I’m ready to be a novelist. I have a Mac, a bunch of writing tools, and a stack of 3×5 cards loaded with ideas. What’s next? Besides the nitty gritty of writing. For the moment, I’m on a detour looking for the insanely greatest writing tool for Mac users.
I could use Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages. Or, I could use Scrivener, or Jer’s Novel Writer or Mellel or Final Draft. I’ve tried each but never got into my comfort zone. Word and Pages are general word processors. The other four seemed overly complex. I chose to think different.
From my perspective, it’s both difficult and important to try out a writing tool over a period of time. Important, because there’s more than just feel. There are features to learn.
Difficult, because it takes time to try out all the features, learn them, apply what is learned, and become productive. Here’s my quick view of what I did not choose to use and why.
Jer’s Novel Writer is more word processor than a story writing tool (love those margin notes). Scrivener is capable but more complex, with lots of bells and whistles (love the corkboard). Mellel is like a technical writer’s word processor (smiled on by the multilingual gods). Final Draft is for when my novel becomes a movie.
Don’t get me started with Word or Pages. They’re good for processing word but don’t carry the project management features writers need.
Finally, after a week of using each of the major tools above, I settled on Storyist. Why? It’s somewhere between giving me what I need and what I don’t need.
Storyist was the easiest of the bunch to implement major features. Here’s what I liked and didn’t like.
Interface & Formatting
Storyist feels like iPhoto or iTunes for writers. It’s familiar. Toolbar across the top. Left column for Manuscripts, section sheets, plot lines, characters, settings, and so on. That is incredibly easy to use.
For me, formatting up front is important. It’s the obsessive compulsive on over drive. Storyist handles formatting for manuscripts and screenplays, and the page layout feature opens to one-up or two up, including mirrored pages with different headers and footers.
Manuscript formats and screenplay formats have a distinct style, but Storyist allows me to customize a style to match what I prefer.
Outlines, Index Cards & Templates, Oh My
Scrivener’s corkboard is elegant, but I’m still a 3×5 index card kinda gal. Storyist does both corkboard for photos (characters) and index cards.
No writing project that’s worthy of effort begins without an outline. Storyist uses a yellow legal pad metaphor which matches my traditional note-taking and outlining efforts.
To get started, select a Storyist template for a novel or screenplay, or modify one to fit your own style. Use the full-screen mode to focus on just the writing effort.
Search is one thing. All writing tools seem to have that function, one way or another, but Storyist provides for linking, too, in a simplified Wiki link format, perfect for attaching notes.
The manuscript feature in the left column can be organized by chapters or sections, and contains a free-form notebook entry capability. Spell checking? Sure. Grammar checking? Yes, and no read pencil marks, either.
Importing is the name of the game today, and the Import Assistant brings in documents from Word, HTML, text, Final Draft, Word .docx, and RTF.
Feel means something to a writer, which may explain why there are so many writing tools available, many with similar features, often laid out in a different way. Storyist is not as much about raw writing power features (like Mellel or Jer’s Novel Writer) as finesse. Not as much about esoteric bells and whistles (like Scrivener) as about usability.
I’ve got all the tools. I’ve got plenty of ideas. I’ve got Storyist. Now, if I could just find the time…