Writing: How To, Programs Edition
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Some people prefer to write with pen and paper, while others prefer to type. I wouldn't mind writing by hand from time to time if my handwriting wasn't so awful, haha. I definitely understand the lure, but besides my penmanship, I don't find it to be as organized, personally.
I write my thoughts as they come, and when I'm on a computer, I can easily insert things where they'll be more useful to me. I can pretty quickly lose myself in a jumble of messy words I've handwritten, even with putting underlined headers or stars or some other marker. It feels as chaotic as it looks when I'm writing, and isn't as helpful to me.
Besides all that, my WPM is a lot faster than writing by hand anyway, so I'm absolutely in the typing camp. I have no preference over laptop or desktop when it comes to the actual writing, so long as I have a separate mouse instead of the track pad, but overall my desktop is much more powerful, and when it comes to editing and formatting, I use the desktop exclusively.
That brings us to an important aspect of writing that I see a lot of writers talk about, at least when it comes down to the actual writing part. The programs. What I don't see is what people use to format, or other suggestions in general besides Microsoft Word, which don't get me wrong, Microsoft Word is a great program, but it's not the only one out there.
I've already made a post about why Google Documents/Drive is my go-to writing 'program'. It's web-based, but powerful enough for what I need it for, and makes it easier on my beta readers to share and comment on.
But once that writing is done and I'm ready to start formatting...
Programs for Formatting Your Book
I use Libre Office! Or, as they put it: LibreOffice.
It's a freeware, dedicated office suite with a writing program that does everything I need it to, and is easy to use with Amazon templates or even to make your own templates for your physical book. It's similar to Microsoft Office, except that it's accessible to anyone, without a paywall.
When importing my book into Libre, I have fewer errors in the transition than I would when I use Microsoft Word normally. And maybe that's user error, I'm not a wizard when it comes to these programs, or maybe it's because I write in GDocs. Either way, this is what works for me.
I can view the document page by page, or by multiple pages at once, it displays my chapters for easy jump-to access, and overall, I don't see much difference between Libre and Word. The one difference I've seen is that it doesn't offer easy cloud based storage for your documents like Word does, but you could easily set it up to use OneDrive on your PC, or DropBox, or to even upload them to your Google Drive.
Formatting Your eBooks
Once I'm done formatting, which, let's be honest, can be a daunting task at times, I'll still need to format for the eBook. Most of what I've done in Libre Office is fine, but I need it to be an .epub or .mobi file in order to upload it and to make sure it looks proper for my readers on Amazon.
I do this in Calibre.
Calibre is a wonderful eReader/eBook tool in that it allows you to read eBooks on your computer, organize your library of eBooks, edit the metadata (which is a very important step!), convert your eBooks into different formats (epub, mobi, etc), and essentially, you can turn your documents into eBooks in the first place. What's even better is that it's all free!
Turning your document into an eBook is pretty straightforward and easy to do. If there are spacing issues, you can usually adjust them well enough through the program itself. There may be a period of adjustment, however, depending on how the document was originally formatted. I won't lie, initially it can take some trial and error!
Witch in the Lighthouse was a pain to format overall, I failed miserably at first, because it was my first time formatting anything of that sort. But as I started to understand the programs, and moved away from Word, it started to become a bit easier.
In the Case of eBook Errors...
Sometimes the formatting doesn't always go the way you planned, and you might find yourself missing page numbers or some other error that Calibre and Libre Office can't seem to remedy when you're working on your eBook.
In cases like these, I use a PDF editor called NitroPDF. This program is not free...but it is a very powerful and helpful tool when dealing with .pdfs, needing to convert to or from a .pdf, or even turning a .pdf into a .doc file. It's perfect for working with eBooks! I use this to add page numbers to my eBooks.
This program isn't necessary to complete your formatting journey when dealing with eBooks, and perhaps there's a free alternative, but it sure does make life easier when things have taken a difficult turn.
Programs That Didn't Work for Me:
Because I work in Google Docs for my writing, Word doesn't really work for me for formatting, whether by exporting the document as a .docx file, or even copy and pasting into the program. It winds up needing much more work than it should, and it can overall just be an enormous headache. Word is a great and powerful program that I know many people use, and if I were to use it as my main writing program, I'm sure I wouldn't have any issues when it came time to format. I'm happy that it works for others, but I'm satisfied with Google Docs and have no desire to switch over.
I really wanted to love Scrivener. I won a discounted copy during a NaNoWriMo one year, and I really, truly wanted it to work for me. I loved all the options it gave you, the intricacy was attractive, as I love organizing my work...but I ended up hating it. Even after all the time I spent moving my manuscript over to the program, and discovered all the neat capabilities it had and started using them...once it came to exporting and printing the document, it was a huge mess. Clearly it was user error, but at the time, it was more complicated than it needed to be, and had a huge learning curve in my opinion.
Scrivener is another program I know that many people use and love, and I'm very happy for them! It's a gorgeous program, but unfortunately, it didn't work for me. Perhaps one day it will become more user-friendly (or perhaps it already is!), but I don't really need all those doo-dads when I can easily organize and access all my writing through GDocs anyway. :)
I hope my post was helpful in giving you more options to write and format in! What programs work for you, and what ones don't? Do you use separate programs for writing, formatting, and making eBooks, or do you publish your indie work through your website or other sites like WattPad? Does a program like Scrivener work for you? I'd love to hear how you use it and why you love it, and any other comments and advice you might want to share in the vein of programs for writing, for other writers! So feel free to leave a comment and subscribe to my blog! :)