Okay, so I broke down and bought Scrivener. At $40 it didn’t break the bank and people I trusted online kept raving about it. As most of you probably know for a couple of years now I’ve been writing using YWriter which is free (unless you like it as much as I do and register it for $25) and have been pretty happy with it. But I’m a geek, and any time someone holds out the carrot of better software I’m all over it.
First of all I have to say that out of the box Scrivener loses for immediate usability. It is simply too all-encompassing a program to allow for an author to open it up and start writing without some study. The online video tutorials are, however, quite well done and I would say that the average writer with average computer skills can be up and running at least on a basic level in under thirty minutes. Then, depending upon how involved one wants to get with all the bells and whistles of the program the author could probably have it operating in exactly the way he or she sees fit in a day or days at most of experimentation.
YWriter, on the other hand, just sort of falls into place, at least for organic writers like me who don’t outline and don’t need all the flexibility in that area that some writers want or need. Opening a new writing file and going through a fifteen second ‘wizard’ has you ready to write your opus and the writing screen and everything you need are there in front of you in tabs. Unlike Scrivener there is no need to figure out how to add folders for chapters and scenes. Chapter and Scene tabs are right there.
I also like the way YWriter intuitively handles the nexus between the writing side and the database side where all the info is kept on characters, locations, items etc. by tab. And the fact that I can create one of the above by simply selecting the text and double clicking. Then select add character, add location, etc and I’m taken to a database file for THAT particular character, location, or item where I can give second names, add backstory, ad infinitum. AND whenever I click on that highlighted character or location or item in the writing side I’m taken directly back to the correct database file. No more wondering who a character is or what the description of a location is.
I also love the fact that YWriter automatically follows each of the points above and keeps track of who, where, and what is in each scene. Naming a scene creates a summary of scenes and writing a longer summary in the notes box below that compiles a scene by scene synopsis which can be printed as a report. I HATE writing synopses, but YWriter makes it reasonably painless.
On the other hand Scrivener is infinitely customizable whereas YWriter is to a much lesser extent and I’m reasonably certain that if you spend the time you can learn how to tweak Scrivener to make it do something similar to pretty much everything I’ve detailed above for YWriter. Also if you are writing and want to add photos (you can have character photos etc in YWriter but only for your own info not publication in the text) you want Scrivener. If you are writing a much more complicated format such as magazine articles you definitely want Scrivener, and if you do a LOT of outlining and playing with your story BEFORE it gets written you DEFINITELY want Scrivener.
Let me add one caveat. There are YWriter authors who LOVE to outline and still love the program. For a brief (three minute) explanation of outlining in YWriter watch this.
I’ll close by saying that these are both excellent programs. I like YWriter because it almost seems like it was designed for me. But other writers might not feel the same connection and need a program that is much more customizeable to THEM. Since YWriter is free and Scrivener offers a Demo (wish I’d slowed down to see that) I suggest trying both to see what works best for you.