Do not allow Word to check your grammar. In the prior version it wanted to correct “The king and I is a great play” to “The King and I are a great play”. I’ve forgotten some of the fun doozies it’s pulled this time.
I’d love to go back to PFSWrite from the early 1980s. It was minimalistic, but it did what I said, no arguments. It didn’t make decisions about formatting, or indenting paragraphs. It didn’t argue when I started a word with two capital letters. Sometimes I want to do that. It didn’t keep changing my words around. If I wrote “Kehinde” it kept “Kehinde”. It didn’t change, “Set summoned his Wass to his hand” to “Set summoned his was to his hand” and then complain about the grammar. It bolded exactly what I told it to bold, no more, no less. It stored documents of any size, let me move text around, gave me all the formatting tools I wanted (center, bold, underline, italicize and double space) and it printed. I don’t care that it only ran under DOS. It was perfect.
Nowadays, I write with pen and paper and only later put the document in Word. I’ve shut down almost all of the features. For portabillity, I store my documents on a flash drive and back up to my main computer.
I use an ascii editing program (TextEdit) for first drafts, when I then decant into a desktop typesetting program (FrameMaker) when I need a manascript format, and make revisions in that version thereafter. This is kinda like using a slingshot then an elephant gun to hunt squirrels.
(I pass the current draft between home and work on a flash drive, and email a nightly copy to a free email account used for nothing else.)
I use Word, but I don’t use most of the bells n’ whistles. I like the Spell Check because I can develop individual project-related dictionaries, into which I can put the characters’ names and specialized vocabulary, so that the function zips over them and catches the real typos. I’ve been using Word so long that the possibility of it screwing up is relatively small. In the olden olden days I used Xywrite, which I rather liked, but that ship sailed a long time ago. And I work on a Mac now.
My first book was written on a script typewriter (because it was what I had). Bless my editor for reading the book! Thereafter I had a Selectric II, which (presaging the laptop) I used to perch on my lap as I sat cross-legged on my bed, to write. I made it through five books before I switched to word processing; I also know people who still work longhand for first draft. There Is No One True Way.
Well, my method is a combination of the old and the new. I outline with pen and paper. Then I translate that outline into prose, again with pen and paper. The oldest word processor.
After that, my second draft happens when I begin entering the text into the computer. I type up that handwritten prose, making changes and edits as I go along. Especially since a lot of my handwritten draft is in my own personal shorthand. For the word processor, I use Microsoft Word, which I have installed on a U3 thumb drive so that it’s portable… I can pop it into any computer with a USB port and have it available.
After that, I don’t edit directly in the computer. I print out a copy and work it over with a red pen, marking changes and even doing some minor re-writes, which I then go back and enter into the computer.
I like Word because it has plenty of easy formatting options. I turn off automatic spellchecking and grammar checking, because they get in the way. But for ease of use, I’ve never found anything that I like better than word. I tend to format as if it were a printed novel, not a manuscript… italics, page breaks, everything. With Word, it’s easy to go back and change these into proper manuscript format in a batch for the entire manuscript. (Things like the fact that intended italics should be underlined in the manuscript, all fonts should be the same size, etc.)
Still… everything I write starts on the oldest word processor in existence… a pen and paper.
I HATE HATE HATE the grammar-checker in Word. It once flagged the sentence “What am I supposed to do?” as being grammatically incorrect on account of how the adjective “am” shouldn’t modify a verb directly; it suggested adding “-ly.”
Then again, there are chimpanzees with greater linguistic intelligence than your average grammar-checker.
I’ve been using Wordperfect since v.5.0. It’s much less inclined than Word to try to be oh! so helpful! with auto-formatting and the like; I despise the increase of that tendency in Word. It also has Reveal Codes, which is like looking at the source code for an HTML document; if something wonky’s happening to the formatting, or I want to make sure I know exactly where a font change is placed, I can just open that up and see what’s going on in the guts of the thing. The last I heard, Word supposedly had something like this, but when I checked it out it was not the same thing, and not half so useful.
The downside to this is that I eternally have to save things as rtf when sending to other people. But I will gladly endure a few seconds of routine reformatting to save myself from wrestling Word into submission.
I’ve become quite fond of Scrivener, over on Mac OS X. It’s basically designed as a writer’s word processor; it lets me store my notes, save each ‘scene’ individually in the overall project, and shuffle the scenes around into chapters as I need.
