LivingWriter is a powerful word processor built to combine the cloud-based convenience of Google Docs, with the book-focused specialization of Scrivener.
And it does a pretty good job of that too.
For convenience, easy of use, and overall design, I give LivingWriter a 4 out of 5.
HOWEVER, there are some significant drawbacks, namely a subscription cost (which Atticus and Scrivener do not have), and it doesn’t come with formatting capabilities.
Since you will need a good formatting program anyway, I recommend authors go with Atticus instead, since it is a one-time purchase, and is built for both writing AND formatting.
If you want to go more in depth about what I liked and disliked about LivingWriter, read on.
- What LivingWriter is
- Its core features
- Its pros and cons
- Why I recommend Atticus instead
Table of contents
- What is LivingWriter?
- How Much Does LivingWriter Cost?
- Core Unique Features of LivingWriter
- Pros About LivingWriter
- Cons About Living Writer
- Final Verdict: Try Atticus Instead
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What is LivingWriter?
It's kind of like a combination of two popular writing tools: Google Docs and Scrivener
Firstly, it offers a user-friendly interface that looks a lot like Google Docs.
But is also has chapter and scene divisions, which resemble Scrivener's organizational structure.
One of the best features of LivingWriter is that it also has a built-in Story Elements section (which we’ll talk about further down), where you can keep track of all your characters, locations, and general notes. This means you can easily keep track of everything you need to know about your story and your characters, all in one place.
What LivingWriter is NOT is a formatting program. Which means you’ll need a separate program for formatting purposes.
We, of course, recommend Atticus as an all-in-one formatting, writing, and collaboration platform. But more on that in a little bit.
How Much Does LivingWriter Cost?
LivingWriter has two pricing options:
- $96/year (which comes out to $8/month)
Is there a free version of LivingWriter?
There is not a free version of LivingWriter but they do offer a 14-day free trial so you can see if it’s right for you.
But there is little benefit in using the 14-day trial other than just getting to know the software.
No Lifetime Option
One of the biggest downsides of LivingWriter is that they don’t have a lifetime option.
Here at Kindlepreneur, we’re not big fans of subscriptions, because who wants to write their masterpiece in a tool like this, only to lose it when they can no longer pay the subscription?
For example, if you buy Atticus today, you’ll get a quality formatting program, but it’s also shaping up to be a powerful word processor like Google Docs and Scrivener combined, with more features coming.
And all of those new features will be available to everyone who has bought it in the past, along with every new feature to come.
Core Unique Features of LivingWriter
Let’s walk through each of the unique features that LivingWriter offers. Many of these features you will find in other programs, but LivingWriter puts them together in a way that is appealing.
One of the first things that caught my attention upon opening living writer was its custom templates.
They even have some nonfiction options such as a memoir or PhD Thesis template.
Much like Scrivener, LivingWriter has a breakdown of your chapters and scenes, although the structure is slightly different.
LivingWriter starts with outline sections, generated by the templates or you can create them yourself, with chapters and “sub- chapters” below that.
It's essentially the same as what Scrivener does.
One unique feature of LivingWriter is the ability to add “story elements” that act as a type of glossary for your book. This can be breakdowns of your characters, locations, and events within your story.
Sadly, these elements are not terribly complicated, and I would recommend a tool like Campfire for more thorough world building options.
But the story elements can still provide a quick reminder of certain details that you need to have on hand.
LivingWriter does have a convenient way of visualizing your plot with the Story Board option, which brings all of your different outline elements into one board, so you can switch them around and play with your outline much like sticky notes.
This combines some of the better elements of plotting tools like Plottr into LivingWriter, which is a big plus.
While LivingWriter does provide desktop apps for Windows and Mac, this tool is primarily an online platform.
Unlike Scrivener, which is exclusively an offline tool, LivingWriter syncs to cloud, and there doesn't appear to be a good way of keeping things offline permanently.
However, this is nothing new, and most similar platforms that come out these days also require cloud support.
But at least, it does appear that you can write offline for periods of time, as long as you sync it later.
