I swear, I thought I posted the Shelfari thing yesterday. Somehow it ended up as a draft, so please excuse the double-post. (Either way, it’s been horribly long since I posted.)
When I left off in part I, I had just about finished talking about my past writing processes, and promised to finish the following Friday. We all see how that turned out.
So this time, I’m going to talk about my current and near-past writing process — how I’m writing Derelict. As of right now, I’m getting to the part where I really sink my teeth into the second draft.
Most of my writing on Derelict so far has taken place in yWriter, which is a lovely, lovely program by Simon Haynes. I have a few minor issues with it — I’ll get to those — but they’re mostly because of how I write, versus how Simon writes. yWriter’s organization is what pushed me over the brink from just poking at Ghost Ship every once in a while to expanding it into Derelict. If yWriter had done nothing else for me, that would be enough to make me love it.
Let me talk about yWriter for a moment. In yWriter, your novel is split up into chapters, which are then subdivided into scenes. It is very, very easy to write a scene halfway through the book, or at the end, with a bunch of filler chapters and scenes in between, and this is exactly what I have done most of the time. I get an idea for a scene, I drop it into the framework somewhere where it makes sense, and if I change my mind about location later I’m just a click-and-drag from putting the scene where I want it. You can also add tons of metadata to your book; who the viewpoint character for each scene is, character bios, items, locations, notes, and more. In many ways yWriter is the perfect writing tool. I’m seriously considering not writing my next book with it.
It’s not because yWriter is a bad program — it’s because of two or three things it doesn’t do right now. First — this is a big one — there’s no way to edit a whole chapter, or the whole book, at once. I really want that option. It’s one thing to look at a scene, load the next one, and carry on; I want to read them in sequence, without breaking flow, so I can see how well they mesh. There’s really no good way to export and re-import your book, or chapters — any metadata you have (such as scene names, notes, and viewpoint characters) is lost if you do. I could export it, edit as I read, and then copy-and-paste each scene back into place, but at that point I’m doing a lot more work than I want to.
yWriter is basically cross-platform. It’s almost cross-platform enough for me. The only OSes I use are Windows and Linux, and yWriter runs pretty well on my Ubuntu laptop under Mono. But there are a few minor problems — one of which is that exporting the text tends to foul up a bit. Maybe it’s a bit snobbish of me, but I’d rather not have to export in windows to edit in linux.
Finally, there’s the issue of data and metadata access. yWriter keeps all its scenes in .rtf files, numbered in the order you created them. Mostly this is good — if the apocalypse occurs and renders yWriter useless, I can still open the files in Wordpad. Of course, I’ll have to sort out the correct order myself. But the metadata — unless you export it as part of the text — you need yWriter to get to. This bugs me. It’s the little things that do.
So right now, I’m writing the second draft mostly in .rtf and .odt documents. They’re extremely portable, which is nice. I’ll probably end up dropping a lot of it into yWriter, exporting Derelict when the second draft is nice and polished, and then just working with word processors through the rest of the drafting.
Let’s talk metadata. I have tons of notes and stuff for every writing project I have, and historically those have been in tons and tons of Wordpad documents. This does not work. A while back, at the suggestion of Writing Excuses, I started using Wikidpad. I love it! Only problem: no Linux version. When I feel like messing with Wine I’ll try getting it up and running, but I haven’t yet. Besides, Wikidpad suffers from two problems that drive me insane: you can’t name a link something other than its name, and you can’t italicize or bold text. I’ve read a lot of writers talking about how they only do that in revision, or how it’s better not to have the option up front, but it really doesn’t work that way for me. If I reach something I want in italics (like, say, a ship name or a specific thought) and I can’t italicize it, it breaks me right out of my writing trance. Bam. Dumped on the floor. If I’m wrong, I’ll be delighted to have someone correct me.
I’ve been using Tomboy lately. I can italicize stuff, but I still can’t rename links to anything but the title of where they’re going. And as awesome as Tomboy is — it’s really awesome, by the way — I don’t think it’s going to be a good permanent solution. Oh, I’ll probably use it for a long time to come, but for my long-term writing notes — not so much.
I’m not afraid of trying new programs when I’m writing. It’s helped me a lot. Wikidpad and Tomboy have both been very helpful, even if they don’t do everything I want them to. yWriter, despite everything I’ve said about it, is a really amazing tool. Even if I don’t use it for the main writing on my next novel, I’ll be using it for something. yEdit didn’t work out (no italics, hisssss) but I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t tried — and that led me on the path to a variety of other editors like WriteMonkey and TextRoom. I don’t use them right now, but it’s nifty to know they exist.
Join me sometime in 2014, when I maybe might get around to part III of the series and talk about my plans for future writing methods. That will be in the past then.
Current music: Disarm by Smashing Pumpkins, via Pandora. Eh, it’s not bad.