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First off, major apologies for the stagnation of this blog. I don’t know if I mentioned it or not, but I was pregnant with my first child–a child who decided it was his prerogative to arrive almost three weeks early. I was totally not expecting that. Although healthy, he’s a poor eater, so between a flurry of doctor visits and sleep deprivation, the blog has been pushed out of my mind. That said, this blog will probably go down to a bi-monthly or monthly (hopefully no less) blog, as this little one is pretty high maintenance at this point.

Excuses made (although I do think the birth of my first child is rather concrete excuse 😉 ), let’s get on to the writing topic of today, and thanks a million for your understanding!

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About the time NaNoWriMo 2013 wrapped up back in November, I stumbled upon Storyist. For the past several years, I have been a die-hard Scrivener user, ever since I discovered it–much later than most writers, I’m sure. However, the one disadvantage to Scrivener is the lack of easy syncing with my iPad/iPhone, and a lack of a Scrivener app. So I decided to try Storyist, and downloaded the free 15-day trial. (Scrivener offers a free 30-day trial.)

Now that I’ve been trying Storyist for a few months, I feel familiar enough with it to offer my thoughts and opinion as a regular user of both. Quite honestly, I’m torn between the two. I wish I had a software version that merged the two. But since I’m a list person, I’m going to first list out the traits both share, hoping to illuminate the issue for anyone contemplating either of these writing software options.

Scrivener & Storyist Both Offer:

  • syncing ability via Dropbox (the mechanisms of each vary drastically, to be discussed and compared later)
  • the ability to easily outline, as intricately or as vaguely as you like
  • “index card” views, allowing you to see your entire novel at index card level (i.e. outline level)
  • the ability to name each scene in a way that triggers your memory and doesn’t appear in the manuscript itself
  • character card section where you can keep track of your characters’ names, descriptions, likes, dislikes, and whatever else you need to know. Both allow you to link the character card/sheet in one way or another (although I much prefer Scrivener’s method).
  • easy rearranging of scenes by dragging and dropping
  • the ability to track your word count via a target goal inspector window (more on this below)
  • traditional outline view
  • organization levels for chapters, scenes, etc.
  • split screen viewing or single screen viewing. This allows you to keep a character sheet open while working on your manuscript, or to view any other note you have, or another part of the manuscript to make sure your details align. Very useful at times, distracting at others.
  • in text commenting
  • customizable toolbars
  • numerous keyboard key shortcuts (sometimes too many, often too many to keep track of)
  • the ability to selectively export your manuscript (you can select which scenes/folders/sheets you want included) in numerous document formats (.doc, .docx, .rtf, .odt, .html, .txt)
  • distraction free mode (i.e. full screen mode)
  • scriptwriting options (I haven’t messed with these, personally, so can’t compare the two programs)
  • the ability to import images
  • easy importing ability from Word or Pages (I haven’t tried any other word processing imports personally)

Storyist Pros:

  • an iPad/iPhone app that syncs seamlessly with Dropbox with the touch of a finger (must turn on Dropbox syncing for this to work)
  • a second/third/fourth manuscript addition option to one novel (I’m playing around with this using it for unplaced or additional written scenes, also contemplating using it as a storage for a previous draft since Storyist doesn’t track your changes like Scrivener can.)
  • the neat ability to start a new chapter/scene/etc by two returns in the middle of your manuscript instead of having to manually insert a new scene
  • the ability to bookmark your manuscript. This is different from a comment, although you can name the bookmark, only a blue tag shows up in your manuscript and you have a bookmark section on the left-hand side screen that you can peruse. These show up in order of your addition, not in the order they appear in your manuscript (something that bothers me, actually). However, I use this ability to mark where I left off reading or where I began and finished writing or editing for the day. (Note: I haven’t figured out how to see them in the iPad app–if I can.)
  • a main plot thread where you can link easily to the scene where your plot point occurs.

Scrivener Pros:

