Novlr (online novel writing software)

I stumbled across this the other day and given the frequency that people request an online version of Scrivener, I thought it seemed like a good idea to make mention of Novlr here. The beta hasn’t been released yet, and unfortunately it looks like they’ve closed down beta invites, but it may be worth keeping an eye on. It doesn’t sound like it will be as feature rich as scrivener, but since it’s web based it does promise eventual mobile compatibility which is a definite plus.

This roadmap lists their plans for development.

I can’t quite see the benefits of an online version of Scrivener, or am I missing something?*

I suppose if you had no computer of your own, are trusting of The Cloud, and can only work from Internet cafes, public libraries or are surreptitiously writing a novel at work.*

*[size=50]it does happen[/size]

I think you really pegged the main appeal there. Honestly, sometimes I think some folks prefer running software on cloud because it’s trendy. For me the promise of cross-platform compatibility is really the only feature that might persuade me to abandon Scrivener. With the iOS version of Scrivener in development I’m hopeful an android version will follow suit which would eliminate the need for something like novlr.

New blog up…

Apparently they’ve pushed back the release of the beta too a tentative late July or early August.

Cheapest MacBook Air: $899
Average Chromebook: $299
Average Chromebox: $199

With cloud-based writing software, your work is available anywhere and always up to date.
Updating an application = logging in.
Avoiding malware & adware = ditto.
Backing up to Dropbox, Box, etc = ditto
Avoiding platform conflicts = ditto

Apple is catching on to this “trend” through its online iWorks apps.
It’s a matter of time before someone creates a strong online writing app.

The problem with online apps is that if, for example, your ISP goes down, so do your apps. Power failure? No good using the battery on your laptop if it can’t connect via your router. Water damage to your ADSL line? Say goodbye to your work in progress until it’s fixed. And if you want to work on your project uninterrupted in the peace and tranquility of a country get-away, think again. These are just a few examples of actual connectivity issues I’ve experienced (including the getting away to the country to write - which had the benefit of ensuring I wasn’t distracted by email and internet while using Scrivener). Hence I would never use an online only app to write a novel. Other people are obviously not as bothered by the connectivity demons as myself.

Having said that, I do love cloud services and use them extensively both privately and in my business. I take care, however, to ensure I have local copies of all data and local apps that can access it. This is one of the reasons I like Cubby and iCloud and Evernote. In each of them, my data is available online, but also stored locally on my device(s). If I lose my online connection, I can still use Pages to edit my documents, or search my notes in Evernote. The same is not true of my billing and booking service: if I lose connection, I lose access to all my client data. This is why I also store local copies of all client data on my Mac AND keep paper copies in files AND download my billing history regularly and copy it into a local spreadsheet.

I wrote about “dead brick” phobia a while back, after living through a half-day power outage in rural Wisconsin. I survived by using offline apps, including Google Docs & Sheets. When power returned, my work synched to Google Drive. During the blackout I checked on tornadoes, and sent out texts, via the Verizon 3g chip in my Chromebook. This first-generation machine has a 5.5 hour battery, but the newer models run longer. Anyway, I’d just like to repeat that working this way is portable and affordable. Try buying any recent Mac laptop for under $300. And while I’d love to have a working version of Scrivener, I’m happy just reading, writing up research notes, and revising portions of draft.

PS: what kind of water damage? I thought you folks Down Under were in a long-term drought. :unamused:

Comparing a laptop to something like a Chromebook or AlphaSmart or even a tablet is pretty difficult. You are buying a whole lot more (immeasurably more) with a laptop. Make no mistake, I’m an AlphaSmart user on the road. When I want something portable and cheap for writing, I don’t even want a web browser (which is all a Chromebook is). I don’t need Scrivener either for that type of thing. I don’t really want sync or “clouds”. Plugging the Neo into Scrivener at the end of the day and hitting Send is good enough for me. Simple, dirt cheap, 100% reliable, effective, and energy and resource efficient. I get years of battery time with my setup, and if I run out, any corner store in the world can hook me up with a couple of AA batteries.

