Writing Tools

I finished off the (very) rough 1st draft of my first novel last week and started on the 2nd draft. This is my rewrite draft. I tend to write short (in fiction anyway) so this draft lets me fill in the details I skipped over, plug any plot holes and sync up timeline issues. I was in a hurry to find out what happens. Now I have to clean up the narrative.

Longer fiction has been a challenge coming from non-fiction and short fiction stories. It didn’t help that I took most a year off to write and get published another non-fiction book. A big part of that challenge is what writing tool to use. I travel a lot for work so I find myself writing on a laptop, my iPad and an iPhone. Yes, I’ve banged out a couple of hundred words on an iPhone standing in line waiting to board a plane more times than I can count.

I started out with OneNote. It’s great for research and it runs on all the platforms I need. The PC version will do word counts but the iOS version won’t. I also used Excel to track my word counts. About two-thirds of the book was written this way.

Along the way I got frustrated with OneNote’s iOS limitations. You couldn’t select the text in an entire section, pasting in from something else trashed the formatting, etc. I played with Scrivener and I think it can be a great tool, but alas, no iOS version, so I’m saving Scrivener for final book creation.

I finished off the first draft in Yarny It’s kind of Scrivener/One Note light in the cloud. Yarny has a clean writing surface and you can store notes about characters, places, etc. However, you can’t bring in pictures, drawings or drop in whole web pages for research, just text. With OneNote I’ve dropped in piles of research material. The Send to OneNote feature makes that almost too easy.

Yarny works in a browser but it hasn’t been tested with all browsers. It works with IE and Safari, despite their warnings, but it is kind of finicky sometimes. There is an iPhone app, but Yarny doesn’t really have an offline option. That was a problem on aircraft. WiFi isn’t everywhere yet.

Along the way I switched from Excel to Google’s spreadsheet for tracking word counts and time. Excel is so much better than Google’s spreadsheet that it’s not funny, but Google has an offline option for iOS and web-based Excel is still clunky with touch. I haven’t tried since the latest update and I really didn’t want to buy an app just for that.

I started the rewrite work on Saturday and today Microsoft released an updated OneNote for iOS. I’m hooked. It’s fantastic. The only things it’s missing are word counts and creating ink notes (you can read ink notes created on a PC) but since I can copy the entire section it’s easy to drop it into Pages and get a word count.

In the end, everything will end up in Microsoft Word and Scrivener. If I use a publisher, it will have to be in Word. I’ve done enough non-fiction work with publishers to know how that works and it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. If I selfpub/indiepub, my plan is to use Scrivener to create the mobi and epub files. I’ve done it using Word and it’s painful. I keep hearing that Scrivener is much better.

I really just want tools that won’t get in my way. If Scrivener ever releases a full iOS client, that may be the ultimate answer. Until then, OneNote is getting pretty close for at least the writing and editing portion.

As for the book, I’ll have more on that once it’s closer to being done.