It’s kind of a pain at first, and then when you realize it can be customized into almost any shape, it becomes really useful.
Of course, I still do my initial writing with fountain pen in a notebook; easier than carrying the laptop everywhere!
The edition of Word that I have is 2003; I never use spellcheck [it cheekily keeps trying to change my surname to a mental condition], nor grammar check. Because they inspire mental laziness I have officially labelled them as ‘Evil’. Besides, unintentional creative spelling is a great way to invent some really interesting proper names.
Most of my stuff begins in longhand in spiral bound notebooks of varying sizes, and I have a frighteningly large cache of scribbled notes on post-its, cocktail napkins, diner-placemat-menus, et cetera.
I would still be using WordPerfect 10 if I still used a PC. WordPerfect in its various guises remains my favorite word processing software. I particularly loved the Reveal Codes feature that Marie already mentioned.
But I switched to a Mac 2 years ago. Yes, it’s true I could run WordPerfect in the Windows emulator or track down the WordPerfect that runs on “Classic” (OS9), but neither of those utilize the streamlined elements of OSX.
So I settled on Nisus Writer Express which does not, alas, have Reveal Codes. However, I was able to import all my wpd files into Nisus and have them open without problem. The default file save setting is rtf, and I can easily convert into doc files to send to, say, my editor, who uses Word.
I hate Word – I have a Word for Mac on my computer so I can open other people’s doc files if necessary, but I think it is a stupid clunky program – for instance, with Nisus I can create a file of my ENTIRE book that functions – in Word, a file of such a size would continually be crashing. So, yeah, Nisus is sleek and efficient, and while it’s not WordPerfect, it’s all right.
I start every project with pen and paper, then type it into the computer, print it out, and write with pen to add to the story on the printout. Eventually I’ll switch to just the computer, where I use Framemaker, because I can set up a template to be in the proper format for the final story. After that, Framemaker leaves me alone. I have a copy of Word that I’ve made less annoying because I’ve turned off all of its automatic rules, but I only use it when I need to send something in using Word.
Being a visual artist as well, I’ve discovered that I write like I paint, starting with the bones of a figural pose then segueing into musculature, draping, light sources, palettes, and backgrounds, building everything up in layers, and keeping in mind that everything is relative and affects everything else near it, as it in turn is so affected. Many of my scenes start out looking like shooting scripts at first draft, nothing but dialogue and directorial action cues — and then I go back in and build up the layers.
Alex, re: Scrivener, that one sounds awfully good, as though it might actually serve my rather chaotic modes of operation. Does is come in PC flavors, as well? My laptop is an IBM Thinkpad, if that matters.
Nisus also sounds good, and so does Framemaker. Oy, looks like I’m going to be downloading samples and doing a lot of test driving over the next week or so. Thanks, everyone — I am so open to suggestions right now, so please keep ’em coming.
I’m on a Mac. Until a couple of years ago, I wrote in Appleworks, but an employment opportunity (which fell through) required me to use Word, so I got Word. That is what I use most of the time now, though I do have some manuscripts that I started in Appleworks and remain in Appleworks. In either, I tend to keep the entire manuscript as a single document, though this wasn’t so years ago.
I can’t write longhand drafts anymore, though I do jot things down, and when I’ve had a day job, during lunch I’d often turn out a page or two that way. And I must, and do, go over drafts in hardcopy and spill all sorts of red ink over them. In the editing process, there are certain things that just come more clearly to me when I stare at ink on paper and hold a pen in one hand. But not, usually, in the process of initial creation. My thoughts tend to come too fast for my wrists, but my fingers can usually keep up. Usually!
My thoughts tend to come too fast for my wrists, but my fingers can usually keep up. Usually!
I so grok that. That’s why I transcribe the latest whatever to my laptop as quickly as I can. Once my frenetic scrawl has gone cold it can be difficult to decipher, depending on the writing circumstances [in a moving car; on a crowded elevator; nothing but crayons handy] and level of excitement [panic, usually] at the time I wrote it down.
I’ve got a digital recorder that I ought to use, but I can’t stand the sound of my recorded voice. Ack.
I’ve spent my professional life on various flavors of MS Word. Because I am a geek my favorite feature is the not-quite-sane things I can do with Visual Basic.
One novel I changed from first person to a limited third-person point of view. I wrote a VB macro that changed most of it for me. Now it didn’t get me out of a substantial rewrite, but it did about 70%-80% of the heavy lifting for me.
