Blog Writing Apps LivingWriter: Is It the Novel-Writing Program You’ve Been Waiting For?

LivingWriter: Is It the Novel-Writing Program You’ve Been Waiting For?

Krystal N. Craiker

Krystal N. Craiker

Blog Manager and Indie Author

Published Jan 30, 2021

livingwriter on a screen

I’m beginning to feel like the writing gods have cursed me in my quest for the perfect novel program. But when a fellow NaNoWriMo participant told me about LivingWriter, I was still optimistic enough to wonder: “Is this the program I’ve been waiting for?”

Like every program I’ve used and reviewed thus far (I think I’m up to 11!), there are some features I love. I don’t hate any part of this one, but there are several things I wish were there. I’m constantly looking for a one-stop-shop for my novel writing, and this isn’t it for me. Despite this, here’s my honest review of what I do think is one of the best programs I’ve tried.

  1. An Overview of LivingWriter
  2. What I Love
  3. What I Don’t Love
  4. Final Thoughts

An Overview of LivingWriter

If I had to sum up LivingWriter, I would say it’s a blend between Google Docs, Scrivener, and the now-defunct Storyshop. In fact, it’s the Google-esque word processor interface that appealed to me the most.

Like most novel-writing programs, you can drag and drop scenes and chapters. This happens in two places: on the left-hand sidebar and on the Board. The board looks just like the corkboards in Scrivener.

livingwriter board mode

You can also create research and story elements in a sort of ongoing world-bible, and you can access these from the right-hand sidebar while you’re in writing mode. There are several plotting templates to build your story from, or you can freestyle your outline and structure.

LivingWriter allows you to import your manuscripts, and it will read heading sizes as chapter and scene breaks. As someone who has had to copy and paste multiple stories into other programs, I found this very appealing. There’s a mobile app for both Android and iPhone, it’s cloud-based, and you can set dark mode. The goal-setting feature is a selling point, too.

What I Love

The clean interface is familiar and easy-to-use. There are plenty of formatting options just like a normal word processor. It’s even easy to insert images.

I really enjoy the story elements. You can add elements for characters, objects, settings, and "other," so you’re not restricted. Within each element, you can add as many sections as you need to; for example, you can add physical descriptions, relationships, motivations, etc. These are free-form, so you can make it your own.

You can also add images! The story elements link inside your manuscript, so you can access them quickly while writing. You can even add character nicknames. For example, my main character’s name is Angélica, but she also appears as Hell and Miss Spencer. By adding these nicknames, the manuscript will link to her element each time those names appear.

living writer writing interface

There are also a total of eight plot structures you can use to plan and write your story. Five are fiction and four are non-fiction. They are:

  • Dan Harmon’s Story Circle
  • Hero’s Journey
  • 27 Beat Chapter Plotting (a.k.a. Save the Cat)
  • Dan Wells’ Seven-Point Story
  • Three-Act Structure
  • Memoir
  • Biography
  • Self-Help
  • Book Proposal

Additionally, the mobile app is really great! It’s fantastic to be able to pick up where you left off on your computer when an idea hits you and you only have your phone to hand.

What I Don’t Love

I have only encountered two problems with LivingWriter, and customer service was more than willing to help me try to figure out what had gone wrong. Both of these involved uploading my manuscript.

LivingWriter recognized my chapter breaks, but half of my chapters uploaded out of order. It took a while to drag them back into order. Secondly, all my paragraph formatting is now left-aligned with no indents and no spacing.

While you can change formatting settings for new writing, it doesn’t let me select large chunks of text and apply new formatting. If I stick with LivingWriter, I’ll ask customer service to help me figure it out so I don’t have to manually indent every single paragraph.

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There’s nothing else I strictly dislike, but there are some features I wish it had. I want to be able to create my own character templates, and I love a timeline feature. I also want to be able to use my own plotting template without building it from scratch each time.

Final Thoughts

LivingWriter is one of the best writing programs I have tried. I think it’s a great value at $9.99 a month, and there’s a discount if you pay for it yearly. There’s a two-week free trial to see if you enjoy it.

Am I completely sold on it? Not yet. I’m going to give one or two more programs a chance before I decide what to commit to for the rest of this project.

Have you used LivingWriter? What is your favorite novel-writing program? Let me know in the comment section.

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Krystal N. Craiker

Krystal N. Craiker

Blog Manager and Indie Author

Krystal N. Craiker is the Writing Pirate, an indie romance author and blog manager at ProWritingAid. She sails the seven internet seas, breaking tropes and bending genres. She has a background in anthropology and education, which brings fresh perspectives to her romance novels. When she’s not daydreaming about her next book or article, you can find her cooking gourmet gluten-free cuisine, laughing at memes, and playing board games. Krystal lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, child, and basset hound. Check out her website or follow her on Instagram: @krystalncraikerauthor.

