This is where it begins. After months or years of scribbling in disposable notebooks, I digitize my paper pages and transcribe them onto the screen, and the editing begins. I edit as I type, because reading my words for the first time lets me react to awkward sentences and poor word choices. The first purge is the transition from ink to pixels, and I don't want to waste my time writing something twice if it isn't something I like.
All of my writing takes place in a plain text editor called ￼Ulysses￼ that has two goals: Ulysses wants to stay out of your way while you're writing, and it wants to make everything that happens after writing as easy as possible.
Right off the bat, I can show you a couple of features I particularly enjoy. First, Ulysses embraces a minimalist design language, keeping its entire interface hidden save for a toolbar that is within reach of my fingertips while I type, a row of digital function keys that can help me format my work, see my pace and know how long the average reader will take to read what I've written. There are many word processors out there, and some look like the cockpit of a ￼Gulfstream 550￼ with all of their menus and buttons, clickers, sliders, rulers, and all manner of extensible apparati.
Ulysses supports John Gruber's ￼Markdown￼ language, which lets me use inline characters to format my text, to make it italic, bold or annotated ￼whoa, there's a whole lot of room for annotations, but I wonder if they will still be visible in the export?￼. I can embed ￼hyperlinks￼ and videos without them cluttering my writing space.
When I go to export the document, Ulysses offers different file formats and translates the ￼Markdown markup￼ into HTML code for posting online, PDFs for printing, and ePubs for digital distribution. These file formats are completely customizable through ￼Ulysses Style Sheets￼, meaning I could crack open the Novel Cochin style and make my own printable PDF for the paperback editions of my book with proper margins, page numbers, spacing, etc. I ended up having to make three of them because ￼self-publishing is crazy￼.
I understand that goal-oriented people write with a specific purpose in mind. They're writing copy for an article, they need to mock up an advertisement, some school newsletter needs to be printed and they're the ones with a computer, but my writing isn't like that. A lot of the time, I don't know if I'm writing a Facebook status or an enchanted forest wedding until I'm halfway down the page.
While Ulysses respects that the most important step in writing anything is writing it down, it also offers phenomenal tools for organization and sorting. For instance, this article lives several sub-folders deep in my The Total Manageability of Everything heading, but I only have to tap on one smart group titled "Working On" to get back to what I was doing.
My folders have sub-folders and those have sub folders, so I can group documents based on the project they belong to and even make separate versions of the same corpus for various print and distribution methods.
Ulysses also lets me set goals for myself that appear as an unobtrusive ring in the upper right corner that quietly informs me of my progress. When I was writing The Total Manageability of Everything, I tried to set a goal of two thousand words per chapter, not because I thought that was the number I had to hit every time, but because I liked having the options to stringently obey my limitations or fly defiantly past them in a flurry of anti-authoritarian paragraphs.
I sat down with my notebook and re-wrote my entire novel from start to finish, grouping the pages into chapters and sections. Now, when I need to post a new chapter online, I can just pull up the document from the print edition, tap HTML in the Export menu, and have fully-formatted text ready to go for my website.
There's a folder I keep in Ulysses called "Ideas & Fragments" that serves as my own personal treasure trove of writing prompts, little quotations I found while reading, short story ideas, character vignettes and all the other trappings of a writer's notebook. At any time, I can open one of these documents and start fleshing out ideas.
I write exclusively with ink or on my iPad, no computers, but sometimes I need to write something down and I don't have it with me. Ulysses runs on iPhones as well, and keeps everything in sync across the two devices. I can pick up where I left off and put it down when I feel like it, knowing that everything is safe and secure on redundant servers scattered around the country.
Ulysses costs ￼24.99￼ in the App Store, but it allowed me to turn my words on a page into a real, physical ￼print￼ of my work and remains an indispensable part of my regular writing routine. The Soulmen did not pay me anything to write this, and I don't expect anything from them in return for doing so.