As pretty as the GUI is for the latest version of Word, and as nice as it is that they’ve fixed so many bugs from previous version–it’s still not a great tool for writing a novel. Not without having minion tools (paper or electronic) to keep track of all the disparate pieces that go into that novel, most of them on paper needing transcription of some sort.
I’ve accumulated years worth of amazing and invaluable (yes, every single one of them!) handwritten and typed notes and epiphanies, drafts, questions, issues, todo’s, and sublimated research, that I don’t want to search through by hand, rediscover, or rewrite (the latter happens far too often, producing variations on a note scattered physically and chronologically–drives me f–ing nuts sometimes). I know that writers have been producing novels for hundreds of years from notecard and other paper-based filing systems, but I’m entrenched in my computer, have a horrendously busy life already, and need an easy to use single tool or suite of tools that’ll help me keep organized (even if I do have to retype from paper–never a bad thing), and does not smack my hands if I need it to be flexible.
I’ve heard good things from writers about Scrivener, but it’s for the Mac, and I have a Windows system. I’ve looked at several novel writing tools for Windows over the years and found them too restrictive or short-handed and keep going back to my Word-based free form approach. But the author of Scrivener noted that a tool called PageFour “allows you to edit and organise your writing in a tabbed interface. It provides word processing and outlining capabilities, and is probably the product closest to Scrivener on Windows.” And it has version control–always a good thing.
I’m going to download PF and give it a shot. This weekend I’m attending workshops at Wordstock, including one on managing writing time with an already full life. Having a writing tool to support that effort can only help.
Update 10/13/09: Who would have thought that a focused word processor with a handy folder-based sidebar that took me almost no time to learn now to use would make me so productive. I love this tool. It has a few shortcomings, all easily worked around. Note: I’m very good with Word and similar tools–that probably made it harder for me to adapt to a simpler tool like PageFour than it would for people who don’t waste their time building such arcane skills or don’t have much experience with them. Or have simply lost patience with Word, even with the new bejeweled version.