My writing toolbox

At the end of the day writing is more about getting one's bottom to a chair and typing, or writing with a pen for the real hardcore, old school ones. Respect, for those who still do it this way, but that wouldn't be for me :D.

When writing, there are many things I consider, the software, the hardware and what I write and which tool is best for the type of things I write.

While I'm perfectly content writing a review in Word or notepad I will usually write it either under Dreamweaver (since my website accepts them in html) or Kompozer (I think this has been abandonned but it still works for now).

For writing novels there is a whole other set of tools. The list of active ones I have used has evolved over the years and even changed very recently. There are professional tools especially for writers, some for Windows, some for OS X and some for both. I write mostly on Mac, I just prefer it. Scrivener is probably the most complete tool for writers, but there are other options, like StoryMill. I heard of Ulysses too but never really tried it (soon perhaps, as I'm always curious about new or alternate writing software). I remember Storymill has a nice timeline feature but the interface I never really got used to (then again I didn't really spend too much time on it, I've just bought the V4.05 at 5$ on bundlehunt, thought I'd give it a try again, link here if you want to aquire it at a big discount too. 5 days left at the time of writing this post.)

While Scrivener is all-round, productivity and organization oriented software, I mostly use it to group my writing and export for my alpha and beta readers, since the software can pretty much output to any ebook format. There are so many options in the menu I think this app can do everything a writer needs, but I would need to dig more into the advanced options one day. Then if you require conversions from one format to the other, try Calibre, not only is it free but works on both OS X and Windows. It will even convert your Word to .mobi for kindle submission (though I prefered not using it myself for Earth Last Sanctuary, since I followed amazon kindle guidelines (they have an ebook for that), so basically Word --> filtered HTML --> KDP account).

But when I want to write my novels, I do not like clutter interfaces, I want full screen or as close to it as possible when that is not a perfect option. One thing is sure, you won't lack choice, more so on the Mac than the PC. I've also worked with IA Writer, WriteRoom and lately I've been mesmerized by the viusal capabilities of Blinky ! But Scrivener can easily let you customize a full screen page as well, it just doesn't let you change everything (you can put a background image, fade the paper, center or align to sides, use some transparency,... etc, but I didn't manage to have the paper be black and the text vibrant green like on old CRTs computer monitors). IA Writer (OS X / iOS) is even less customizable but that's because it's a design choice, clutter free, fluff free writing. I find it ridiculous that you need to buy the PRO version just to inverse and write white on black (night mode). Some extremely poor decision from their marketing team, if you ask me. The one thing that is a stroke of genius in IA Writer is the focus mode. And for a long time that option alone made it my de-facto go-to text editor for writing Earth - Last Sanctuary (which started on notepad.exe by the way, LOL).

Still, its lack of customization made me drop it when I tried WriteRoom. There was an editor that could let me customize all I wanted, background, transparency, even proposed me fonts like those of the Commodore 64 (that sealed the deal ! :) ), so I could write with one of my space opera artworks in the back, with a retro font like the C64/128 and be a happy camper. And so I did. It's still one of my favorite and like most editors here has spell check, a god bless since I'm prone to be heavy on typos on my first drafts.

But a week ago I discovered Blinky, and oh boy is it stealing my heart in terms of writing. Blinky literally EMULATES any old CRT, and is so highly customizable, with such an attention to details, that's it's mind boggling. It is my new favorite, and writing on it a pleasure, even though it lacks a spell checker and even the OS X integrated one won't work on it. That's a bit of a problem but I figured I can always correct my text in Scrivener when I paste it back for structure and export. But I cannot under sell how amazing the retro feeling is for those of you like me would like such things and helps conjure your muses. You get options for curvature, reflection, transparency, scanlines (both horizontal and vertical), burn-in, static, H-sync, flickering,... there is even an over the top, useless but awesome option --> Degauss :D. Oh and guess what, it's (at the time of this writing at least) FREE! So right now, as I'm writing book 2 of the Universe in Flames saga, tentatively named Fury to the Stars, I do the bulk of my sessions on Blinky :) (the image in this post shows my writing settings, minus the animation).

That's it for the writing software, of course when it comes time to deliver a draft to your editor and/or proof checker, then Word has to come into play, sad but true. I am not a fan at all, even less since the ribbons interface arrived in 2007, but I got, over time, kind of used to it.

Then there is the choice of OS and even machine and keyboard. Myself the Mac (iMac 27" on the desk and macbook air 13" on the go) and OS X are a no brainer, Windows is too unstable for me (I'm a bug trigger mind you), or to be more precise can be too buggy under the right set of circumstances (which I always seem to generate or attract for some reason, hint: Resistance!). For anything else but writing, I do most of my work on it, cause it's a productivity thing, I have used it since Windows 3 so I know it better than OS X and do almost everything faster on it (old habits die hard, coming from someone who sometimes misses DOS :D). The Windows file explorer could stumble and fall onto a running chainsaw and be cut in half (pardon the violence), it would still be leaps and bounds more usable that the Finder (and that's a fact!). I loved the Finder on NextSTEP (that's where it comes from by the way), because back then in the nineties, it was revolutionary, today it's beyond has-been, and this coming from someone who still regards himself a bit of an Apple fan boy. So yeah, the Finder is not a good file manager, the sooner they realize that the better. Thank god there is Pathfinder, which reminds me of the good old days of Norton Commander, Pathfinder is on OS X and tries (and mostly succeeds) in correcting that "mistake" that is Finder. Pathfinder, besides being a paying software, and its supposedly no headache copy queue system is still highly buggy in my book. Annoying even when you meet exceptions they didn't think of, and not as good as even the oldest betas of Supercopier on Windows. Which btw are the only free version worth using (old betas), Ultracopier who is now the replacement will install a malware that uses your computer to calculate bitcoins if you choose the free version, so beware! But I digress :), suffise it to say I need Pathfinder on OS X for file management.

Mac machines are pretty to look at on your desk, while it's not vital, it helps. Then the keyboards, Apple championed the chiclet type keyboards and I love it, I type faster, more efficiently and with less typos and less finger tiredness on a chiclet type keyboard vs a mechanical one. Not to mention I don't bother my neighbors with the relentless click of a mighty Cherry keyboard at night, they would become insane, especially at my full speed, in the zone rate.

Yet my main weapon (keyboard) of choice is not an Apple one, it looks a lot like one but is better. The mighty Logitech Bluetooth keyboard K810 (windows) and K811 (mac)... I have both. Mainly cause I have both a PC and a Mac on my desk, the best of both worlds (yeah I'm a trekkie ;) ). What I love about these keyboards, they're back-illuminated, bluetooth connections to up to three devices (so you can link to computer, iPad and say smartphone and switch whenever), long lasting battery charge and the one feature that kills the apple keyboard, you can just plug an usb cable and charge it WHILE you write :). Apple still thinks it's cool to go run for batteries when you run out of juice :/.

So that ended up being a much longer post than I first anticipated. But that's alright and while I didn't get into details for each of the solutions I proposed here, I will progressively make posts detailing some of these software and hardware choices of mine, focusing on one element (specific soft or hardware) on single gfuture blog posts. That way I can let my compulsive tendency to be talkative (those who read my metal reviews know what I'm talking about :) ) roam free.

I hope some of this information was useful to you.

Til next time, I must return to writing chapter 15 of Fury to the Stars.


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