So far, most of the features in LivingWriter are intuitive to figure out, but if you had difficulty finding one feature or another, the amount of documentation is slightly limited.
I have not had a chance to interface with the actual support people behind living writer, and so I have no basis to comment on their quality.
Goals and Word Count
LivingWriter allows you to set goals for specific project, and see how you are progressing towards those goals. However, it does not have a way of tracking daily habits for writing, like Atticus does.
One of the better features of LivingWriter is the ability to have version control, much like Google Docs.
Everything in LivingWriter saves automatically, so if you find you have made some mistakes, and you need to go back to a previous version, there is a way to find those old versions and revert back to them.
Reports of Bugs
At Kindlepreneur, we get a lot of feedback from various authors about a lot of topics, which is why we can safely say that several authors have experienced a lot of bugs with LivingWriter.
One writer in particular told us that LivingWriter frequently tells him that “A newer version exists locally” when it does not. This is a bug caused by the constant savings feature, which can create a lot of errors with version control. This author was told it would be fixed a month ago and it still hasn't (though it may have been by the time you read this).
So it still has a lot of bugs, and while these may clear up over time, you may still want to consider another writing program.
Atticus, like LivingWriter, also saves with each keystroke, but there's no interruption or errors like LivingWriter is experiencing. Plus there's the formatting. If you are using LivingWriter (or Scrivener for that matter), you'll need to invest in a formatting software as well since, while you can format your book when done, its is VERY limited and tedious.
Pros About LivingWriter
There are many things to like about LivingWriter, including:
- Custom templates: LivingWriter offers a variety of custom templates, such as The Hero's Journey and Save the Cat, which can help writers structure their story.
- Clean layout: The layout of LivingWriter is clean and easy to navigate, making it simple for writers to organize their work and focus on writing.
- Version control: LivingWriter includes version control, similar to Google Docs, which allows users to easily revert to previous versions of their work if needed.
- Story elements: LivingWriter has a unique feature that allows users to add “story elements” such as characters, locations, and events, which can act as a quick reference for writers as they work on their story.
Overall, LivingWriter is shaping up to be a powerful program, with a lot of helpful features for writers to use in their process.
Cons About Living Writer
Despite the good things LivingWriter has going for it, there are several cons, and some of them are pretty major:
- Subscription pricing: LivingWriter requires a subscription to access its features, which I don’t like, and can even cause you to lose access to your information if your subscription laxes.
- Bulk editing/formatting a pain: The bulk editing and formatting options in LivingWriter can be a pain to use, making it difficult for users to make large changes to their work quickly. This is especially problematic when I tried importing my manuscripts from elsewhere.
- Limited documentation: LivingWriter's documentation is limited, which may make it difficult for users to find answers to their questions if they encounter any issues.
- Half-baked story elements and goals: While LivingWriter's story elements and goals features are useful, they are not as robust or developed as those offered by other writing tools like Campfire or Atticus, respectively, and may not meet the needs of all writers.
- Reports of bugs: we've heard multiple reports of bugs from writers who have experience using LivingWriter so far.
Final Verdict: Try Atticus Instead
LivingWriter is an excellent writing program, but it doesn’t format, which means you’ll need a separate formatting program.
The first version of Atticus was built with formatting in mind, but we are currently working to turn it into something similar to LivingWriter as well.
Already, it has superior versions of some of LivingWriters’ features, such as the Goals feature. Atticus has far more customization options, and even allows you to track writing habits across multiple projects.
Atticus is adding new features all the time, and once it makes a little more progress, it will essentially be the same as LivingWriter PLUS a formatting tool.
Plus, Atticus has two big things going for it:
- Lifetime price: With Atticus, you get access to all future updates for a one-time price of $147. No subscription fees. Ever.
- All-in-one software: With Atticus, there’s no need to have a writing program AND a formatting program. You’ve got it all in one platform.
Since Atticus is also a formatting program, which you will need anyway, even if you already use LivingWriter, then you might as well get Atticus anyway!
Plus, there’s no subscription, so there’s no harm in getting it now, even if some of the features you’re waiting for are still a few months out.