Writing software: currently using Word and OneNote

Does anyone have a suggestion for a writing software program that I should look at?
I have already tried demos of the following programs:
**Page Four
**WriteWay Pro
**yWriter5 -- Free, but too complicated for me. Also, I have to click on each chapter to see the scenes, which I'd rather not do.
**WriteItNow -- I liked this one, but didn't care for the $60-70 price tag. It has easy to view chapters and scenes in a sidebar and an easy to use storyboard.

I know that software does not write novels, plot stories, etc. etc. blah, blah, blah. That's not the kind of writing software I'm looking for. In fact, I don't want something that takes control of my work or asks me a million questions before it lets me get to work. What I need is something for story organization.

Currently, I am using Microsoft Word 2007 as my word processing software. It's a little quirky, but for the most part I don't have any complaints about using it for writing.

I also use Microsoft OneNote as a sort of storyboard. I have a page with photos and info about my protag's car. Another page with background timeline info. More pages for character bios, etc.

All is fine until I want to change something. And that's where I'm experiencing problems with Word and OneNote.

Word: Changing the scene names can be a real hassle. I've written forty scenes and then I want to add a new scene in the number two position, I have to change the numerical part of the name in the other 38 scenes.

OneNote: If I use this as a storyboard and want to insert a new scene, I have to manually move the other scenes down the page, starting with the lowest one first. If anyone uses OneNote and knows how to make the note containers automatically move position when inserting a new note container, please let me know.


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Hi, Melissa, not sure about PC software, but if you have a Mac there is only one answer: Scrivener. It's cheap, and exactly the right tool for writing novels. I think they were looking at developing a PC version but not sure where the process is.

I use Word; haven't seen One Note yet, though your description sounds intriguing.

I haven't found a good way around changing chapter numbers when a scene is inserted. The best I do is to reduce the zoom to about 25% so multiple pages display at once. The chapter headings are easy to spot, and I just zip along between them.

I have used PowerPoint in the past for re-organizing scenes. It's easy to move the slides around. Word tables or Excel spreadsheets also make it easy to insert or re-arrange rows.
John: I have heard many good things about Scrivener, unfortunately, there is still no PC version available.

Dana: If you decide to upgrade your MS Office suite, look for a deal on the suite that comes with OneNote. It's not bad ... it's just not really good for the way I want to use it. You find OneNote in the Home and Student version and the Ultimate version. We picked up Ultimate for a song from Microsoft because my son needed it for a college class. (students get a good deal on Office software)

You can get a 60-day OneNote trial download from the Microsoft site. I haven't thought of using PowerPoint as a storyboard. I might give that a try.
I've always used Word for my novels (and everything else I write, even comic book/graphic novel scripts). I guess after many books and years it is just second nature to me. More and more editors and copyeditors send copyedits done in Track Changes mode now, so it almost seems like a necessity to be comfortable with Word.

I've just been looking at the Scrivener website--looks very intriguing, but I don't know if I'm willing to change over now. For my work in progress, I actually bought a big board and six colors of Post-it Notes, and worked out the scenes on that, then arranged my outline to match.
Jeffrey, I've used Word 97 at home since owning my first computer. And when I was writing nonfiction (back when I had a real paying job), we used a specialized Word 2003 program. But I've never used the Track Changes mode. I will definitely check it out just so that I'm familiar with it.

These software programs can do so much more than a normal user like me would ever think of. Right now, I'm using Word 2007, which is a little strange. I fought with line spacing issues until I set up a new default page and I'm always searching for the right button. The layout is much different on 2007 that it is on 97 or 2003.

Your big board and notepad idea is probably the easiest as it keeps the ideas in front of you even when you turn off the computer. I even carried mine into my bedroom so I could look at it when I went to sleep -- of course, mine is a small corkboard.

I'm a bit of a gadget geek and I was hoping there would be a wonderful do-it-all program for under $20. (Is it no wonder that I'm a fiction writer?) But now that I've been "talking" about what I want, I think I might be able to change my methods and make OneNote work for me. If only I could find an easy, one-click method to rename my scenes. Then I'd be happy ... at least until I think of something else I want to change. :-)
I spent some time on the Scrivener page, and downloaded the trial version, so thanks for the rec, John! So far it's pretty cool. I don't know if I'll stick with it, but maybe after working on it for a month I'll be sold. Scrivener recommends Page Four for PC users, but since you've already tried that one, Melissa, I guess it doesn't help.

I do like the way Scrivener lets me keep all my reference materials, including websites, in one project. That way I have those things with me even if I'm away from home and don't have web access. The corkboard feature looks like it might be usable in the same way my board with all the Post-its is...
Jeffrey, PageFour seems to have a similar word processor but doesn't appear to have the storyboard and other nice features of Scrivener. For the PC, the closest I came to Scrivener was WriteItNow4 (I've heard the version 3 doesn't allow for moving scenes). BTW ... There are days when I'm really envious of MAC users ... and this one of them. Not only does Scrivener look nice, the $39.95 price tag isn't bad either.

OneNote update (in case anyone stumbling on this thread is curious):
I found the answer to easily moving the note containers around on the page. There is a tool on the drawing toolbar that can be used between the containers to add space or delete space as needed. The tool looks like two lines with a little arrow pointing up and another pointing down.
Melissa, you are so far ahead of my puny efforts --- I use bits of verbiage for the scene names and constantly update a scratch pad with the relative order where they belong.

If you are only concerned about additions, would 1.2 type of naming work till the final (!) version is ready?
I use MS Word. I don't really like it. I've looked at Scrivener, I don't know when I could devote the time to learn something new, with the hours I work. I always have to send my manuscripts in in Word, and when I critique, I need to use something everyone can open, so that's Word, too. But I really dislike its quirkiness. I use the outline function for my notes for the many talks I give, and I hate the way it suddenly changes the margins and spacing about midway through. I also dislike the way it sometimes changes fonts with no warning.

You might create a new default file that has the font and margin spacings that you want. Instead of changing the font and margins manually with each page (and having to fight Word to keep them), you tell Word what you want the defaults to be for each and every page you open.

I made a default file that opens as an .rtf (rich text format) with Times New Roman, 1" margins and 1/2" paragraph indent and double spacing. Before I made a new default file, I was constantly pulling my hair out, making adjustments and having to remember to save in .rtf (which Word, Works and other users can easily open) instead of .doc (which can only be opened by people with Word).

BTW ... I recognize your name from the Left Coast Crime: Booked in L.A. Lefty Award nominees. Good luck to you and "High Crimes" at the awards banquet.
Thanks, Melissa, I'll try that. I want to scream when it suddenly changes my margins!

Thanks for the good wishes on my Lefty nom! I'm pretty stoked.

I've been using Scrivener for a couple of days now (because I don't have any imminent deadlines, I decided I could take a chance on working in it for a bit). You can save a Scrivener doc in a number of different formats, including Word and .rtf. If not for that feature I wouldn't have bothered because I'm not going to turn in a ms in anything but Word. It's the standard these days and I think everybody in NY uses it.


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