Sep 2, 2011

Update on Writing Software

by Tanya Parker Mills

I promised an update and I hope it's not too late for those of you who might have been swayed toward StoryMill by my posting two weeks ago. If not, then I hope it has worked better for you than it did for me. The day after I'd downloaded it, gone through the brief tutorial, and then wrote my first crashed!

I lost my first chapter (which I had really liked, by the way). Not a happy moment. As I looked into the whole program further in an attempt to figure out how to retrieve my chapter, if not the whole program, I found this had happened to a lot of other people. Hmmm. I sent off a quick email, pleading for help and then waited a day, two it got to three days and I still hadn't had a reply from the people at StoryMill, I began to reconsider. Besides, I had all these ideas for my series bubbling in my head and needed to get back to writing!

I remembered Luisa Perkins had sworn by Scrivener, so I decided to give it a second chance. (Thanks, Luisa!) As soon as I pulled it up, I was notified I needed to download the free updated version. Gulping (and hoping this wouldn't bring about another crash), I did. Once I was all updated, I opened the tutorial and was so relieved to see that not only was it a very thorough and easily understood and interactive tutorial (I think they've really improved upon it in this updated version), but any document you are working on automatically saves every 2 seconds!

Long story short, I'm a Scrivener fan now just like Luisa! It basically has everything StoryMill offered (in fact, I suspect that StoryMill got lots of its ideas from this program), except the timeline, but I can work around that.

I paused after the Tutorial and thought, "Well, I'm ready to write. But since this is going to be a series, do I treat it all as one project, using a different folder within the project for each book...or do I treat each book as a separate project?" Unsure how to proceed, I googled "using Scrivener to write a series" and it led me to this helpful posting by a successful author who is in the middle of producing her series using Scrivener. Basically, she creates a "Series Bible," containing all her research and ideas for the whole series as one project, and then starts a new project for each of the books. I liked that idea, so I've adopted that approach.

I've rewritten my first chapter (naturally, it's even better the second time) and am into the second, while fleshing out all my characters as they appear in the story. For any of you with a Mac, I highly recommend Scrivener! For those of you without a Mac and using Windows, there's now a free Beta version of Scrivener for Windows, plus very informative postings about the program here and here.

Oh, and I did finally hear from StoryMill, asking me to send them a copy of my project so they could figure out what went wrong. Hello? I don't have a copy. That's the problem. I'll just be asking for my money back, thank you.


  1. Oh, Tanya, you make me laugh. I'm glad your chapter turned out better the second time around and that you've found something that works well for you.

  2. Thanks, Wendy. Laughter's always a good thing for a writer. Of course, writing's better, but laughter helps.

  3. How frustrating. I'm glad you're happy with the latest version of Scrivner, and I hope the people at StoryMill don't make it hard to get your money back!

  4. I'm glad you found that it works well for you. How does it compare with something like a simple word processor?

  5. I appreciate the information. Story mill advertisements sounded good. I have heard mixed things about Scrivener and I didn't know it was available for Windows. I appreciate the info and I will check out your links.
    I am so glad the chapter was better the second time!
    I hope it isn't hard to get your money back.

  6. Oh, yay! I'm so glad that it worked out!

  7. I meant to post something when you first mentioned writing software and got interrupted, then forgot. I know a free software program developed by a software engineer with 25 years experience, who is also a writer. And did I say ywriter is Free? Free!
    This links to the latest version ywriter5.

  8. Haven't heard back yet from StoryMill about the refund, Heather. Kind of doubt I will.

    Donna, the reason I went for this was because I wanted one location where I could easily access all my research, photos, web links, outlining, character story lines and sketches AND my actual writing. After all, if you're creating a fantasy series based in reality, there's a lot to keep track of! It is a word processor plus a lot more. And as I write each scene it automatically folds into the whole story. If I want to change a scene, but am not certain about losing the original, I can take a snapshot of the original, then change and compare. Once I'm all done with the drafting, I can easily export it into a Word document for submission purposes.

    Sher, I know about yWriter and have it on my netbook. But I needed something that would work more intuitively with my Mac. I think yWriter has a version now for Mac but it's not the easiest process to download it there. Anyway, thanks for providing the link for everyone.

  9. THX for updates like this. We need them.

  10. I just started using Scrivener too and I love it. For anyone interested in it, I highly recommend you go through the whole tutorial. You won't remember everything, but you'll remember what it can do and you'll know where to look to figure it out.


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