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Write Now: Novlr Beta

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Novlr

A few weeks ago I received a follow on Twitter from the online writing software company Novlr. There's a good chance that if you tweet about writing, especially with the #amwriting tag, you've already seen the company pop up on your TL. While I'm not keen on this particular advertising tactic (more so in regards to people who do this as a way of self-promotion or to build mass amounts of followers), it's hard to argue its effectiveness. The service is currently in open Beta, so I signed up to see what it's all about. Here are my thoughts:

Lovely Interface & Attractive Design

My first impression upon visiting the site is that the design is striking. It's bold, clean, and minimalistic. The color choices are pleasing, the font is clear, and the contrast draws attention to the right places. The write page is a soft, off-white with a reddish hue, which makes it easy on the eyes. Their designer obviously understood how to make good use of whitespace. Overall, it makes me feel confident they know their stuff.

Novlr write page

Online Scrivener Lite

Aside from the main writing page, there's not much else to Novlr. The concept is contingent on users' desire to have their work available to them on any platform. The text formatting options are fairly basic: typographical emphasis only. This is part of the appeal; too many features can be intimidating and clutter up the available space, but ultimately you'll be forced to export to a different word processor for formatting. I haven't tried the export feature at length, so I can't speak to it's ease of use.

It feels like Scrivener Lite because of its near constant autosave feature and focus on chapter organization. They also plan on adding several Scriv-esque features later on such as detailed character notes.

It's Novlr.ORG Not .com

Seriously, I can't stop making this mistake.

Neat Concept...for a Beta

If Novlr were a romantic partner, it would be a casual hookup. Fun and pretty to look at, but offers nothing to keep me coming back for more. I don't imagine I'll feel inclined to continue using it once it switches to a paid service, even at the proposed monthly fee of $5 (which is another a drawback for me; I dislike subscription services). It's not strong enough on its own for me to ditch my current online writing programs, and I don't prefer to scatter my work across several accounts. Currently, its strongest draw is obviously aesthetic, which isn't a bad thing! Aesthetic is important, just look at OmmWriter Dana (which I adore). But as it stands, its features are too similar to other online word processing services with the exception that it's hyper-focused on the novel-writing process.

Access to the service is free (for now) with the limited option to buy a lifetime account for $100. That's a steep price to pay for what is essentially an alternative version of Evernote, and it's still subject to the typical risks associated with early access projects. There's no guarantee the project won't stall after the initial hype subsides or that it'll see significant updates. In fact, it seems Novlr is using the money from the sale of lifetime accounts to fund the addition of new services since their Kickstarter ultimately failed.

Lastly, if you're looking for online word processing alternatives, there's no shortage of free services. Here are a few:

Google Drive/Docs — There's a reason why Google is ubiquitous: their products are interconnected, free, and work brilliantly. Docs is a great replacement for Word if you're looking for a place to keep backups of your work online. It also allows collaboration and sharing via a unique link. Couple it with IFTTT and it's hard to beat. If you're well-entrenched in Google products, why not?

Evernote — The new design changes have made Evernote look a bit more "fashion forward." Everything is bigger and less compact (take from that what you will), and the writing space is more open. The service has quite a vocal following and even though I find it to be more useful as a scratchpad or place to collect ideas and small notes, some people swear by it for longform writing.

Yarny — Yarny is a blank doc that works a bit like Evernote but is more geared toward writing. You can create groups of notes and add tags and a target word count. You can also create character and setting sheets that are organized separately, which is pretty handy. It's like an uglier Novlr, but with a few more features.

LitLift — 100% free with no premium upgrades. Interface looks similar to the compose screen for a blogging platform. It's a little cluttered and uninspired, but packed with some robust features and maybe more to come.



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