Every writer has their own preferred process, style, and set of tools. Some write freehand in notebooks while sitting in coffee shops, others hunt and peck on manual typewriters, while others compose their prose verbally with voice-dictation software on computers.
To each their own, and every method and tool has its own set of pros and cons. There is no right or wrong way to write, merely what works best for you.
Here is a description of the tools I use and the process I follow when writing prose.
I write on a series of Apple Macs, depending on where I am. My most frequent writing tool is a Macbook Pro, and when I’m on the road I use a Macbook Air.
My main composition tool is Scrivener, from Literature and Latte. I think it is a fantastic tool that has been written from the ground up by writers for writers. It has a free, fully functional 30 day demo and it runs on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. They are even working on an iOS version. It costs less than $50.
Since inspiration can strike at any time, I like to keep note-taking tools handy, whether it be Evernote or a paper notebook. I store all my documents on Dropbox.
Evernote is a well-organized note-taking application that I have installed on all of my computers. Syncing is a very simple operation. It lets me organize my notes in notebooks and I categorize them with tags for easy searching. Cost: free.
Dropbox is a cloud-based file storage service that runs on just about every current operating system and mobile device available. I store the master copy of my Scrivener file within my Dropbox account. 2 GB of storage is available for free, which is a lot more than it sounds, or you can buy additional storage for a nominal charge. It also has wonderful capabilities for sharing project files with editors, graphic designers, and beta readers.
Some writers produce everything in one phase, then edit and revise in another. I tend to write a little bit, usually a chapter or two, then revise and refine before moving on to the next chapter. They say you shouldn’t edit yourself while you’re writing, and I agree with that, but avoiding that temptation is not as easy as it sounds.
I tend to write most on weekend mornings while the house is quiet and my brain hasn’t been filled with the drudgery of life’s constant demands. Depending on my schedule, I will write for two to four hours before moving on to other tasks. Occasionally I will spend an hour or so editing and revising during the afternoon. Often, I will separate my writing from my editing, choosing a particular session to just do one or the other.
I often get my best ideas when I go to bed and I’m lying in the dark trying to fall asleep. I also get ideas while driving or when watching movies at home. If I don’t have a way to make notes of my idea, I repeat the idea three or four times in my head to help me retain it until I have a chance to jot it down into my paper notebook. I then distill the better ideas and enter them into Evernote.
Stephen King believes that outlining is the death of creativity. He’s a savant and a writing genius and writing free-form works for him, but he’s wrong when he makes that blanket declaration. At least for me.
I brainstorm and plan and define my story ahead of time, and during that process I am intensely creative. I actually follow the John Irving model, where I have the end of the book already in my mind before I ever write word one.
I’ve written about my writing process in my blog articles. Check them out for more details.