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I've not tried Living Writer and with a regular price tag for continued use, it is unlikely that I ever will. Whether you go for the monthly payments or make a minor saving on the yearly plan, paying out between $96-120 a year can be a difficulty, especially for new writers, when other options are much cheaper. While the thought that "Oh, my work is on a secure cloud server, I can access it from anywhere" may sound like a dream, the reality would be quite different, if say, you're on a deadline and suddenly something happens to your internet. And, considering we've just come out of a lockdown where the option of going to somewhere that had internet wasn't an option, this would put a major dent in your ability to work on any of your projects. As to my preferred software choice, it is Scrivener which I have on both a Mac and Windows (I so wanted to say cheese!). Not only do you have your files locally so you can access them without an internet connection, you can back and sync through a cloud service that you already have, though Dropbox is the recommended choice.
Thanks for this! Love the honest insight. :)
Thanks for reviewing LivingWriter. I have tried others and this one works best for me. I'm still in the trial but planning to subscribe once it ends.
You are so very welcome! We're glad our article helped. :)
Nice article. Informative and well written. So far, I haven't seen/learned anything that will pry Scrivener from my hands..
Thanks! We love Scrivener too. :)
Great article! I have been using Scrivener but I tend to spend too much time distracted by all the awesome features and I "tinker" with the settings more than I should. That is completely on me 100%. I will try LivingWriter. I was hoping to find a free tool but the $10/mo for LivingWriter might be worth the bump up in productivity I might get.
We definitely think it's worth trying out a new tool to see if it works for you!
I tried this, as it heavily marketed itself as a better alternative to Scrivener. I think it was a mistake to market it that way, because it really can't compare to Scrivener. Where it stands apart, I think, is in the planning and plotting tools, but the editor is borderline intolerable when you are accustomed to customizing everything from the page background to the editor width. It doesn't even have a built-in dictionary, and as a sci-fi writer it was too annoying to have every single name or place marked as a spelling error - even when you created a profile for for that character or place. And no custom metadata?? You can't drag and drop Word files and other documents, either. I think this company would be better off marketing itself not to Scrivener users, but to people who tried Scrivener and found it too overwhelming. After using Scrivener for 12 years, it's going to take A LOT for me to switch to something else.
This is a really interesting review. Thank you! I think your thoughts will be very helpful to anyone who is struggling to use Scrivener.
Sounds great until you mention the price. Scrivener is a one time price forever, less than $50. Livingwriter comes to $96-120 every single year you will ever use it. we are talking thousands if you plan to write for 10 years. Are these people serious that they will get long term commitment this way? Doesn't work for me. I will stick with Scrivener for now until something better comes along.
I am testing it right now and I must say, I am a bit disappointed. I tested Atticus before, and I loved their formatting features but they were weak on the writing part (no boards, story elements etc.., a bit too expensive for such little functions). Now I see that Living writer is really weak on the formatting side, and they don't offer any direct export to mobi or epub. This is very disappointing as for such a price I was hoping to get a complete solution. Any idea? Scrivener is not an option for me as I am not willing to waste precious writing time on learning a complicated software, but I really wish to have an all in one product, otherwise I don't see enough motivation to leave MS Word.
Thank you for your comment! We're sorry LivingWriter didn't work well for you. It's hard finding the perfect writing software because everyone's process is so different.
I've tried a number of systems. I found LivingWriter difficult to use, inconsistent, and undependable. It crashed regularly on my Android systems (11 & 12) as well as within Chrome (Win 10 and 11). It seemed like a great idea as it would allow me to write on multiple systems wherever I am but it was frustrating. I ended up eventually going back to Scrivener and Word.
I agree with you on the search for a one-stop shop Krystal My recent fiasco with LivingWriter has me wishing I could create my own. In the meantime, to any writers out there - avoid LivingWriter, or at least use it at your own peril. Krystal, formatting is the least of the worries - at least you still have your manuscript. I finished NaNo, hit my 50,000+ mark and closed up. Next day went to work some more on it and my word count had gone from 50,012 to 49,533 - wait, WHAT? Revision history did not help, they were all at least a day old with even fewer numbers. The notes, reminders, and scene I had written - gone. Trying to pull up local revisions, nothing. The save button every minute must save it somewhere but not that I can find. Multiple emails have gone unanswered. Something similar happened a few months ago. Words were not saved and the wordcount did not change. They at least responded and said they had fixed it, and I needed to update (I had only had the program for a few months and had not gotten any notifications to update). Never got those words back either but it was a different project, a re-write of something I had been working on for awhile, I was assured the problem had been fixed so I stayed with them. Making sure word count updated and that work was being saved so stuck it out because I had so much content in it. I am now transferring everything to Scrivener. Living Writer does have a few things going for it, but truth be told, it's glitchy and I was looking to find something better anyway, just needed to focus on writing not software. My mistake, tough lesson learned. Hope this helps other writers before the same thing happens to you.
We're sorry you had that experience with LivingWriter! Thank you for sharing your story.

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