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Survey Results — 10 Questions Answered by Writers


About a month ago I sent out a survey to a subset of users of Atomic Scribbler, SmartEdit and PageFour — all the applications I’ve designed for writers over the years — asking 10 questions about their writing life.

As a software designer working on products for writers, the results are extremely interesting — a number of surprises popped up. I’ve written up the results so that anyone with an interest can look through them. The conclusions drawn are my own and probably won’t be shared by everyone.

The Survey Results

Please feel free to link to the survey results from any writing community or Facebook Group you frequent.


Thanks for the fascinating examination of your survey results. Really interesting material.

I should mention that although I think I classified myself as a Pantser, there’s no question that as a longer piece begins to take shape, more and more planning and plotting are required. With anything longer than about 10k words, I’m likely to begin transitioning from pants to plots. A few of my longer stories began with detailed treatments – short and sparsely worded versions rather than outlines or structures. I find that these are evocative of the goal I’m after, while outlines are not. In fact, I almost never use outlines more detailed than an occasional list of topics or sections, and then mainly for non-fiction. One of the main reasons I write fiction is to discover things, usually things I never could have planned in advance.

Thanks again for all this insightful musing on the workings of our collective muses.



Interesting results. On the point of multi platform access and people being unwilling to pay for filehosting, I’m perhaps different to many people in that I loathe hosted applications and file sharing and do not use it for security issues. I don’t have a problem paying for things that are useful to me.
I already work on multiple platforms, and don’t need a “one size fits all” app. When I am writing on my tablet I use a very basic text editor (a little too basic actually but I’ve not found anything that strikes a happy medium). Copying and pasting that into Scrivener takes approximately 1 minute. I use the same app on my phone, if I happen to want to write on that (rare), and also write in a notebook with an actual real-life pen sometimes! :grinning:

It really isn’t a big deal moving between different environments, and to me is a better approach than trying to use the same app on PC/Tablet/Phone which have such different functionality and screen size etc. An app built for a PC would be too bloated for a mobile device, and a mobile app on a PC looks under-powered.

I used PagePlus for many years and enjoyed it before switching to Scrivener for perceived benefits that in fact didn’t really exist as it turned out, and still use SmartEdit.

Oh and I’m a “plantser” - I work out an overall idea of what I’m doing, enough to get going and then move forward - a little like iterative dev techniques.

All the best


Choice of writing tools is fascinating to me. I’ve been touch typing since I was a kid (it was the only way I could convince my da to give me a typewriter), but the first full-length book I wrote was in byro on yellow A4 pads. I had started it on a Selectric, but after a few days I loathed the incessant, demanding hum of the motor, and the irresistible urge to type as fast as I could (which is rather fast). It was a deep nonfiction book, and demanded thoughtful, precise language. Going slowly changed my entire mental process, and brought out depths of insight that would never have had a chance to develop while racing through it on the Selectric.

Since then, I’ve used dozens of editors – I used to co-own a company that converted documents among the various first-gen hardware “word processing” machines (PDP-8, Lexitron, Vydec, Xerox) and the first computer editors (vi, EMACS, WordStar). Many of those early systems, soft or hard, were quite good. When the PC’s took over, and Word ended up with the lion’s share, I began searching again (I have disliked Word since its first MSDOS versions) and I’m now using InDesign, NoteTab, UltraEdit, Scrivener, and of course now Atomic Scribbler. Each has its advantages for many kinds of writing (UltraEdit is used mainly for computer text (HTML, XML, programming, etc.) But like you, I prefer something simple and direct for tablet or phone use. Most of the time my mobile devices are on wifi, so I’m very happy with Google Docs. I don’t have immediate concerns about security, but if I were working on something sensitive I would certainly avoid the cloud, and stick to my airgapped old PC with whatever editor fits the task.

For fiction, my current workflow starts in AS, or perhaps originated in Scrivener and stays there, and then – because I’m addicted to a published-looking presentation (and I’m also a book designer and graphic artist) – it moves to InDesign when I think it’s “done”. This means that I do a lot of editing, polishing, and composing inside InDesign, because it’s never “done”!