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Goodbye, Scrivener

We’ve had a good run, but it’s time to say goodbye. I never used you as an actual writing program; I merely copied what I’d written in other programs and apps and pasted them in to you. So I was only using you as a place to store all my writings.

My first mistake was configuring you to use Dropbox. I wanted to be able to access you across all my devices. But that created a problem: when I launched you, Dropbox had to sync before you would open. And when I’ve got an idea for an article or story, 2 minutes is too long to wait.

So I deleted you from my laptop, after deciding that I’m never going to own a Macintosh, desktop or otherwise.

Instead, I’ve moved all of my files into Evernote.

Why Evernote?

  • Because I can install it on all 3 of my devices—laptop, iPhone, and iPad—and it will synchronize across all 3 of them.
  • Because I can fine-tune my settings to a degree that Scrivener never approached.
  • Because it has a smaller footprint, loads faster, and in general just does a better job of what I want it to do.
  • Because even if I leave my devices at home, I can access it on the web via the nearest computer.

Still, it Hurts

It hurts because Scrivener has been a good friend for the past couple of years. And like any other friend, it hurts to say goodbye.

But nothing lasts forever, right? Just as we outgrow certain friends, so it is with computer applications. And I’ve simply outgrown Scrivener.

An Aside

QUESTION: What’s the difference between an app and a program?
ANSWER: There isn’t any. Software publishers decided that “app” sounded sexier than “computer program,” and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

GoodNotes, Revisited

It’s not like me to go gaga over a new app of any kind, much less one for writing. But that’s exactly what I’m doing with GoodNotes. Although I’ve been using it for a little less than a week, I’ve already come to wonder:

  1. Why I didn’t discover it before
  2. How I managed to survive all these years without it
  3. Am I losing my mind

Okay, the last bit is a given: I’ve been losing my mind for years. And the reason I didn’t discover it sooner is I wasn’t ready for it. Simple enough. As for question 2, the same answer applies.

It took me a long time, a lot of trying, a lot of running down blind alleys, before I put together my writer’s toolbox.

toolbox

Apple Notes, Apple Pages, MS Word, Libre Office, Open Live Writer, Scrivener—I’ve tried far too many of them. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve learned to live with them. And the main lesson I’ve learned over the years is this: don’t expect one program or application to do everything for you.

Very few of the programs above excel at taking notes. GoodNotes fills that gap as if it was made for notetaking. Oh, wait—it WAS!

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I was jolted awake with the idea for a story. I was dreadfully tired, but I knew that if I didn’t write it down, I’d forget it. So I grabbed my iPhone, fire up Apple Notes, and jotted down my thoughts. This morning, after I had my tea and a light breakfast, I installed GoodNotes on my iPhone. Although the Apple Pencil doesn’t work on it, I can still write (with my finger) or type into it. Best of all, when I set it up, it immediately mirrored everything I had on my iPad—thanks to storing everything in the cloud!

And yes, I copied my idea from Notes and pasted it into GoodNotes.

And while the iPhone isn’t the best writing program, it’s good to know that, since (unlike my iPad) I carry it with me everywhere, I’ll always be able to capture my random thoughts, and be able to expand on them later.

And I’ve even learned how to create my own page template and import it into GoodNotes!

Character Sheet

It’s a basic character template I found on the web, converted it into a PDF file, and then imported into GoodNotes. If that’s something you’d like to try some time, you can find the instructions right here or watch a video here.

One of the best video tutorials on GoodNotes can be found here on YouTube.

Really, I haven’t been this excited about an app since I discovered Scrivener! Which, incidentally, I need to upgrade in the near future.

My Only Complaint?

Very few serious writing apps offer you a trial/demo version, and GoodNotes isn’t one of them. But considering the extra programming effort to create a separate version, I can understand it. After all, it costs less than $8.00 to buy it—and I’m okay with that.

Still Another New Writing Tool

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” –Jane Austen, in “Pride and Prejudice.”

“It is also a truth universally acknowledged, that a lonely writer in possession of all of her faculties, must be in want of the perfect writing tool.” –Robyn Jane Sheppard, in “This Blog Post.”

Finally, it is also a truth universally acknowledged, that there ain’t no such animal.

So what’s a poor starving writer, sitting day after day in her Lonely Writer’s Garrett,™ to do? Well, in my case, my memory is good enough to remember my high school science class, where we learned the Scientific Method. (I guess Mr. Wantshouse was right: he said there’d come a time when I’d use these lessons.)

