Frustrated with Microsoft Word? Consider using creative writing software on your next book

For many writers who use Microsoft Word, the software program often feels like a glorified typewriter. Its page numbering, complex header and footer functions, lack of vertical alignment, and more often aren’t just an annoyance when writing books. If that sounds like your feelings about MS Word, then novel-writing software might be the answer.

Sometimes referred to as creative writing software or book writing software, a variety of such programs exist. Among them are Scrivener, Squibler, ProWritingAide and AutoCrit, just to name a few.

There are many advantages to these various alternatives to MS Word. Primary among them is that they are designed specifically for creative writing. Both Scrivener and Squibler, for example, allow you to drag and drop parts of the story to where you want them. MS Word is a more general word processing program, and often Microsoft’s improvements of the program are geared toward businesses, such as its Track Changes, which allows you to share and approve comments among multiple users.

Another advantage of creative writing software is that some have customizable word count tools. Such is the case with NovelPad, which can track your word count as you write and over time so you can see how many words you’ve written each day. Many writers who have other jobs or who are on a deadline aim to write a specific number of words per day to ensure they are closing on completion of their book. MS Word offers a word count tool but not of this sophistication.

In addition, some creative writing software offers formatting for epub and .mobi files. Sometimes this needs to be done before uploading a book to specific print on demand house or can help you sell your own ebooks without going through a self-publishing company. Calibre and Vellum both do this. MS Word doesn’t, though there are free online sites that will make the conversion for you, and most self-publishing companies already have online setups that do so.

Of course, with any advantage there are downsides. For most writers who already know and have long used MS Word, there is the problem of having to learn a new program. Once you’ve already taken the time – which sometimes has been years – to learn MS Word, picking up a new program is a hassle. And, of course, there’s really no need to switch for most writers, as MS Word, despite its annoyances, does just about everything that creative writing software can. For example, notetaking can be placed in the reviewing pane on MS Word.

A second downside to using creative writing software is that you have to transfer manuscripts between software if using multiple programs. For example, one writer I know uses Scrivener for writing, Evernote for note taking, and Google Docs for sharing the manuscript. Ugh – that sounds way more complicated than just working around or putting up with MS Word’s failings.

A final downside is that MS Word, for better or for worse, is the industry standard. Editors are certain to have and be familiar with MS Word but not all of the various creative writing programs out there. Usually self-publishing houses let you simply upload your formatted MS Word manuscript, especially if it’s for an ebook.

Still, if you’re fed up with MS Word and want to see what else is available, then check out some of the creative writing software programs out there. Usually you can try out programs free for a week up to a month. Should you decide to stick with MS Word, you always can copy and paste what was done in the creative writing program into a notetaking program on your computer or to Google Docs and then transfer it back to your Word program.