  • the ability to work on your project through manual syncing to Index Card or Simplenote (online or app version). Unfortunately, Index Card was the best option for me, and it was just too hard to keep up with remembering to sync to Dropbox every time I closed my laptop for it to be dependable. Using Simplenote was a little easier, but I had a lot of problems with Simplenote crashing and losing my typing while I was on my iPad (perhaps this has changed a bit since I last tried, I don’t know, but it’s been a few months. Still, once this happens a couple of times to a writer, it’s frustrating enough to me to say forget it and move on.)
  • the ability to easily select only one scene, see only its word count, and jump from top to bottom of that scene only. I really love this ability–during NaNoWriMo, I’ll start a new scene for each day and know my word count simply by selecting that scene only. I don’t have to highlight anything.
  • I find the target word goal inspector in Scrivener very easy to use. It’s clear, it tracks everything I need, even negative numbers if you desire, and I can see immediately how much I’ve written in a session. I can reset it for each day, and I don’t feel like I’m missing something. It tracks my words written and deleted as soon as I start work each day. It also has options to automatically reset at midnight each day, for you to manually reset it, for it to automatically reset upon project closure, or to automatically reset upon opening the project. In addition, you can set an automatic daily word goal, set working days (giving yourself a day or two off a week), set a manuscript goal, set a deadline, set a session target, and a manuscript target. It automatically calculates your daily word count needed based on your deadline and your manuscript target. In short, Scrivener offers a lot of flexibility with its word count tracker, which I love.
  • Text stats. I hardly need say more about this, expect to explain it. In Scrivener’s text stats, it breaks down per selection, scene, or manuscript how many times you used each word.  This is amazing, and has helped me immensely to realize when I am overusing a word, action, description, etc. Definitely worth it’s weight in gold. There’s no search for individual words with this ability. One click, and every word you use is there for your perusal. You can even rearrange them alphabetically, most used to least used, or least used to most used. Also, you can view project stats, which include how many pages your manuscript is for both paperback and print. In short: Awesome, capital A.
  • more exporting options, including .epub and .mobi (and some I have no clue about)
  • the ability to copy and paste your font formatting to make sure everything is the same
  • the trash is not automatically deleted, but rather you have to manually empty it, thus reducing the chance that you’ll automatically delete something accidentally
  • the ability to sync with Aeon Timeline, a secondary program which is great for keeping track of your story’s timeline. Only disadvantage to this is that it, like other syncing methods used with Scrivener, is tedious to keep up with as it must be done manually.
  • built in dictionary. This does come in useful, rather than opening the dictionary on my Mac, the definition of a word just pops up in its own small window Scrivener.
  • Snapshots. This is what I really miss from Storyist. Scrivener seems to understand how easy it is to delete something and regret it. If you take a snapshot before you make any changes (I take a snapshot prior to working on any scene, and often after I finish too), you guarantee that you won’t lose the original or edited version unless you go in and manually delete the snapshot. Then, you can compare the two versions in the same document–Scrivener makes it clear what has been added and what has been deleted, even giving you some options here. This is probably one of my favorite parts of Scrivener, honest.

Storyist Cons:

  • does not offer the ability to easily select only one scene, see only its word count, and jump from top to bottom of that scene only. Instead, you must scroll from the top to the bottom of the scene and select the paragraphs you wish to count up. If you try to keep track of your daily writing quota as I do, this gets cumbersome fast.
  • the target word goal inspector in Storyist bothers me. It doesn’t allow me enough options. I’d like to see the ability to count negative numbers in order to track my editing progress. I want to be able to set an overall word goal and have it track my progress while editing (which is most of my writing time, if I’m honest. I don’t worry as much about word count during the first draft, but I do during the second draft in order to get my word count up or down to an appropriate level. Storyist has, for some reason, not tracked any words I’ve added or deleted during my editing, so I stopped using this inspector.) Also, the target word goal inspector must be actively turned on–something I have to remind myself to do and usually forget. I much prefer Scrivener’s, where as soon as I open the program, it starts counting what I type as work completed.
  • does not have an editing mode where you can see your changes. I really, really wish it did. That would dramatically improve Storyist for my uses.
  • does not allow you to “snapshot” your current version. In order to compare an older version with a newer, edited version, you must have saved an old version and manually compare. This is far too tedious for me.
  • it’s far too easy to delete a scene in Storyist in my opinion. And sometimes, that “undo” button doesn’t seem to undelete something properly…
  • no timeline option that I’ve found yet…

Scrivener Cons:

  • syncing is difficult and annoying. If you forget to manually sync your project with Simplenote and/or Index Card (via Dropbox), you’re out of luck.
  • no app. Yet. I hold out hope that Scrivener will finally release the iPad app they’ve been promising for years…
  • there are a lot of features that I, personally, don’t need as a novelist. These can get tedious to wade through, but I’m sure some people find those features absolutely critical to their work. Sometimes, though, it is a bit overwhelming to realize how many options you have.
  • a little less intuitive than Storyist. I hate to admit this, but Scrivener is the program that I have to pull out the manual for a bit more often. There are a lot of keyboard shortcuts, but so many that unless I use it all the time, I forget them and have to relearn them just in order to use them.

The Verdict?

Well, for me, because I usually have my iPad or iPhone on me at all times, and now since it’s more difficult to multitask with an infant in my lap, Storyist has become my go-to for the WIP I’m currently editing/rewriting. It’s so convenient to have the app right there whenever I want it, and have the most complete version there–as long as I have internet connection and remembered to tap the upload to Dropbox button (which I make it habit of doing as it takes less than a minute). However, were Scrivener to release its promised iPad app and were their syncing as simple as Storyist’s, I would return to Scrivener without hesitation. It’s honestly got that many more options that I find useful.