With my muse finally cooperating (maybe too well), I took a hard look at the various programs and tech I use for writing. After all, I’ve not paid that much attention since August 2022 to new programs that have come out. My two writing computers (one Mac and one PC). There is a collection of thumb drives and external hard drives as well. But does any of it need to be replaced or upgraded?
The big expense items are fine. There’s no reason to replace either laptop. The back up drives, thumb and otherwise, are more than adequate for right now. So that just leaves the question of software. Does any of it need to be replaced with something else?
What I’ve used in the past is simple really. Word has been my go-to for the actual writing process. Conversion is done using Vellum. I use Affinity Photo for most of my image manipulation needs. When I can’t do what I want with Affinity, I go to Gimp. I also use Publisher Rocket, and ProWritingAid. I own Scrivener and Atticus.
What more could a writer want?
I hear some of you asking why I’m worried about software when I have those programs, as well as a few others, on my machines. It started when I kept seeing ads and posts about AutoCrit. On the surface, it looks like it does a bit of what all of my other programs do combined. That intrigued me. So I decided to check it out.
Before I did, however, I thought long and hard about what I use each piece of software for. After all, why buy something new if I didn’t need it? Especially if I had something already on one or more laptops that did the job I wanted it to.
So what is my writing process when it comes to software? For most of my career, it’s been Word to write and edit in. Recently–as in this past year–I’ve started using Scrivener more and more. One of the issues I’d been fighting before my enforced hiatus was not having all my references, story notes, character sketches, etc., in one handy place where I wasn’t switching between programs or files. Scrivener provided the answer for that. Yes, technically, those are different files. But the way the program is set up, it is more like clicking on a tab or link and that fools my mind at least into thinking everything is right there.
The issue I have with Scrivener is I simply don’t like doing the actual writing in it. I love using it as a story planner. The corkboard is awesome. Having everything in one place is great. But writing isn’t so much. And don’t get me started on editing in it. When I started doing line edits, I all but cried, wanting to go back to Word ASAP.
The one of the newest programs to claim it is the ultimate alternative to Scrivener is Atticus. I’ve tried it. I just don’t like it. I don’t like the fact it has certain online requirements. I don’t like the interface. When I first reviewed it, I said it seemed like it was trying to do too much. It’s better now but it is still missing features I want. Features Scrivener has. The one thing Atticus has that Scrivener lacks is an easy way to move between computers. Because it is basically a cloud-based app, you can open the file on different machines without having to sync or upload to a site like Dropbox.
So, when I see a program with recommendations that claims to do all these other programs do PLUS act as an editor, etc., I want to look at it. My level of skepticism was high. Still, Vellum proved to be better than I expected. Maybe AutoCrit would be as well.
I wasn’t reassured all that much when I went to the AutoCrit site. It claims the program is “everything you need in one creative space”. Specifically, it mentions it can be your writer’s desk, your story analyzer, inspiration studio, writing community, and more. Anytime something claims to be everything you can want, I wonder if they are about to try to sell me a bowl of stone soup.
Despite that, I signed up for a free account to see what might be offered. Let’s put it this way. The answer is not all that much. Basically, you get a word processor with a few bells and whistles. Nothing you can’t find on other platforms or programs. There are two–and I use that term loosely–paid levels. There is no difference between the levels except for cost. The first, their “Pro Monthly” plan is exactly what it says. You pay a whopping $30/month and get their full suite of writing tools (except you really don’t. More on that shortly.) With the “Pro Annual” plan, you get the same thing except you pay up front for the discount of $15/mo or, as they sell it, “six months free”. Either way, you are paying at least $180/year for the program.
Then there are the “services” AutoCrit offers. Paying members get a discount for these services, which include first chapter critique, story inspection and more. The first chapter critique will run someone who hasn’t coughed up the membership fee of $299 for up to 3,000 words. This is supposed to include in-line comments and a report detailing the chapter’s strengths and weaknesses.
I will admit, the program might be worth the money. However, I’m not going to plop down close to $200 without knowing more. Not when I already own programs that do much the same as this one. For much of the analyzing AutoCrit does, you can get the same from Grammerly or ProWritingAid. For the AI help in brainstorming, etc., that AutoCrit offers through the Inspiration Studio, you can get that through Sudowrite or even ChatGPT or similar programs.
Tempting as it might be to take the plunge to see if AutoCrit delivers on its promises, I don’t have the spare cash and I certainly don’t have the time right now to learn a new program. If anyone out there has experience with AutoCrit, I’d be interested in hearing what you think about it. For now, I’ll stick with what I have. I’ll use Scrivener for the set up work of writing. I may even do the initial rough draft in it and then export to Word. Edits will be done in Word, using ProWritingAid and my alpha and beta readers. My covers will be done using either Gimp or Affinity Photo. Vellum will be for conversions.
Why change something that seems to be working.
Still…if you like AutoCrit and want to share your experiences with it–or if you don’t and want to explain why–please leave a comment. Same goes if there’s another program you’re using and want to recommend.