New Apps & tricks for your writer’s toolbox!
Scrivener is a fantastic tool. It bills itself as a “complete writing studio,” which it does very well. I only have two major complaints about Scrivener, in fact–
- It costs forty bucks, which isn’t a lot but is still more than I want to pay for a writing environment IF I can find a free similar app.
- It has no web-based version. You can only use it on your laptop or desktop computer.
There aren’t any web-based applications that offer the range of tools Scrivener does, at least not that I know of. Novlr has the writing environment, and may soon offer much of the same functionality, but for, now it does not. WriterStat isn’t fully functional yet, so it isn’t even really useable–you can’t even delete things yet because they haven’t turned on that functionality. If/when either of those offers the range of Scrivener features, I’ll jump on it and that will become my default novel writing environment. Same if Scrivener ever offers a web-based version.
So, while web-based apps are out, what about apps that are cheaper than Scrivener and just as good? Well, that is something I can help you with. I have the perfect alternative… and it’s free and Open Source. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. What is it?
Bibisco is free “novel writing software that helps writers to develop characters, design novel structure, organize chapters and scenes, and analyze the novel.” It has many basic and advanced functions that you’ll recognize if you’re familiar with Scrivener. I’ll keep it simple, but here’s what’s under the hood:
- Full-featured writing environment
- Powerful outlining
- Make a swipe file for ideas you might want to include later
- Export your novel and reports to PDF or RTF file
- Revisions Management lets you edit all you like, and revert to any prior version if you wish
- Structure your novel by creating chapters and scenes in full-featured outlining tool
- Create and reorganize Chapters and Scenes with drag-and-drop interface
- Create a premise that stays at the forefront during writing
- Define settings – location, time, and social settings are easy to make and associate with scenes or chapters
- Use those settings across multiple novels in the same universe
- A timeline of events in the book can be automatically created, perfect for writing multiple books in one universe
- Character Development tool allows any level of detail for your characters.
- Create “items,” specific re-usable things in your books such as artifacts, lineages, organizations, etc.
- Define and track plotlines, called “narrative strands,” and easily see who/what/when is associated with each, and how scenes interact with those plotlines
- Deep analysis and at-a-glance infographics detail “how characters, locations and narrative strands are distributed chronologically and across chapters.” This means you can easily see where things appear across all chapters. If you have a character that doesn’t show up for half a novel, if you outline in Bibisco, that becomes immediately apparent. Or a subplot that vanishes for most of the book–again, it shows up with just a glance.
Comparison to Scrivener
In general, Scrivener and Bibisco do the same things, but there are a few that Bibisco does but Scrivener doesn’t, and vice versa. Those I list as a big advantage are the significant items that make a huge difference to the writing process. These big differences are:
- Bibisco is easier to learn
- Bibisco has Story and Character templates, a big advantage
- Bibisco has story analysis charts, and this is a real advantage over Scrivener
- Bibisco has timeline tools, another really big advantage over Scrivener
- Bibisco lets you assign a level of completion to scenes and chapters
- Bibisco lets you track POVs (cool!)
- Bibisco offers writing tips and tricks
- Both allow you to add images, but Scrivener has a “visual memo board” that Bibisco lacks
- Scrivener provides auto-backups. This is a big advantage over Bibisco, but not critical, especially if you set your files in Google Drive or other automatically backed up location.
- Scrivener lets you set writing goals and track your progress against those goals (although I use a spreadsheet or dedicated app for that)
- Scrivener has more documentation on how to use it
- Scrivener tracks statistics, which is an advantage over Bibisco
- Scrivener has more direct exporting options, including Doc, HTML, and ebook, but you can get around this easily with other free apps that may convert to ebook even better (and many professionals who write in Scrivener don’t use its book-compiling features, stating that it introduces errors.)
If you’re looking for an all-in-one writing tool suite that is just as good as Scrivener (and even better in some ways), free, and won’t ever go out of business because it’s Open Source, then Bibisco is a solid choice. I’ve used it, and I can safely say that it will do everything you needed Scrivener for, and more.
Do yourself a favor, and check out Bibisco.
Jeremy Menefee is a freelance writer with two decades of experience writing in the tech, business, and marketing fields. He has ghostwritten 12 novels in the past three years. Jeremy is currently also writing under his own name, with a ghostwriting handbook to be published in late 2017, and an Urban Fantasy series that leans heavily on the paranormal, which he intends to publish in early 2018. Jeremy’s blog is dedicated to bringing useful apps, tips, and how-tos, and includes his social media links. Please join his email newsletter for his novel updates, giveaways, cover reveals, and more.