Shock and surprise, the novel isn’t moving along as smoothly as I’d hoped. Writing a long piece of fiction, at least for me, requires a certain level of investment. When I have that investment, it isn’t a chore, it isn’t a task. It’s a way to let go and release myself.
Unfortunately, the last two weeks at the office have been a little unrelenting.
I won’t dwell on details, but there has been a distinct lack of both free time and sleep in my life lately. That makes for a brain not interested in working on a longer piece of prose, not when it can barely retain one thought to the next. So of course, I did the only natural thing – I started looking at other writing software packages.
In particular, I took a look at Ulysses, an application that has popped up again in my feeds recently. Ulysses’ claim to fame is that it is supposed to be on the simple end of the spectrum. Get rid of the toolbox of random, largely unused tools packaged in other products, and just focus on getting words down. What takes it one step above just being a text pad is that it supports Markdown (and it’s own variation of Markdown) so that you can take plain text and apply formatting to it.
So, never afraid of a challenge, I downloaded a demo, transferred some short stories and the novel in progress to it, and began to play around. Like many products adapting the simple is better philosophy, everything looked very pretty. But as I used Ulysses more and more, I began to realize that it was little more than a well skinned MarkDown editor with a few bells and whistles (chiefly, iCloud and goal tracking). Sure, it has an iPad version, making it a somewhat portable solution, but was that enough?
That’s when I realized that A) I liked using MarkDown for writing a lot, and that B) I didn’t need to pay $45 + $20 for the iPad version to get that experience. Some time ago, and I don’t even remember the specifics of why, but I paid $5 for a MultiMarkDown editor (which supports regular MarkDown too) called MultiMarkdown Composer. On my iPad I already had a free MarkDown editor, and on my Android phone there was already a plethora of free MarkDown editors. In fact, since Markdown files are really just text files (the formatting happens while reading the files, translating *’s, #’s, and other symbols during “compile”), basically what I was looking at was an already existing infrastructure for writing on the go, at my desk, everywhere, with anything, and it was already available to me.
So what about word count tracking and other metrics? Sure, I’d have to roll my own to some extent. But after all of the scripting I’ve done to manipulate and mangle word counts out of programs like Scrivener and Storyist in the past, dealing with plain text files is child’s play.
Maybe this won’t last. I’m notorious, at least in my own mind, for changing out writing software and workflow’s almost as often as I am for switching out what my primary web browser is. But given the flexibility of this approach, I might have finally found something that meets all of my portability needs. And it’s even platform agnostic.