I also wrote a macro that could sift through a series of novel MSs for references to planets/cities/characters so I could make sure I was describing things consistently; and that macro actually came in handy documenting what was being ripped off in a plagiarism lawsuit I just managed to settle.
(I know, if I was a real geek I’d do this on a Linux box with PERL and text files. But I have an excuse. My writing lives on a little USB drive, and I end up working on several different machines, two of which are owned by my day job where I can’t meddle with the OS.)
I have used Power Writer and Power Structure. They have very similar functions which are especially good for plotting. Power Writer is designed to feel more like a beefed up Word Processor. Power Structure is designed to do some interesting analysis of plot aspects like tension and resolution of sub-plots.
As much as the techy part of my brain wants to adore either of these programs, the creative part of my brain often feels like it is being squeezed into a small box. Part of that is probably because the program limits my ability to view what I want to look at on my screen, the way I want to look at it. So, instead, I’m using Word and I create additional documents to contain other information related to the story at hand. This way, I can view two pages of my story (I have a large wide screen) or I can but up two documents; a story and info related to the story.
The other advantage to sticking with Word is that I copy my documents on a thumb drive and can update them at the day job if I want to. (Not so, with Power Structure or Power Writer).
Oh, yeah — Wordperfect also has no trouble dealing with a file that’s 120K words long. Has something to do with the way it structures files, versus how Word does it, but I regularly have a single file of my entire novel without the program choking on it, which I’ve heard can be a problem for other people.
I program in Microsoft products, which helps give me a certain degree of familiarity with how they think and so how Microsoft Word works.
The first step is to change the Office Assistant from the annoying Clippie. Then to turn off ALL the autocorrects. Then to turn off the grammar checker, which hates you and wants you to look like an idiot.
(Ok, when the manuscript is done, I run the grammar checkers. This is because I am confident enough in my grammar to be sure I will be able to tell when it is talking through its silly little hat.)
I’m happily using WordPerfect 12 at the moment with the Rhymer from WordPerfect 7 lurking as a pop-up for when I need it. At some point I want to go to WordPerfect X3 (what they say instead of 13) because it has a nice feature that lets you toggle between the WordPerfect 12 interface and the old WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS interface I started on years ago.
Somewhere I still have the Websters program, which was a pop-up I used with DOS 5.1 WordPerfect as an extra spellchecker. It was amazing because it had all the name from the Victorian Webster’s supplemental dictionaries of names from scripture, literature, history and mythology, which between them took care of most of the names you might have in a document apart from your own made-up ones.
I know this is a bit OT; but along with the chat about word processing it may be a good idea if someone could tell people what happens after you have handed your manuscript(in whatever form) to the publisher.
Alex, you use a fountain pen? So cool. I love those. I like the feel of pen and real liquid ink on paper to be of so nice. When I’m trying to get dialog down, I use a quill or a dip pen and ink. The need to stop and dip is a little like the need to take a breath. It’s momentary, and gives you a chance to rethink. I do that for difficult scenes sometimes, because it slows me down and let’s me really work it through.
Have you tried any of the “bulletproof” inks Noodlers offers? I only found out about them recently and they’re great. They really are waterproof. I tried running the paper under tap water and the ink didn’t budge. The paper later buckled, of course, but the ink stayed put. If you’ve ever lost writing in the rain because the ink ran, you’ll understand how totally cool this is. I’ve used them in a Waterman Preface, which I find to be particularly sensitive to ink, and it flows wonderfully. Pendemonium.com has them and they’ll custom scent them and the the scenting doesn’t ruin the waterproof quality. I tested on scented ink. I think I saw some on Amazon too and Joon has it, but Pendemonium has some exclusive colors.
My writing “hobby” started out back in my software engineering days when I was using the Emacs text editor on Unix, so it was hard to move onto a PC at all. Emacs if infinitely modfiable, so I could make it do whatever I wanted, and it is keystroke driven, not menu- or mouse-driven. When I move to the PC, I hated being treated like an idiot (“Do you REALLY want to delete this thing you just deleted?”) and I hated having to use a mouse. But once I taught myself the Word keystroke commands/menu shortcuts and got a laptop with a touchpad, I was back at speed.
