Thank you to my many word processors

Reading the paperback of Michael Chabon’s latest brilliant novel Telegraph Avenue, I spotted at the back of the book under Acknowledgements: “This novel was written using Scrivener on Macintosh computers.”

I often look, mainly in vain, for details of what typeface a book was set in, and am always interested in who the agent was and just how many people provided help and information but I have never before seen an acknowledgement to software.

Scrivener does seem to have a startling, almost cultish, effect on writers who find it to be the answer to their prayers after years of struggling with the clunky Word giant and legions of novelists have turned to the independently produced Scrivener.

Its great strength is the flexibility it offers in organising books, with writers able to add separate scenes and chapters within a binder containing a book and then having the facility to drag and drop any of those scenes and chapters in any order they want.

Writers who do a lot of research can also hold a wide range of documents within a file for easy reference and outlining is easy with a corkboard structure where cards can be dragged around.

I use Scrivener for various projects and find the ability to shift around chapters to be really useful, particularly when compared with having to cut and paste large chunks of text in other programs. Scrivener can produce an ebook file that meets the requirements for Kindle but I prefer to use Jutoh for straightforward ebook production and InDesign for ebooks with a lot of pictures, although files produced by InDesign still need some post-production tweaking.

Word, unfortunately, is still central to most of my ebook production in the initial stages as it is easy to style text elements, import illustrations and export a widely recognised doc file.

There are also now many other, more minimalist, text and word processors that I am increasingly using, including IA Writer and Write.

The situation seems to be moving away from the almost monopoly position enjoyed by Word and maybe back to the sort of competition seen in the 1980s when there were dozens of wordprocessing programs available, including Wordstar, Wordperfect, Lotus Write and Xywrite.

Maybe I’ll follow Michael Chabon’s example and you could see this sort of acknowledgement in my future books: “This book was started off in IA Writer on the iPad and then exported to Scrivener before sending it on to Word and then into InDesign with some tweaking along the way with an assortment of HTML and CSS editors.”

You can get a free trial download of Scrivener at literatureandlatte.com

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