used to be a hardcore Scrivener user
. Over the last 2 years, however, I’ve used Google Docs almost exclusively for everything but my submissions drafts. In the last 2 years, I’ve put nearly 600,000 words through Google Docs.
Because of this, I am often asked why I use Google Docs for writing instead of Scrivener. Or, put another way, I am asked “Which tool is better for writing, Scrivener or Google Docs?”
The answer, of course, is both, depending on how you work. When I write posts about the tools I use, I write them from the point of view of me as a writer using the tools. My process may be different from yours and the process one uses often dictates the best tools for the job. For some processes, Scrivener is a far better tool than Google Docs. For others, Google Docs is sufficient. For others still, another tool might be appropriate. Let me expound upon a few things that might help distinguish the pros and cons of the tools
I choose a tool based on how well it fits my writing process. There are two things that are important to know about my process:
- I am more of a “pantser” than a “plotter”
- I track my writing in order to track my progress, but I’ve automated this because I don’t want to spend time doing it manually.
- I want to spend as much of my available writing time writing.
Everything about my process is driven by these three basic requirements.
Bud Sparhawk and I have, over the last few years, given a talk at Capclave on “Online Writing Tools.” We demonstrate our processes through the tools that we use. It’s great because, as it turns out, Bud and I are opposites when it comes to process. Bud is an extreme plotter, while I am a pantser. But I wasn’t always a pantser, and when I did plot out what I was writing, I used Scrivener almost exclusively.
Scrivener for plotters
Scrivener is, in my opinion, the single best all-encompassing software tool for writers available today. And if you are a plotter, Scrivener is probably the best place to get started. Scrivener has a set of features designed with plotters in mind. Scrivener makes it easy to lay out scenes, outline stories, shift things around visually, and have those shifts reflected in the manuscript with little or no effort.
Scrivener also does something that I believe is critical for a word-processing tool for writers: It separates the content from the presentation-layer. In other words, how the content appears on the screen when you write is completely separate from how it appears when you compile your manuscript. You can have large, easy-to-read fonts on the screen, and Scrivener will still compile the document in standard-manuscript format. This means that as a writer, you can focus on writing, and not be distracted by formatting.
Scrivener also has advantages for self-published writers. It makes it easy to produce e-books in multiple formats.
It has hundreds of features that speed up the process of managing your document so that you can concentrate on plotting and writing. I can’t think of another tool that does all this as well as Scrivener does.
Google Docs for pantsers
On the other hand, many of these features, for me, are overkill. I don’t create outlines. I don’t generally have a need to shift scenes around in my manuscript while I am working. I don’t prepare e-books. What I do is this:
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