out
or folllow her at:  

Finding Time to Write Without Quitting Your Day Job

“Time stays long enough for those who use it.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

Are you struggling to find time to write?  Most writers I know have a “day job”, family, friends and lots of commitments.  They write around the corners of their lives.  Without the luxury to write full time, it is easy to get off track and run out of steam on a project.  So how do we squeeze more writing time into our life?  It requires getting organized, establishing routines and a willingness to say no.

You can increase your productivity by getting organized.  If it takes you ten minutes to figure out which is your last draft, you’ve lost valuable writing time.  A great organizational tool if you are working on a novel is the program Scrivener.  I think Scrivener’s biggest advantage is its simplicity in moving and tracking text.  Scrivener costs about $40 and they offer a 30 day free trial, so you can check it out for yourself.

Find a set time each week to write.  Schedule it into your calendar and make sure to keep this personal appointment.   There is a direct relationship between keeping this date with yourself and how much you value your writing life.  Next, look for an additional place to squeeze in the work of writing, maybe you can read, write or people watch on your lunch hour.  Do you see your character in the man behind the counter at the pannini shop?  Just adding 15 minutes a day to your writing time can catapult your writing forward.

When you want more time for your writing, it’s time to work your “no muscle”. Before you agree to be on that committee or take on a new project, take a deep breath and think about it.  Is this something you need to do?  Is it taking you away from writing or your other priorities?  What would happen if you said no?   One way to strengthen you your “no muscle” is with your phone.  Do you answer it when writing?  Just think of the time you can add to your writing minutes if you ignore your phone.

If squeezing more writing time into your life feels overwhelming, try just one of the above strategies for 21 days and you’ll be amazed in the difference it can make.  Do you have a creative strategy for eeking out extra writing time?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life strategist.  If you want to push your writing dream forward, join her 4 week Big Dream Challenge

For more information check out
or folllow her at:

Considering Both the Downsides and Upsides of Writing Reviews

Dear Writers on the Move Readers,   I am busily rewriting my  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically  for a second edition fro...