Authoring software is not absolutely necessary if you want to write a good book. With index cards for planning and WORD for writing, it’s easy to write a good order. But authoring software offers more than just modules for planning and writing. It can be very useful.
Authoring software – my own experience
I started working with authoring software late in life. I wrote my first five books with WORD. Because I know WORD well and if I want to write a novel or a children’s book, I don’t want to have to think for a second about which key to press for which purpose. In order not to lose sight of the length of my manuscript, I preset the pages of my text in WORD to the size of standard pages. This means quite banally: I chose the margins on the left, right, top and bottom so that there are about 30 lines of 60 keystrokes on each manuscript page. That worked well for me for many years. Nevertheless, there were always things about writing that I found time-consuming and annoying. For example, with a manuscript length of 300 standard pages and more, it is quite difficult to keep track of everything. Finding individual scenes or certain narrative passages in the text often cost me a lot of time and nerves. I knew that I had already written this or that. But I often searched for ages until I found the corresponding text passages in the manuscript.
Of course, I already knew at that time that authoring software could do a lot that WORD could not. Nevertheless, I put off the change for a long time because I didn’t feel like learning a new program. Then one day I decided to take a closer look at the Papyrus software. I had heard a lot of good things about Papyrus and I had a six-hour train ride ahead of me. So I downloaded the demo version of Papyrus onto my laptop and left all my reading material at home. So there was no escape. I spent several hours on the train doing all sorts of tests. At the end of the trip, it was clear to me that I would buy Papyrus. Because this authoring software has much more to offer than just pre-formatted standard pages or a clear text structure. For example, every time I type the name of a character in the manuscript, that name becomes a link. It takes me directly to the character database, where I can read all the details. I don’t use this database for character development, but I can easily look up everything I need about a character while I’m writing.
That is, today I use the authoring software Papyrus for writing. But for initial rough planning, I still prefer index cards. I can label them at the front and back, move them back and forth, replace individual cards as needed, and above all: I can see all the cards at a glance. In legible size. So I am independent of the size and section of a screen. I only change the medium when I have a rough overview of the plot and enter into the detailed planning of my plot. Currently, I use OneNote for that. Because as far as planning goes, Papyrus couldn’t convince me. I tried out the program’s various options – and not just on the six-hour train ride – and in the end decided against it. Later, I looked at several other programs and tools that are supposed to make planning easier for authors. But so far, none of the programs has convinced me that it works better and is clearer than my index cards.
A wide range of authoring software
The range of authoring software is large. The programs are often very different in terms of handling, modules, structure and layout. Many aspiring authors buy software even before they write their first book. But before that, it is always worthwhile to take a closer look at a few programs. Many have a demo version or a trial period. On YouTube, you can find numerous editorials that give you a first insight. In the end, you should choose the software that suits you and your book project best.