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Software for Authors

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Posted by Gary Carson
May 19, 2011 at 11:57 PM


Just out of curiosity, why does your son have to submit each chapter as a separate file? I’m a fiction writer myself with an agent and I’ve never heard of a requirement like this. The only reason I can think of for why they would want him to do this is if they were running his novel as a serial, chapter by chapter.

The standard novel manuscript is very basic and I’ve never had any problems with creating long (100,000+ words) manuscripts in Word 2003. Granted, Word is bloated and you don’t need ninety per cent of its features, but this is a non-issue. And the only time I’ve ever seen Word crash is with extremely complicated documents using master-documents and sub-documents and so on, none of which applies to writing fiction.

After screwing around with almost every kind of “novel-writing software” out there, I’ve decided that they’re completely unnecessary and more trouble than they’re worth. Writing novels involves creating lots of different files for research, outlines, etc., but I’ve never found that I have to have all of these files instantly available. If I have files I need to reference while I’m writing, I just print them out. Problem solved. And the novel-writing software I’ve seen (Scrivener for Windows, for example) almost always uses RTF format, which means you have to do a lot of reformatting when you’re finished. Why bother? Just write the thing in Word and be done with it. (The Scrivener for Windows Beta I tested has a “Standard Novel Template” you can use for exporting your copy to Word, but it doesn’t work. A flaw like this is so basic that I have to wonder what all these writers who have been giving the program rave reviews are actually doing).

The best purchase I’ve ever made to increase my writing productivity wasn’t software at all, but hardware, namely a second monitor. You can put one draft (or an outline or whatever) up on one monitor for reference and work on the manuscript on the other. It works great. As for keeping my files organized, I just use Windows Explorer. I create a master folder for the book, then subfolders for research, outlines, etc. No problem at all.