First off, because I write at work as well as at home, I don’t have a daily timeframe in which I always write. What I’m working on in a particular day changes too frequently to fall into a process, and writing at home is often when I have some spare time and the energy to do it. As a result, my writing timetable is more about daily time management rather than something like “I get up at 5am and write for three hours.” That being said, I do try to write something meaningful every day, and I tend to write before noon on weekends, and between noon and early evening on weekdays.
I tend to write first drafts in plain text. For a while I just used Notepad in Windows, but I’ve recently been a convert to WriteMonkey. It doesn’t have easy text formatting tools or spell check (which is good, because that tends to be what I fiddle with when writing first drafts), but there are useful features like real time wordcount and a progress bar that keep me going back to it. Basically, it gets the hell out of the way and lets me write my ugly first draft without judging me. Even better, I can install it on my Dropbox, so I always have it on any computer I have my Dropbox hooked up to.
A quick side note: I know a lot of writers like programs like WriteMonkey because they are “distraction-free.” I’ve also heard stories of writers who turn of their Internet connection or shut down certain pieces of software while they’re writing. I don’t do that – the only concession I’ll make to the Internet when I’m writing is that I’ll switch my Google Talk to “Do Not Disturb.” When writing in the office, I can’t really block out email or IM, especially because our IM client (Communicator) also doubles as our office telephone system. But in general, I tend to work in short sprints of 10-15 minutes, instead of trying to run a marathon of several hours. Sure, sometimes I get into the groove and I’ll write until I stop, but more often than not taking two minutes to answer a quick work email will recharge me enough to start my next 10 minute sprint.
Second and subsequent drafts used to be done in Word 2010 at work and OpenOffice 3 for home, but over the past few months I’ve run into enough formatting problems trying to switch documents between the software suites that I went ahead and put Word 2010 on my personal laptop as well. I used to just copy and paste the text from WriteMonkey into Word, but recently I’ve been playing with the textile markup export. Between that and Word 2010 styles, I can go right from boring text to a look that is closer to what I want, so I can jump right into revision instead of (again) fucking around with formatting.
I do subsequent drafts in Word until I’m ready to call something final. Then I usually print it out, or export it to a new program to look at it one more time, because changing the context can often cause thing to jump out at me that I didn’t see before.
Blog posts like this one are generally written in Windows Live Writer 2011, because blogs are pretty much one-draft writing. The exceptions are my Tour de Holmes essays, which go through the usual WriteMonkey/Word process, because those require more research and crafting.
All of my writing (both work and personal) is saved to Dropbox. Not only does it mean I always have access to everything I’ve written, but Dropbox does save old versions of files, so if I really screw up (which I’ve done a couple of times), it’s easy for me to go back in time and get that draft I thoughtlessly deleted.1 One side benefit is that I can also pull my drafts on my phone, which has been useful when I get a spontaneous idea or when asked about a particular point of a project in progress.
I’ve been trying out the Scrivener beta, and I’m already in love with its organizational options. It might replace WriteMonkey for longer projects like Whitechapel and Marvelous Superheroes, but thus far I haven’t done too much with it – I’ve tried out too many betas to trust a project I care about to them. But once it’s out of beta, I’ll likely drop the $40 and start moving some projects into it.
What’s your process like?
- I’m ruthless in deleting old drafts. Unless there’s a strong reason for me to keep an old draft, I’ll delete it rather than letting it clog up my hard drive, and I’ll often delete old drafts once a project is done. ↩