Writing tools are personal choices, whether Mac or Windows.
We decided to check with a writer to review a few popular Mac writing applications (I just can’t bring myself to use the phrase ‘word processor’).
Enter a Mac360 guest writer, Tom Coppinger from Dublin, Ireland.
“It was a dark and stormy night. On opposite sides of the restless waters of the Atlantic, two writers sat their lonely vigil in the soft light of the screen, struggling to put words to the page.
The blonde English woman sighed. Her task was the further adventures of Harry Potter, a big book with a big story, dozens of new characters, hundreds of scenes, and an intricate web of plot. The immensity of it froze her brain. But she opened Avenir on her MacBook, and set to work. First, she named and described all her Actors.
Then she laid out the Scenes, one by one, and connected the Actors with their Scenes. Avenir also gave her tabs for Tasks and Chapters. She needed more. So she customized it, adding a Tab for Magical Creatures. Another tab for Spells. As she filled in all the relevant Actors, Scenes, Creatures, and Spells, an outline formed.
There! All organized, and now she could see the shape of her story. She created Chapter One, clicked Edit and began writing.
Across the ocean, in a room on a the wild Maine shore, a dark-haired man set his fingers to his iMac.
The Pod People, a gothic story of horror frothed at the edges of his mind, and he was mad to write it. He chose Jers Novel Writer as his tool. Chapter One the first page read, and that suited the writer fine.
He wrote quickly, furiously, before he lost the thread. Everyone once in a while, a word or a detail evaded him. But Novel Writer allowed him to bang out a sticky in a side margin, precisely linked to the problem spot, and keep going. Novel Writer had a database, too, which he created on the go, Control-clicking to add characters, places, and plot devices into the database. Notes, too, were easy to add on the fly.
Okay, so maybe Avenir and Jers Novel Writer arent the tools of use with the mega-million buck writers. (Though we hope Macs are.) But I daresay theyd be pleased with the little touches that make both Avenir and Jers Novel Writer very useful word processors for the budding novelist.
Both Novel Writer and Avenir jump through the same hoops, though each in a different way. Avenir is for the writer who is less impulsive and more compulsive, who simply must have an outline and all the characters defined before putting down two words. Straight off, its Outline interface is there for you to create Actors, Scenes, and if you wish, other custom categories.
This is very handy for big stories with large casts. It even allows for start and end dates, for stories that may span years.
Novel Writer is for the tearaway who just wants to burn rubber, and write! There is a little work beforehand in the Project settings, where you structure your Novel into Books, Parts, or Chapters, or whatever hierarchy you wish, and set your Styles. Then youre off. Your database and outline are created on-the-go, with Control clicks, putting everything into a pop-out drawer to the right.
To the left is where you stick your margin notes. Dont know the migration paths of Snow Geese? Bang down a margin note for that exact spot, and come back to it later. Very cool, as flexible as stickies.
Avenir has its own version, allowing you to Annotate chunks of text, and then jump back to those annotations via a drop-down menu.
It also has a drop-down menu of Styles that you can customize, and which I found much quicker to access than in Novel Writer.
Both export Word and RTF files. As usual, I find that RTF retains the formatting and styles best.
Both Avenir and Novel Writer have a solid set of word processing tools, including Spell checking and a full page view. Neither are as full-featured as Mellel or Word. But for the purposes of writing your Great Novel, theyll get you out that starting gate.
Avenir is a mere $19.99 and gives a generous 30 start-ups in its trial period. Jers Novel Writer is free. Both come with tutorials, and their special features can be learned in an hour.
Which is the better app for writing that novel? Its up to you and your story. Do you like to work from a recipe, with the ingredients all in a row? Then Avenir is for you, letting you plan every chapter. Or do you like to throw in a dash of this, a dash of that, and write the recipe afterwards? Then Novel Writer is for you.
My own preference is Avenir. I like to fire ahead and write, and if you so wish, Avenir lets you get on with it. The interface, with all the Database tabs, is like a comfy security blanket. Actors. Scenes. Action! If youre starry-eyed enough to see beyond the novel to the movie adaptation (arent we all?), well, its not a big leap from Avenirs structured approach to a movie script!
Bambi’s Note – Tom Coppinger is a long time Mac user who hails from Celbridge, Ireland, just outside Dublin, where he lives with his wife Fiona and two children, Conor and Matthew. His book ‘Curse in Reverse’ is available from Amazon.
Do you write for a living? What writing tool is best for your needs, and why?