Recently, I’ve seen a spate of requests on various social media posts and blog sites talking about what software writers use. Like the debate between Mac vs PC, the word processing wars can become more than a bit intense. If you toss in photo manipulation programs and conversion programs and, well, war can break out very easily. But here’s the thing. There is no right answer. Use what works for you and makes your life as a writer easier.
I know that sounds like a bit of a “duh!” answer, but it’s true. If you find yourself fighting to finish a project because you aren’t comfortable using a certain word processing program, why are you using it? Just because someone recommended it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Sure, try it. You might be surprised. But don’t keep punishing yourself if the program doesn’t work for you.
For example, word processors are a dime a dozen. You can pay for Word or Word Perfect. Or you can go the open source path with programs like LibreOffice or Google Docs. All have good points and bad. All will bring out writers who are adamant that they are the “one true program” while others will point at them and say they are the devil’ work. The question is: are you comfortable using them and do they do everything you want and need them to do?
For me, I use Word. Part of it s because that’s what I’m comfortable with. I’d prefer going back to WordPerfect (years and years ago, before it sold). But that’s not an option. So I go with Word. I do it for several reasons. The first is it is the program I know the best. That means I rarely have to stop and think about a shortcut, much less take time to look it up. The second is the review function. The last time I trolled through some of the alternatives, none of them had a review function as robust as Word’s. Then there’s the fact Word continues to be industry standard, pretty much no matter what the “industry” is. That means whether I’m working at writing or something else, whoever I’m sending docs to will more than likely be working in the same app.
But that doesn’t mean Word is the best. It’s a bloated program that inflicts a lot of extra code into documents I’d prefer not being there. Code that can on occasion do weird crap to e-books. But the fact I can just sit down and start writing without thinking about what I’m doing regarding formatting, etc., is a big plus in my book.
But I’m just one writer. I know others who swear by LibreOffice. Others say Google Docs is the only way to go. The name of the program doesn’t matter. Not in the long run. What does is putting butt in chair and writing–and finishing.
Oh, and backing up your work because, no matter what program you lose, the rules of the universe include the one that at some time when you least expect it, your hard drive will fail and you will loose everything. So back up your work and then back up your back ups.
The same goes for your photo manipulation programs. I learned Photoshop years and years go. Even then, it was not an intuitive program, at least not for me. It was also amazingly expensive and that hasn’t changed. So when I discovered Gimp, I happily went with it. Why? Because it was open source and it was similar enough to Photoshop I didn’t have to learn everything all over.
Right now, I’m using Affinity Photo. It’s a paid program, but isn’t too very expensive. I like the interface and ease of use. For me, it is much more intuitive than Photoshop. But that doesn’t mean it is better than any of the other programs. It just means it is easier for me to use.
There are other programs you’ll find writers getting into arguments about. Scrivener is one. I own it. I play with it but I don’t do entire projects with it. Frankly, it is a program I jump over to when I need to kickstart the creative juices. Why? Because it does much the same for me as writing with pencil and paper. It makes me slow down and think about what I’m doing.
Scrivener is one of those programs that has so many bells and whistles, it becomes overwhelming for a lot of writers. you can outline with it. You have a corkboard, you can set up separate tabs for every scene. You can have character sketches. And that’s just scraping the surface. Then there’s the fact it is still primarily a Mac program (or was the last time I compared the PC to the Mac versions). For me, it is too much. For others, it is their go-to program for all aspects of writing.
Conversion programs are another one where writers disagree. Some don’t use a conversion program at all. They either hire someone to convert their work into print and digital formats or they simply upload a DOC or DOCX file and let the storefront’s own software do the conversion. There’s nothing wrong with either as long as it works for you. But, for me, I like having more control and that means having to find the right program that works for me.
Back in the dark ages, conversion meant hand coding the manuscript into html. I do NOT miss those days. Today, you can choose between open source, freeware and paid software to do the job for you. But, before making your decision, you need to know what you want the program to do. The more bells and whistles you want in your converted manuscript (drop caps, fancy section breaks, etc.), the less likely it is you will find a free ware or even open source program that will fit the bill. That’s not to say those programs don’t exist. It simply means they are more difficult to find.
Here are some of the programs you’ll find writers using for conversion purposes. Paid programs include Adobe’s InDesign, still considered industry standard for print set up. Expensive, not all that intuitive and (big strike against it in my book) Adobe. The learning curve for this program can be daunting if your mind doesn’t work that way.
Vellum. This is a Mac-only conversion program that a number of indie authors, including me, use. It is a paid program and, as noted above, Mac only. But it is intuitive, at least to me, easy to use and quick. From start to finish, is takes less than half an hour to set up a project, input all the information (title, author, etc.), import your DOCX file, tell it what stores you want it to convert to, whether you want a print conversion as well (and what size, etc) and hit convert. Is it perfect? No. But no program is, imo.
Another program authors are using right now is Atticus. It’s the new kid on the block. Cross-platform, which makes it more competitive than Vellum, it runs into some of the same problems Scrivener has. In my opinion, it tries to do too much. It is sold as a word processor. It is an organizer. It is an outliner. It is a conversion tool. It s also not as intuitive as I’d like. But, customer service, the few times I’ve had to use it is very good and that goes a long way.
On the free end of things, you have programs like Calibre and Sigil. Now, Calibre wasn’t meant to be a conversion program. It is a library management system for your e-books. But, it can be used to convert to most major formats. Unlike the paid programs, it doesn’t have many bells and whistles as the paid programs.
As for Sigil, I haven’t used it for years. For a long time, it was my go-to for editing after conversion. But it did require a working knowledge of html to use it to its full extent. But, with that knowledge–or the willingness to look up the coding you might need–it allowed me to make post-conversion edits.
And these are just a few of the programs available out there. I’ve used them all. They work. But they aren’t perfect and what works for me might not work for someone else.
In other words, you can find whatever you want out there for whatever your price point might be. None of the programs do everything. It’s up to you to find the one–or three–that work best for you.
Don’t let anyone tell you you have to us this or that program. The only time that is acceptable is if you are working with a traditional publisher or agent and they require a program (usually Word) for its edit function. Even then, that doesn’t mean you have to write in it. It only means you have to use it when doing edits on the level where they are involved.
Now go forth and write.
And let me know what programs you’re using and why.
Now for the obligatory promotion.
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Colonel Ashlyn Shaw is on a collision course with an enemy determined to destroy her and all she holds dear. Honor demands she not turn away from the upcoming battle. Duty requires her to do whatever is necessary to protect her command and her home system. The Corps and her family stand with her, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to finally bring this war to an end.
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Designation: Frejya (Augment Wars 1) — September 20, 2022
I was five when they came for my brother. I was thirteen when they came for me. At twenty, they sent me to war, an AI embedded in my brain to make sure I didn’t remember my past or question my orders. Not that they told me that part.
And that was their mistake. They might have enhanced me, trained me, but they didn’t break me and, with Menhit in my head, I am about to become their worst nightmare. . .if they don’t kill me first.
The Ter’anzils have invaded and enslaved innumerable star systems over the centuries. Have they finally met their match in one of their own creations?