Unlike some of you, I don’t seem to have any trouble with Word and single-file manuscripts, and mine run 165-189K words. (I’m using Word 2000 right now). I NEVER use the grammar checker – horror. But I do one pass with the spell checker.
Things I DO like about Word – the individual dictionaries, so I can ensure I spell made-up words consistently. And I really like the Track Changes feature when I am doing editorial revisions. I turn it on right after I submit a manuscript, so that I can easily thread a particular change through the book, whether it is a name change or a subplot change. Once I clear them all and submit the revised ms. I can keep track of changes that I want to incorporate at copyedit time, etc.
Wow. Pen and paper. Very impressive. I agree my most useful revision is when I read it on paper and red-pen it to a bloody death.
Word’s OK. I too like the dictionaries, and I like auto-formatting my docs for manuscripts (I’ve learned to draft in proper ms format. One time reformatting was one time too many). I’ve never had a burp from a file being too huge, though my early drafts tend to be in several files (easier for crit subs, for sure), which I then combine them into one big file. I separate chapters using the page break feature. It’s not foolproof, I’ve found, but works relatively well. I switch work to a laptop when I’m away from my desk via USB or email.
I do use a somewhat complicated motivation/tension/plot arc system I designed for my own use (It makes little sense to anyone else but me). I usually handwrite it at first, and then when I’m putting off drafting a query or something, I take a day and transcribe it into Word. It’s a total bear to do it that way, but awesome for procrastination purposes. Someday maybe I’ll get one of my geek friends to build me a real template to work with.
I use a pen and paper, too. First I outline in longhand; then I write random scenes. (Both of these are done during lunch, or waiting for an oil change or other out-of-the-house situations.)
When I tackle the first draft, it’s on the box, but for novels, I revise on a printed-out copy.
I use gel pens because you can get them in lots of pretty colors and I know that I don’t know a story well enough to outline it when I can’t tell what color to use. (Sometimes I get the color wrong, but it will come clear in the outlining process.)
Re: plotting, sometimes if I’m stuck on the structure of a story’s arc, in desperation I’ll resort to diagramming it. The next thing I know, I’ve got a doodle that bears a disquieting resemblance to the blueprints of Wile E. Coyote.
It remains to be seen whether this method will yield success.
I do all of my first drafts on pencil and paper. I can’t write directly to the computer. There’s some connection that gets severed.
I used to use RoughDraft when I was ready to type things up. It’s a free program, gives no money to Microsoft, and has a lot of great tools just for writers. It creates .rtf files, which are more portable than .doc files. But then I discovered that RoughDraft couldn’t handle my 200,000+ word document; it started eating bits of it. (Thankfully, I’ve got probably close to 50 backups hanging around.) So I’m using Word now, although I’m interested in checking out Open Office.
I back my work up obsessively. A part of me doesn’t like the idea of all my work and pain existing only as a bunch of 1s and 0s in a hard drive somewhere. So every time I finish a writing session, I email it to myself and leave the document in my Gmail inbox. I also have backups on CD, on a flash drive, on every computer in the house, and on my Ipod.
I haven’t written any novels, but I ‘R a perfeshunal journalist and an unpublished short fiction writer, so I’ll add my $0.02. Besides, as a tech journalist I’m supposed to be an expert in stuff like this. (Or, at least, they pay me to be an expert — the more fools they.)
Most of my writing is for the Web. For that, I use TextWrangler on the Mac (free) or, when I’m on Windows, NoteTab Pro (about $20). I use Markdown, which is a simple way to convert plain text to HTML. I’m writing this post in NoteTab Pro with Markdown right now.
For fiction, I used to use Word, now I use NeoOffice on the Mac, which is a port of OpenOffice.org On Windows, I just tried out OpenOffice.org. I find NeoOffice/OpenOffice to be just as good as Microsoft Office, and it’s free, where the MS products cost $300 for most users.
Like everyone else here, I turn off grammar-checker. It’s useless. I love spell-checking, though; I’m an indifferent proofreader.
I used XyWrite for about eight years, until about 1997 — probably far longer than any other PC word processor. I liked it a lot.
I’m right now deeply into revise mode in my fiction-writing — have been for months. But when I’m done, and am ready to start something new, I’m looking forward to giving CopyWrite a try. It bills itself as a “project manager for writers of all kinds.” It lets you keep notes side-by-side with the document, so as you describe character or setting details in the work in progress, you can easily keep track of them.
