Using ‘Manuscript’ for iPad to write your novel

I have to say I would never normally consider writing a novel on an iPad. It would be my laptop every time. However, recently I have found myself travelling on a packed train for around an hour a day and thought it would be good to be able to continue editing and tweaking my first novel on the move.

For this reason I invested in the iPad app ‘Manuscript’ at £4.99. This app does exactly what I expected it to. The developers, ‘Black Mana Studios’, state the following:

  • ‘Create a manuscript from scratch or import from Dropbox.
  • Outline your manuscript using multiple levels – pitch, synopsis, index cards and individual chapter outline
  • Color coded Index cards that serve as a repository for ideas, character development, reminders and more.
  • Each chapter can be outlined individually. You can create empty chapters, outline them, and then pour content into them in any order you like.
  • Use Wikipedia, Google, Wiktionary from within the app.
  • Backup your work-in-progress or export your finished manuscript to Dropbox as an RTF,TXT or HTML file that can be read by both Mac and PC.’

The issue I have found with this app, however, is formatting. In order to get your book into the app you need to covert your novel to .txt format. What this means is you need to save from Word (if that is your prefered writing software) and have to follow the instructions on how to differentiate between chapters etc. Once in Manuscript I found that there were several sentences that appeared to have a break in them so spent a considerable amount of time going through my novel and hitting delete to remove the gaps and ensure the paragraphs flowed correctly.

After a couple of months of successful editing using this app I came to want an export to send to someone for review. I exported in .txt format and found I had a very large plain text document with line breaks all over the place. Again, I had to work through this document and tidy it up. Once done I expected to be able to simply copy and paste straight to word and save back as a .docx file. However, when pasting back into Word I had to then go through the entire novel again to remove rogue line breaks, reindent certain lines and just generally tidy it up again. Admittedly, it appears some of this may be down to how a basic .txt file can lose formatting but it was a bad experience overall. Also, it appears they have now added a RTF or HTML export option as well which could prove to be more successful but it still would not be a seemless process.

I think if the guys at Black Mana Studios could look at a more seemless integration from Microsoft Word documents to prevent the pain of having to create different formats this would be a big win.

Overall I’d give the app 4/5 for actual content entry and use as a basic writing and editing tool but 2/5 for overall experience and satisfaction. I think if, as a writer, you know you are going to be going back to Word anyway and this is a temporary measure to allow you to edit on the move then this is nowhere near as seemless an experience as it needs to be. I am yet to try any of the alternatives but, for the time being, I think I will just stick to the laptop.

Let me know your experiences using an iPad to write your novels.

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One comment on “Using ‘Manuscript’ for iPad to write your novel

  1. I have also purchased this app and, as stated, everything works great except when it comes to the import/export side. I have also purchased another app call Storyist that is very similar and took some time to get the novel transferred. It lacks the web searchh capabilities, but has some very nice extras, such as templates for character sheets, scenes etc, and has overall themes for novels and screenplays. Its a little more expensive though at 9.99 but I feel a little more comortable with it.

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