Writing tools

2 minute read

I decided recently to retire my Office 365 account and OneDrive storage and move my writing and files to the storage included with my Mailfence account.

Secure and private email
No tracking, no ads, no spams, no trackers, no solicitations, no backdoor, free from government surveillance.
mailfence.com

The trouble was, it didn’t recognize a bunch of file formats. And after looking at them, I was surprised even Windows could deal with them. The files were created in a bunch of different applications, including:

  • Appleworks
  • Apple Writer
  • Copywrite
  • Google docs
  • Quark Xpress

…and that’s just the files I’ve managed to keep over the years. I’ve also used Hanxwriter, Wordpress, Medium.com and even stored files in Subversion back in the day, but lost the lot after experiencing a repository issue.

Pro-tip: always make backups.

Why keep them?

That’s a good question, and a historical one.

Back in 2009 when I was putting down the initial ideas for The Book, I found myself with a conundrum. I had several projects in varying stages of completion, and based on the progress I was never going to get anything done UNLESS I PICKED SOMETHING. I picked The Book. And I’ll skirt around the fact I’ve spent the past 10 years working on it. Suffice to say, it’s in better shape now that it’s ever been, and I’ve got a much better idea who the characters are and the world they live in.

Ahem. Moving on.

But that doesn’t mean the old ideas don’t have legs, and I’ll be rolling a few into subsequent books, especially “The Shop”, “The Cowboy and the Angel”, “Lomond Hotel” and “Daedalus”. Won’t that be fun?

But everything else is lost. And that leads me to the point of this post: Don’t trust applications.

What’s wrong with apps?

Apps are great, and once you’re familiar with them, they can be of help. Microsoft Word (and freeware derivatives Open Office and Libre Office to name but two) have become the default word processing application across the planet.

There’s also the above mentioned applications and services, together with others allegedly tooled for writers, such as Scrivener. And these apps do very snazzy things. But they have a single point of failure:

If you don’t have the app, you’re screwed.

Stu Maschwitz talks about this in “Screwed by file formats”. And this is my point too.

So what’s the solution?

Write in plain text and sort out formatting and layout once you’ve finished.

All the major operating systems have a built-in text editor. Windows has “Notepad”, Apple has “Texteditor” and Ubuntu has “gedit”.

I use a third party application called “Atom editor” which will install on all operating systems, but some people prefer Sublime Editor. Each to their own.

Atom Editor
A hackable text editor for the 21st Century.
wikipedia.org

But how do I fix layout then?

Well anything will do, even –twitch– Microsoft Word. The point is to have a final version you can always access later on. Like when publishers are banging on your door for new content because you’re such a well-known and beloved writer, read by millions.

Yeah. Like then.