The last big project I worked on, I had a friend beta the second draft, and the ‘track changes’ feature was terrifically useful, because I could put side-by-side her suggested changes versus mine, as well as parenthetical comments about details. So if I had Word easily available (I can go to the library and use theirs, I suppose), that would still be my choice at the moment.
I’m going to check out Scrivener, though — good tip.
Something not about what word processor you use, but setting things up in the processor for a prospective publisher. Check if they have an in-house style guide. If you are following their rules they may subconsciously think better of your work. It may also show what file formats they accept, what dictionaries they prefer you spell check against and other handy hints.
I have been just looking over Allen & Unwin’s style guide and they accept Word & WordPerfect for windows & mac, and any RTF files. Sorry L.N. Hammer, programs like pagemaker are out, they prefer to that themselves.
In just remembered for the hardcorers that there is is a WP distro for linux #WP8(.1).
For some reason, I find that diving into Notepad, sans bells, whistles, or anything at all, can be really liberating. The sight of margins and buttons and all the other trappings of Word seem almost too official, if that makes any sense, and awaken my editorial voice. In Notepad I can just scribble to my heart’s content, and not worry about a thing.
Scrivener looks great, if only because I usually have some pictures or photographs on display in Photoshop, and my plot notes jotted down in a different file, and the story arc but vaguely visualized in my mind. I think it would be fun to lay it all out, play with the cork board, and get it all down right there before my eyes. I don’t think it would really help with the writing, per se, but might simply prove diverting to fiddle with while mentally tongueing a plot problem or the like.
But I’m on a PC, so no dice 😛
Ultimately I end up transplanting everything into Word (with the Spell and Grammar check turned off) in order to check word count, etc, and tidy it all up. Like vainly combing your redheaded stepchild’s hair once or twice before sending him out before the photographer!
[…] you do? I’m sure it’s not that much of a coincidence that I’d come across this post at DeepGenre about software used for writing, since – as evidenced by the post itself, as well as in the comments – finding a system that works […]
[…] sure it’s not that much of a coincidence that I’d come across this post at DeepGenre about software used for writing, since – as evidenced by the post itself, as well as in the comments – finding a system that works […]
I’ll join the guy who endorsed text-editors and markdown. I’m a big fan of mactomates’ TextMate, which is a delightful text editor on the level with emacs and vim, but it feels contemporary and it just does everything I need and a bit more, without complaining so that’s super nice.
My workflow is generally to use a command line tool called maruku to convert from markdown to HTML and LaTeX/PDF when I need it, and it all happens in a couple of seconds, most of the time I’m content to just work in text files.
Last time I did a novel length project I was using a PC and did it all in word, and while it wasn’t ideal, it worked.
I also use a program called WriteRoom to black out the back of the screen so I can write distraction free. It’s a great idea and there are times when this kind of mode is just great. But it’s still text files all the way.
I tried Ywriter but found it clunky to use. I decided to pay for a program because I wanted help organise complicated plotting issues.
I paid for a program (only about Â£19) which is fantastic. It is so easy to organise all your notes and scene descriptions, ideas on magic etc. into a cohesive structure. the it has a word processor fro you to write it. It stores them by chapter. I usually write in word and then copy and past into the program (although you can import,I believe) because I prefer it.
They do a free demo..to try. Click on my name to have a look.
Darkroom is a freeware Writeroom clone for Windows. Requires the .NET 2.0 framework.
Really great full screen text editor. Completely configurable color schemes, adjustable background transparency, word count, almost no other functionality. Its just write, write, write, revise, revise, revise. And you can’t argue with the price.
One thing not in the review – I really like the feature in Scrivener that lets you black out everything on the screen except for Scrivener. I didn’t think I’d like it, but I find I use it every day during writing time.
It reduces digital distractions and sends a clear, visual message to the parts of my brain that are easily diverted by bright, shiny objects. The visual message says: “OK, we’re writing fiction now. That is all we are doing. We’re not IMing or surfing the Web or doing e-mail. We’re just writing fiction.”
[…] Scrivener, Software, Writing Tools Way back in May ‘07, I asked the folks over at DeepGenre about software for creative writing. They were most generous with their responses, eagerly pointing me in directions that proved […]
Having written nearly 300 pages with photos the autoformatting suddenly woke up and is ruining all my work. Have tried the usual auto correct etc. but nothing works. words won’t delete – every change in red. Driving me mad.
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