There are many ways to write, including with a pen and paper, or by carving words into a stone wall. However, I’m guessing that when you write, you probably usually use a computer.
And on a computer, there is no end to different applications you can use to write. I’m going to look at three that I have used and what they are best for. This is just based on my own experience, so if you have had a different experience or know of a better program, put a comment down below.
1. Microsoft Word
This is my default since I have Windows and it is the best, most universal word processor for Windows. If you have a Mac, you might use Pages.
The main advantages of Word is that it is easy to use. You can just open it up and start writing, which is why I use it for anything short, such as blog posts or short stories.
Another advantage is that the layout is easy to customize. It is not as powerful as professional layout software, but I use it to do the layout on any books I self-publish. You can customize the page numbers and have customized headers at the top of the page, such as the name of the chapter or the author’s name. Some of the more advanced features are a bit tricky at first, but there is a lot you can do (let me know and I can do a post on how I do my layouts in Word).
Word is great for shorter pieces, but if you write a novel that is several hundred pages, for example, it can be hard to move around in the story when you are editing it. I put in little marks like *** that I can search for so I don’t lose my place, but you can still find yourself paging through, trying to find the exact spot you are thinking of.
This program is one that is specifically made for writers. The people who made it basically thought, “What would a writer want most in a piece of software?” and made that.
The main advantage of Scrivener is the organizational tools. You create sections for each chapter and each scene and then can see the list of them on the side as you write. That way you can jump to any scene you want very easily and can move them around. In Word, you would need to cut and paste text, which can get messy and confusing.
Scrivener is perfect for writing novels although you don’t need it for shorter stories that are only a few scenes. It also has a cork board feature, so you can see all your scenes in a grid and can move them around. The other part I really like is the resources section, where you can write notes about the characters or settings or put in pictures or maps, just so you can look at them while you’re writing.
Scrivener is great while you are writing and even better when you are editing. However, it is not good when you want to share your work with others. Usually what I do is once I have the first edit done on a story, I export it to Word so I can share it with people. I could keep on editing it in Scrivener after that, although I tend to just move to Word from that point on since the people reading it will send back the Word document and I will usually just edit that from then on. I’m not sure how they would fix that, but it is something to be aware of if you want to use it.
3. Google Docs
The last one I’ll mention is Google Docs, which is the newest one of these. It is totally online and free as long as you have a Google account.
The main advantage of Google Docs is that it is online and live, so it is perfect if you are writing a story with someone else since you don’t have to keep sending files back and forth and keeping track of the different versions.
Google Docs is also ideal if you are using multiple devices to write the story with. For instance, if you are using your home computer, your school computer and your phone. With Google Docs, the file is stored online so you don’t have to keep sending the file between devices. You just log on and it’s there.
Google Docs does what it does well, but it is limited in terms of its layout options. I have never actually finished a story I started writing on Google Docs with someone else, but I would suggest downloading it to Word or another program once it was done if you want to self-publish and do the layout for it.
Another disadvantage of Google Docs is the same as its main advantage: many people can edit it. This means you have to be very careful about who you share the document with. Google Docs does save past versions but if someone changes something, you might not be aware immediately and that might cause confusion. For example, if you are writing a story with your friend and they delete a scene without telling you. You can always access past versions, but it would be good to download copies onto your computer from time to time as well if you are writing a large story.
What about you? What do you use to write? Let me now in the comments below.
If you have any questions about writing or other topics you want me to talk about in Writing Corner, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.