After working many years with BioWare, much of those being spent helping to design tools that writers use, I’ve gained a fair bit of experience with understanding how creative types, create. As a writer myself, I’ve often used my own experience to help guide tool development and even created my own writing platform YourOtherMind . I have tried many things (different software, work methodology, et cetera) but over the last year I’ve stuck with a couple approaches that seem to be working well.
Short Stories – Format Conversion
Of course the biggest change in my writing process occurred about a year ago when I started doing all my writing within YourOtherMind — I had been using its predecessors for years for storing ideas, brainstorming, and planning but had done most of my writing in Microsoft Word. With the introduction of the ‘stickit’ page — basically a giant corkboard for dropping ideas into — and the Full Screen Writing Mode (along with dozens of supporting features) YourOtherMind became viable for actual writing. The process I’ve adapted for short stories is to do all planning and writing in YourOtherMind and use the various ‘format converters’ to modify the text as needed — some magazines insist that italics be represented as underlines, or underscores, for example, I can easily do this format conversion from within YourOtherMind.
My Writers of the Future story was the first story I wrote entirely in YourOtherMind!
This process worked great for my short stories but once I began work on the novel, I realized I needed to do something more robust.
Novels – Text Export
Short story markets are very variable in what they will accept in regards to the format of writing submissions. While novel publishers don’t seem to be any more fussy, a novel is a lot bigger. The simple ‘format conversion’ approach that I use for short stories would work, but I’m worried that it could become a headache. So, using the ‘send page‘ feature of YourOtherMind and pairing it with a custom text formatting program, I’m now doing the following:
Basically I write the novel without any formatting, using a basic markup language to flag where formatting should occur (i.e., I use underscores to denote emphasis, [title] for chapter titles, [[~break]] for scene breaks, et cetera). To accommodate a publisher’s specific formatting I won’t have to go through the entire text of the novel. I’ll only have to modify the text formatting program I wrote — if a publisher wants all emphasis to be in bold face and scene breaks to use a horizontal rule, it’ll take maybe two minutes for me to set this up and export a new version of the novel with the new formatting.
Yeah, its probably overkill, but setting this up took hours and will work for every novel I ever write, so long-term, I’m hoping it will be advantageous.
The text formatting program is a custom program I wrote for myself, taking plain text with markup and turning it into a Microsoft Word document but YourOtherMind can send text to any command-line text formatting program, such as an html exporter, pdf maker and so on