But at any rate, I believe the remark is about writing into web sites, which have no offline mode unless they also write a Chrome widget, and then they aren’t purely a web site any more. I don’t really understand the appeal of purely online services either. It is just a subjective opinion, but to me the ownership of one’s data is superior on all counts to every minor convenience one gains through central sync (and the argument that online web pages provide a superior form of this than what you can achieve with a computer is a bit shaky anyway, with Dropbox and so forth around).


Sigh. We really have a philosophical difference on the topic of “ownership of one’s data.” One might also assert that we “own” history, or time and space. Ownership may be a cherished illusion, but in our lifetimes we are at best only renters. My data, such as it is, I want to share widely. That’s why I work as a writer.

As for online storage, via Chrome I may use not just Google Drive, but also many other cloud services: Amazon Cloud, Box, Dropbox, iCloud, BackBlaze, etc. If I wished, G Drive would also parse the files on my OWC external drive.

Chrome resembles an early form of distributed computing, when we worked on dumb terminals and relied on server storage. I wrote my first three books that way and never lost a dollop of data. Personal and costly “smart” terminals like a MacBook are far less reliable. To close with a humble analogy: I’d love to swim daily in a private pool, but in reality I go to one where others maintain the water, chemicals, temperatures, cleaning, showers, and lifeguards.

I too want to share widely, but inasmuch as “my data” are indeed and in law my own, I do not share them widely or (literally) freely.

By “my data” I mean work which I have imagined, constructed, and sent off to the marketplace.

It may be that the greater world suffers measurably when I insist on getting paid for some of those data, but no as much as I suffer when I work for free.

…and where others provide germs, urine, loud music, bratty kids; where your towel/chair/camera can become community property; where… well, you get the idea.


We probably agree on that more than you think. :slight_smile: I was using a very narrow and technical usage of the term ‘ownership’. One can debate whether rental or purchase is a better approach for themselves when it comes to where they live, without debating whether or not one can actually “own” property, to put it to a comparison.

Can my data be restored if it is otherwise terminated at the account level by an external authority or corporation for any reason at all? Nobody who stores their only copy online can say that truthfully. This is the technical argument of ownership here. Even Dropbox type services do not fall under that umbrella since they do store local copies.

The question to me is technological in nature, because that is all we are really talking about here. Whether one sits down at a typewriter, AlphaSmart, Chromebook or $5,000 workstation, they can get some writing done. Note every one of those doesn’t need an Internet connection to function. We aren’t discussing whether this or that is better for writing—that is obviously a very personal choice. All we are talking about is the technology: and I choose “dumb” devices that cost $80 used, for walking around, and I choose Macs for home. It’s a good combination for me—simple and fearless on the go, optimum power (to the point of writing my own ChromeOS if I really felt ambitious about it) at home—and if my power goes out I don’t need to wait to do any work. The hardware you use to connect (or not connect) is irrelevant here.

So back to that argument, I don’t understand the appeal of an online Scrivener. It would be just like all of these other writing sites. Some of them certainly do look interesting, I don’t mean to denigrate the work that goes into them, but I would personally never consider investing huge quantities of my creative output to a system that could shut down tomorrow, or close my account, or just even simply be “offline” for hours to weeks following some natural or political event.

So again, specifically to druid, we’re in the same camp here. :slight_smile: I prefer a simple and stripped down piece of equipment for writing on out of the house. You prefer this thing, I prefer that, but we’re both going for the same thing, that was my point. I don’t see what that has to do with the discussion though.

Oh wow, sorry…I didnt realize that you live in ITHACA… :mrgreen:

This is the core issue with ANY cloud service. Here’s why…

There are really only 3 major players in cloud. Folks like apple and dropbox lease space from these providers (simplification). In all cases these 3 providers have fine print that states that all data stored in the cloud systems becomes, and I’m quoting from a document I have in front of me, the “intellectual property of the physical hardware provider”. I have seen two exceptions written into these contracts that allowed the secondary (company like apple) to retain all rights to the IP (data) but in reviewing the contract between the secondary and end user, the SECONDARY becomes the IP owner, not the end user.

Please make sure you really understand the terms of your contract before you assume that you own the copyright on your work if you put it in the cloud. In many cases you likely assigned that copyright over to your cloud provider when you hit the “accept” button on the terms and conditions of use.

