National Novel Writing Month 2018: The Winnowing, Tool Edition

I’m still deciding on what to use for writing this year’s novel.

I’m leaning against Scrivener for a few reasons:

  • the 3.0 version for Windows seems very unlikely to go live before November 1st. The older version works fine, but is not directly  compatible with the current Mac version.
  • I am still not comfortable with how fragile it is with cloud storage. I get that it’s not that hard to just use Dropbox and remember to save, close and sync before returning to a project on a different system, but it’s 2018 and it just seems like this shouldn’t feel like a hack at this point. Plus my preferred storage solution of OneDrive is actively discouraged.
  • I am still not a big fan of the UI, though it is certainly better in 3.0.

That said, it has a lot still going for it, especially for a novel, so I haven’t absolutely ruled it out.

Speaking of Scrivener, the Scrivener-like Atomic Scribbler seems out of the running as its cloud-saving is even more fragile, and the author of the software offers dire warnings to those who would trust an online service in conjunction with it.

I’m also actually considering Microsoft Word. Since novels don’t use a lot of formatting, it wouldn’t get too bogged down and unlike Scrivener, cloud saving is easy-peasy across devices. But it’s still Word and despite having a billion features, it lacks a lot of things that are useful for novel-writing.

WriteMonkey 3.0 is still in beta, doesn’t (yet) support paragraph indents and is unlikely to even come out of beta this year, let alone before NaNoWriMo. Version 2.7 is still very capable and the text-only files it produces make cloud-saving simple and the files themselves very light and quick to load. This is probably still the leading candidate.

FocusWriter is like a stripped-down version of WriteMonkey that supports a lot of its core features and offers an easy-to-use interface. Since it can save in text format, it’s easy to switch between it and other editors that use text files without anything mucking up. I’m not entirely sure why I don’t consider it a stronger contender. It’s almost as if it may lack some feature I need but I can’t think of what it might be.

There are a billion other editors out there, but as I’ve recounted before, most have one or more features (or lack of the same) that make them unsuitable.

The three contenders above are also among the few that support both Windows and macOS, though the latter is less important since I’ve gotten a ThinkPad and seldom use my MacBook Pro now (every time I do I still want to start a rant about the keyboard). Scrivener and Word do offer the bonus of iOS versions, too, though in theory any iOS text editor could work if I stick to using the text-only format–though paragraph indents would likely remain a problem.

Unlike the story itself, I can pretty much put off making a decision about what tool to use until the last minute. And I just might!

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