Should you switch to creative writing software?

For many writers, the software program MS Word often feels like a glorified typewriter. Its complex page functions, lack of vertical justification, confusing Track Changes, and many other issues often are a source of great frustration when writing books. If that sounds like your reaction when using MS Word, then creative writing software might be the answer.

Sometimes referred to as novel-writing software or book-writing software, a variety of such programs exist. Among them are Scrivener, WriteItNow and MasterWriter.

Creating writing software offers a number of advantages over MS Word. Most importantly, it’s designed specifically for creative writing and so offers several writer-friendly features, such as a corkboard in which “index cards” listing notes, pictures and paragraphs can be shifted around to where they would appear in the story. MS Word is meant for any type of writing, from academic to business memos, however, and so lacks a number of functions that novelists or nonfiction book writers would find useful. In addition, many creative writing software programs allow you to better manipulate reference materials, such as making a copy of the original reference and showing it in a split screen when you’re writing about it. This can save you time when penning nonfiction and ensure the original isn’t changed or lost. Further, many creative writing software programs allow you to format your finalized manuscript into .epub and .mobi files, which is perfect if you’re publishing an ebook. MS Word doesn’t do that, meaning you must learn some basic formatting rules so that online software can properly convert your manuscript into an ebook.

Of course, there are downsides to creative writing software. The first is that you have to learn a new program. If you’ve spent years using MS Word and already have figured out all the workarounds to issues that annoy you, the learning curve for a new program may not be worth it. Also, as MS Word is so ubiquitous, its files easily transfer between computers and platforms and almost always can be uploaded at a print on demand website. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with all creative writing software.

Still, if MS Word is giving you fits, exploring creative writing programs might be well worth the effort. Usually you can try out programs free for a week up to a month, which should be plenty of time to determine if a switch is merited.