The best word processor is the one that connects your brain directly to the page. Alas, that’s not something speculative fiction writers can purchase, yet.
If you are writing a novel, use a tool appropriate to the job. Any word processor works well for the first scene, but what about:
- backing up automatically
- editing, spell checking and grammar checking
- shuffling scenes
- moving chapters
- making a table of contents
- using sections to separate front matter
- inserting images
- using more than one computer
- numbering chapters automatically
- setting styles for font, pitch, indents and margins
- saving in e-book format
Writers don’t want software to stand between them and the creative process, so avoid complex software with features you will never use. Cost is important; however, you often get what you pay for. Software that “chokes” (becomes slow) on documents over 50,000 words is not acceptable (typical of business-oriented word processors). Anything you use must be able to save files in doc or docx format.
The bottom line:
In 2019, Scrivener (Mac and PC, $45) is probably the best for a serious writer who is willing to spend several weeks learning how to use the system. The downside, from my perspective, is the lack of a “what you see, is what you get” visual presentation. I love the “card” system to summarize scenes and to shuffle them as needed.
Excellent alternatives to Scrivener include:
- Microsoft Word (Mac or PC, $70/year)
- Libre Office (Mac, PC or Linux, free)
- Google Docs (Chrome Book, Mac or PC, free)
- Ulyssis (Mac, $40/year)
- yWriter (PC and soon Mac, free) — made by a published author
- Atlantis (PC, $35) — I use this
Good hunting. Most of the above have a free trial version — see how quickly you can learn to type and save a paragraph. Search help on a particular topic in the software – it’s ideal if the text is understandable!
R. C. Beckett was given a collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine as a teenager and read hundreds of the stories — he was hooked and started writing fiction in 2013. He loves to write hard science fiction, but can’t help adding a bit of humor. Publications: “Exit Mars” and “Exit Earth” (available on Amazon). “Exit Pluto”, the third in the Exit series, should be published in late 2020. He lives in Golden Colorado and is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Walking his dog is key to his writing since that’s when he imagines plots for his stories. He also volunteers as a webmaster for non-profit companies including SpecFicWriters.