For those of you who have forgotten–or never learned the Scientific Method, it’s really quite simple: try something. If it doesn’t work, try something else.

“Wait a minute, Robyn,” I hear you say. “Isn’t that just trial and error?”

“Ah, yes, Young Grasshopper. But the difference is with the Scientific Method, you make notes and keep detailed records so you know why it did or didn’t work.”

Yet Another New Writing Tool

Wow! Two new tools in as many days. How special! Look, in at least one way, authors are like computer programmers: programmers are always looking for a quicker or easier or more elegant way of solving a problem. And why? Because they’re essentially lazy!

And so are writers. While we may love our craft, there are days when we absolutely hate the work involved. “If only I had a better plot/character/story-line.” Sometimes I’ll even find a misspelled word and instead of correcting it manually, I’ll just click on it and let spell check fix it for me.

On Word Processors and Text Editors

What do you write with? Microsoft Word© is the industry heavyweight. It’s a powerful writing tool, but for many people, it’s too powerful. Not to mention expensive.

LibreOffice is an excellent replacement for Microsoft Office©, and it comes with a fine word processor. Still many people just don’t like the idea of having an entire suite of programs taking up disk space on the off chance that one of them might come in handy one day.

Text editors are stripped-down versions of word processors. They don’t do any fancy formatting, and they save their files as simple .txt files which can be read by any other text editor or word processor. But they usually don’t do any kind of spell checking, unless you install an additional program for that, so why not stick with a word processor?

Enter FocusWriter

My latest discovery is FocusWriter, a free word processor. I mean “free” in the same sense as “free beer,” as well as “free software:” it’s yours to use at no cost, and you’re free to give it away to anyone who wants a copy. If you download a copy, there’s an option to send its creator a $5 tip, but it’s not required. But hey! It’s worth it!

What’s so special about it? Consider the following, taken from the program’s “About” file:

FocusWriter is a simple, distraction-free word processor. It utilizes a
hide-away interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edges of
the screen, allowing the program to have a familiar look and feel to it
while still getting out of the way so that you can immerse yourself in
your work.

FocusWriter allows you to customize your environment by creating themes
that control the font, colors, and background image to add ambiance. It
also features on-the-fly updating statistics, daily goals, multiple open
documents, spell-checking, and much more.

Additionally, when you open the program your current work in progress will
automatically load and position you where you last left off so that you
can immediately jump back in.

And the writing surface itself? This is a screenshot of the main editing screen:

focuswriter

The toolbar at the top is only visible if you mouse over it. Otherwise, you never see it.

When you’re ready to save your work, the default file format is OpenDocument Text (*.odt), but you can also choose from a list:

  1. OpenDocument Flat XML (*.fodt)
  2. Office Open XML (*.docx)
  3. Rich Text Format (*.rtf)

Summing Up

FocusWriter isn’t for everyone – it’s not the right tool for going back through and editing your work – but it’s a lovely little app with a very modest footprint that stops you keeping an eye on Twitter all day.

Yet Another Writing Tool

As an author, blogger, and Medium contributor, I’m always painfully aware of language. And I use the word “painfully” advisedly: as the daughter of a mother who had a genius-level IQ, and the niece of a retired English professor, a paranoia of a kind is always present when I’m writing.

Open Live Writer, my favorite blogging tool, has a spell checker, so I’m not too worried about misspellings. But it doesn’t check grammar, punctuation, usage, or any of the other things I worry about.

Enter Grammarly, which may well be the ultimate writing assistant. The free version, which is what I’m using, performs critical grammar and spelling checks. The premium version adds:

  • Advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure
  • Vocabulary enhancement suggestions
  • Genre-specific writing style checks
  • Advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure
  • Vocabulary enhancement suggestions
  • Genre-specific writing style checks
  • Plagiarism detector that checks more than 8 billion web pages
  • Advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure

If you’re a professional writer, you might consider the premium version; however, at $30 a month, it’s a bit rich for my blood. There are actually 3 pricing structures:

  • $29.95 a month, billed monthly
  • $19.98 a month, billed quarterly at a single payment of $59.95
  • $11.66 a month, billed annually at a single payment of $139.95

For now, I consider it a useful addition to my Writer’s Toolbox. Maybe when I win the Nobel Prize for Literature, I’ll consider upgrading to premium.

No animals were hurt during this blog. However, several million pixels voluntarily give their lives in the service of communication and snarky remarks.