I am attempting to do National Novel Writing Month this year, and have been looking at the various software packages out in the marketplace for serious writing. In my youth I did everything in VI and at some point moved over to using Emacs and version control software. The problem is that I got lazy. I started spending more time in a GUI than on the command line and have forgotten most of what I knew about Emacs. Emacs is by far the most extensible and configurable writing and coding environment available. It is also free and open source. The downside is that the manual for it is 900 pages long. If ya don’t use it ya lose it. And I have lost it big time.
So, in a mad rush to get writing for NaNoWriMo this year, I went a-Googleing for product. Most of the products were either cut down word processors or slightly glorified text editors. OpenOffice.org or VI would be a better choice than any of these. Plus OOo and VI are Free and Open Source. But then I came across Scrivener. It seems to be the only current Mac OS writing program that any thought has been put into. I am going to use the demo to start writing my NaNoWriMo book and see how it works out.
I am also beginning to use DevonThink as a repository for all of the bits of data and ideas that I generate. I have been using Mori for the last few years to do this. I keep a database of lines of dialogue or descriptions of characters and setting that come to me throughout the day. Also any useless bits of trivia that I find interesting get filed into Mori. After reading Steven Berlin Johnson’s article “Tools For Thought”, and seeing the way that he uses DevonThink’s quasi AI search functions I decided to try to switch. So far I think that DevonThink is definitely the slicker program, but I haven’t worked with it long enough to know how much it is adding to my workflow.
I am also obsessed with outliners. Which is odd, because I always refused to do or turn in an outline all throughout my school days. But now, I make loads of lists and outlines. To that effect I am extremely interested in Tinderbox. It appears to be the most complex and feature filled outliner out there. Sort of the Emacs of outliners. Unfortunately with that comes the steep learning curve and the far too thick manual. I have downloaded and tried the demo twice, but have never been able to wrap my head around it. I sure am not going to have the time to figure it out this month, but I intend to attack it in a serious way in the near future.