A few posts back, I told you why I’d chosen to use the lightweight, excellent text editor WriteMonkey to produce my last novel.
There are a lot of reasons you may want to use something other than WriteMonkey, though, and I’m going to mention some of mine here. Feel free to sound off in the comments if you have other reasons I may have missed.
Move it, Bub
The interface of WM is first class. Clean, lightweight (not resource-intensive), distraction-free, and really flexible in terms of fonts and colors. No complaints there. Except…
MS Word, and Scrivener, to name just two, have a drag-and-drop capable outline view, which allows you to pick up a chunk of your manuscript and move it around en totem. That’s handy for when you discover you need to place some conversation or vital piece of information to another location.
Aside: I’ve never picked up a section of a novel and moved it. A paragraph or two maybe, but not a scene or chapter. Never. So, eh. Maybe not so important.
When writing into the dark, it’s vitally important to be willing and able to move to and fro within the document. But when editing, it might be better advised to move an entire block of text from one location to another. Using the outline screen of Scrivener or the navigation pane of Word, this is a snap. For WriteMonkey, this becomes a cut-and-paste operation, and that leaves room for mistakes. Another headache I don’t need when I’m writing.
Writing in scenes
WriteMonkey works great for writing into the dark because the document is one long, continuous, unbroken text file. You could do the same thing with any word processor or text editor, but WM provides great tools for doing so, including the bookmark system (see the pro-WM post for more).
But if you want to keep the document in discreet scenes, you’re out of luck unless you use separate documents for each scene (a PITA, in my view).
Word allows many subsequent levels of header to be applied (as does WM), and can put the header text in the navigation pane outline view if you want (WM does Chapters; other bookmarks are up to you). This allows you to insert scene headers wherever you want a scene and jump ahead or behind it as you need to. Very handy, and less easily achieved in WM.
Scrivener, of course, can keep everything in discreet chunks. I like making each chapter a folder, and each scene, however short or long, into a separate text file. Fussing the compile output to be as I want is a one-time deal, and I’ve never had a problem with it when finished.
WM’s for writing, not formatting. You can add Markdown formatting all you’d like, but the fact is, you’re going to have to convert the Markdown to formatting before generating a final manuscript somewhere else. WM’s strength isn’t in formatting, it’s in distraction-free writing, getting the words on the page fast, easy, and clean. For that, it’s unsurpassed.
But I, for one, use formatting from time to time. I like to add emphasis to dialog with italics, for instance. Not a lot, but several times during a book I’ll do so. And with WM, the Markdown code is to put an asterisk around the formatting text, but that won’t translate to italics anywhere else.
Aside: There are ways, and programs, to translate Markdown into formatting. I maintain this is still an additional step, however, and if you want to avoid it, don’t use WM for writing.
If you want to see the formatting and avoid the additional step of find and replace for the asterisks to format the text properly, you’re going to want to use something else. Any standard word processor capable of handling RTF (that’s “rich text format”) documents, will be superior in this.
I like the idea of text folding, but not many programs do this. MS Word 2013 and above (yes, above) can do it, though. And so does Scrivener, although Scrivener gets the block of manuscript out of your way if you stay out of the file/folder it’s in to begin with.
There is one text editor, which is coming along but isn’t “there” yet, which does text folding. I’ll be keeping my eye on it as it progresses, for sure.
To get the file into the hands of potential editors, beta readers, critique groups, etc., you’re going to have to transfer the file from WriteMonkey to something like Word for the track changes and comments feature. Even if you don’t want feedback from anyone, unless they also use WriteMonkey, the file will be a .txt file, which means it will open in Notepad, or whatever the default text editor is for the user’s system.
Not only that, but when you feed the file into an ebook publishing platform like KDP or Smashwords, you’re going to need to translate your WM text file into something the system wants…usually, Microsoft Word format. So.
Use WriteMonkey for writing fast, clean, and distraction-free. If you want to have the least amount of document porting available, use Word. If you don’t mind a little porting but want the power of generating your own ebook files and formatting your manuscript, you need something like Scrivener. (Or, y’know, Corel WordPerfect, which is awesome but very, very expensive.)
So, there are some of my reasons to use a more “feature-rich” word processor over WriteMonkey, though I’m not sure I will. Keep in mind, however, WM gets better and better all the time. It may become my go-to writing software soon, and it is available cross-platform (no Word on Linux, but I suppose LibreOffice or OpenOffice can handle most of the above too). Best of all WM is free.
I think that’s it. Anything I missed?