And before you think I’m talking free services, the contracts I have reviewed are for multi-million dollar corporate agreements. When a fortune 500 company can’t get these guys to budge by throwing money at them, i don’t think average Joe has much of a chance.

Jaysen, you are a wonder-bear in the world of computing, but I wouldn’t hire you for a lawyer.

If a writing project states clearly on the first page, or on every page,

Copyright 2014 by Ioa Petraka. All rights reserved.

That protects Ioa’s intellectual property, even if he doesn’t formally file and pay the Library of Congress for copyright papers. Publishers require authors to do this, or do it for them, because they don’t want liability for any untruths or insults arising from authors.

A cloud service may claim that a user has violated terms of usage and kick said user off. But the intellectual property rights abide with authors. Otherwise Google et als would face a mountain of law suits for slander, libel, and other forms of defamation.

I ran this by the lawyers in my family, and they agree that they never heard of me. Sound of shredders arising in the land. :bulb:

I typically use Creative Commons, or at least the Founders variety that limits protection to 12 (sorry, 14) years, because I find modern copyright law in most countries to serve nobody but the money grubbers. But yes. :slight_smile:


Well, my info comes from a series of meetings with legal staffs from several companies (providers and customers). In all cases the providers legal council stated “we own the data on the disks”. The copyright questions was specifically mentioned in terms of software code, technical documentation, and media (photo, drawings, etc). Paraphrase the lawyers “we we own the data then we own all aspects of the data including all rights”. How that would play out in the courts I don’t know. That is the stated position of several companies.

As to IP rights, we raised the concept of patented software. Same statement about owning all aspects of the data. “Implied release for use” was the phrase that ended the discussion. Basically if you put it on their disk you have given them rights to do with it as they please.

[size=125]How it will all play out in the courts will be interesting[/size]. All I know is that the providers basically killed the idea of non-internal cloud services for several major corps. I don’t avoid clouds for my use but things I want to keep for my exclusive use don’t go to the cloud (software ideas, writing, etc).

What is really frustrating was the revelation that “standard US employment law” is written the same. As a salaried employee, anything I produce, even if it is clearly outside my employment, is owned by my employer. If I write a book, publish it, and my employer chooses, they would get the profits. The lines that covered it were pointed out and the fact is was sourced from them department of labor really shocked those in the room. In the case of my employer, they have done it three times that I know about.

Maybe I’m unlucky in what I’ve been exposed to in my career. I do seem to find myself thinking “this can’t be right” more often than not. I will admit that the recent move toward the “pointy haired boss” shows that much of what is behind the curtain is a bunch of “old men” trying to squeeze as much from the “young men” as possible. All the while crying "ignore the men behind the curtain.

Someday I’d like to try to change it. I don’t think anyone can really do it. There’s too much money involved for real change to be possible.

You hit on the key element at the end, money. My U asserts the same “rights” to creations by engineers and computer scientists, because their productions are worth big bucks. As for humanists and other loss leaders, meh. They can have their rights and dinky profits.

However, in the case of money makers, the U must agree to a SHARE of profits via an approved system of patents and royalties. In some cases, this has amounted to large, Amazon-like percentages. So, if you are a sole or principal creator, you are entitled to a profit-share even if you created your widget on company machines and time.

Corporations will not share until forced to by the courts. What they are telling you now is illegal, and a class-action suit might bring them to the bargaining table. Otherwise, “business ethics” remains as usual, a classic oxymoron.

Cloud-like storage has been the dominant O/Ting here, but another problem with rights goes back much farther. I offer you one word to consider, when discussing payment for creative effort:


A recent article at New Statesman covers the issue pretty well.


Let’s not forget HTTP, FTP, Usenet + uuencode/uudecode, and before that, floppy disks, Zerox, and VHS. Whether that creative content was a game, a word processor, a song, movie, or novel, piracy is to blame for people having copies of things they haven’t paid for. Data transfer technologies have as much to do with piracy as roads have to do with smuggling–which is to say some, but it’s not the core of the issue, and nothing to do with bad Terms of Service.