I wrote here about the software that I use most, and in this post, I explore writing options in more detail.
In the corporate world, all writing was in e-mail clients or Microsoft Word. I’m old enough to remember when Wordperfect was THE word processor. (To my great surprise, it’s still going strong, apparently.)
Once I declared myself “a writer”, I, like many, bought Scrivener. I suspect that buying Scrivener is a rite of passage, a declaration that one is serious about writing.
Scrivener is a powerful piece of software, developed by a writer for his own use. Over time, more and more options were added, and the result is an entire infrastructure on its own. Research, planning, outlining, editing and writing all have their place. One can write in any font and publish in another in any number of formats.
I imagine that I was not the first, nor the last, to take one look at the complexity of “Scriv.”, and immediately started using it as if it were Word. Don’t get me wrong, It is a superb piece of software, capable of doing whatever one might need done, to write a novel; but intuitive, it isn’t. Learning to harness the software is a project on its own.
In one of my frequent quests for simplicity, I abandoned the complexity of both hardware and software and bought a Chromebook.
“Privacy be damned, knickers to complexity! I’m going to type directly into a Google doc on Google drive.”
Ahead of my time, I did this before Google made a a good Chromebook. My aged-brain could not quite buy into only having documents in the ether, so I soon returned to the Cupertino fold.
I tried many apps for writing. Pages, Bear, Drafts, Ulysses, Apple Notes, WordPress App, and probably more. None really worked for me, for one reason or another.
Listening to tech podcasts, I was intrigued by people singing the praises of Markdown and of Ulysses for focused writing. I knew that Markdown was the creation of John Gruber, but assumed that it was some sort of coding language. My experience of Ulysses was that it was mostly a blank screen. Nice in as far as a blank page is nice, but not exactly revolutionary.
I determined to explore a little more. Turns out that Markdown is all about simplicity. I had missed much of what Ulysses could do. A particular appeal was that my Mac would sync with my iOS devices. Scriv. was threatening an iPad app, and had been for years (it now has one.)
On The Sweet Setup, I found a course called “Learn Ulysses”, (which is still around for $37), which I took.
This is a clever piece of software. On the surface, an uncomplicated interface. A digital notebook in which to write. Yet, hit a few keyboard shortcuts, and you are into a world of organisation, customisations and tools. More than enough for me, without being overwhelming.
At the end of the course, there were case studies, by real people. One of these was by Matt Gemmell. Much of my workflow is an adaptation of his, which is outlined both on the Ulysses site and in the Sweet Setup course.
Full disclosure. I receive no payment or incentive from Matt Gemmell, The Sweet Setup or Ulysses. Nor would I wish to, I am simply sharing my opinion.
Ulysses is a powerful application that I now use for all of my writing. The novel, blog posts, corporate reports, everything. I do so, because it’s a joy to use, both on my Mac and my iPad. It’s £36 per year. Money well-spent.
The Sweet Setup Course held my hand and walked me through the functionality of the app that was not immediately obvious. Could I have discovered it myself? Yes. However, taking the course was a shortcut, and eliminated frustration. $37 seems reasonable.
Matt Gemmell’s novels, Changer and Toll are excellent. His website exemplary and I have shamelessly adopted much of his method. Go have a nose around his site. I think you’ll like it.