When I wrote Bitter Cold for Once Upon a Clockwork Tale, I wrote the entire thing in one massive Google Doc. All nearly 20,000 words, stuffed into a Google Doc that towards the end, took FOREVER to load.
I’ve since played around with other drafting tools, including Open Office and Zoho. Zoho is mostly what I’ve been using for my short story eBooks this year. I tend to lean towards online drafting tools. This is mostly because I often write in little unexpected snatches of time I have available. So I like to being able to get at my prose from any computer with an internet connection.
Of course, the down side to online writing tools is that they get progressively more buggy and laggy the longer your document gets. I finally reached a breaking point with Broken Mirror this week. Zoho simply wouldn’t load the draft. I had a minor meltdown over 7500 words lost, until I realized it would still download the document just fine as a Word document, and break it up into more manageable chunks and scenes.
As my projects get increasingly longer and more complex, with more characters and settings, drafting the entire thing in a single online document is getting increasingly unmanageable. So I’ve spent some time the last week or so finding a new process that doesn’t have me cussing the load screen on Zoho docs. Over the course of the week, I’ve test-drove a variety of drafting and organizing tools. I’m going to cover the drafting tools in this post, and the organizing tools in a later post. I hope any other writers out there find them helpful.
I’m also skipping Word. It’s so ubiquitous, nobody needs to hear more about it. Either you have access to it and it works for you, or you don’t have access to it, or it just doesn’t work for your style. I can’t really add anything helpful to someone else’s decision to use Word or not. So here are your other options.
Open Office – Here’s what there is to like about OO. It’s free and open source. It’s available for all three major operating systems. It has pretty much all the features of Word. It also has pretty much all the drawbacks of Word–a kind of bloated feature set, IMO.
Q10 – Like Open Office, Q10 is free and open source. It only runs on Windows, and no Mac or Linux versions are planned. It falls at the other end of the spectrum from OO and Word. It’s a minimalist, full-screen draft tool. There’s no menu, no formatting, and it outputs as plain text. However, it does make for a nice distraction-free writing environment, and its sole “extra” feature is that it makes the sound of an old fashioned typewriter clacking whilst you write. Which is actually a nice white-noise that enhances concentration for some. If you really dig the idea of Q10, and are on a Mac, try WriteRoom. Or you might perhaps try FocusWriter, which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
OmmWriter – This is the weirdest drafting tool you will ever come across, so naturally it’s only available for Mac. It is another minimalist writing tool, but supposedly it uses color psychology and ambient music in the background to
warp your brain induce a more creative state. It’s one of those “love it or hate it” tools. I’ve heard raves, but personally it didn’t really do much for me. If I need background noise, I either put on a nice Pandora channel or Spotify playlist, or open a window with Coffivity, or, you know, go to an actual coffee shop.
Draft – Relatively new, this free minimalist online drafting tool is probably best suited for short chunks of fiction or blog posts. It also supports Markdown for basic formatting. However, it does come with one verrrry interesting paid feature: cheap human editing. For either $5 for 15 minutes or $15 for 45 minutes of review, you can send your draft off to a “college educated staff under a strict NDA” and it’ll be returned to you with suggested edits, which you can merge into the document or ignore. So, basically a somewhat upgraded paid human version of EditMinion. For those who are self-pubbing and would like an affordable second set of eyes on their drafts, this might be perfect.
Wabi Sabi – I don’t know exactly why I love Wabi Sabi, but I do. It’s a fullscreen online draft tool. Comfortable fonts and color choices minimize eye strain. Glory of glories, you can indent the first line of your paragraph with tabs (I don’t know why tabs are such a rare commodity among text editors). You can download the file as a RTF, or email it to yourself. It provides word and character counts unobtrusively. You can name and save documents (sort of–it remembers your IP). There’s no italics, bold, linking or whatnot.
That’s about all I’ve discovered in the last week. I’m going to write about tools for organizing your novel, which is a very different thing, in my next post. I’ve deferred talking about Scrivener till that one, although you can use Scrivener as a drafting tool, and many folks do.
Good luck with your current works-in-progress! Feel free to drop a comment about whatever has gotten you stuck lately, whether it’s technology, plot or other. 🙂