Writers, much like programmers, often take a perverse pride in using the most low-tech methods to do their work. Hand-coding 10,000 lines on Notepad? You’re a MAN. Writing your whole novel on the backs of paper napkins with lipstick? MACHO MAN.
So I might as well tell you I’m a little girl in pigtails by that standard. I work in the most haphazard fashion imaginable. I have a notebook slowly filling up with thoughts, little notes, character sketches, drawings (I use the word in its most liberal sense) and whole scenes. My word processing machine has a bunch of different text files for thoughts, notes, character sketches and whole scenes. I have a text file containing thoughts, little notes, character sketches and whole scenes. There’s a collection of little text files generated by an excellent piece of software I use, YWriter, containing… more of the same. And I couldn’t live without any of these.
Sometimes I dream of being a spiffy, organised writer. For this, I would need to have spiffy, organisational writing softare that would simultaneously update all the files on my computer, word processor and my notebooks. (Just go with me here.) here’s how it would be organised. I’d get a list of character names at the side of my screen at all times. Remembering those pesky names is the worst – even my main characters’ last names change from chapter to chapter, and don’t even ask about middle names or minor characters. I tried to rectify this once by giving my characters names that mean something – you know, Greek and Latin roots and all that – but I ended up with stuff like “Migan” and “Persephone”. Stuff I could never type with a straight face.
Anyway. So, list of character names showing on screen (or page) at all times. Now, I don’t want archives. For God’s sake, don’t store 20 different versions of the same scene “just in case”, all stamped by date and time – this is the one annoying thing about YWriter, especially if you tend to edit yourself a lot. I was two chapters into the novel and the folder was 600KB! Two past versions and one current is plenty.
Plus, I want multiple editable fields – not just the part where I’m actually writing the scene, but little boxes all over for notes that constantly pop up in your head. Oh, and the software must MAKE me file the notes away in an appropriate spot (so it shows up when I’m working on the chapter it refers to, say) immediately. Otherwise that’s just another random note lost.
And while we’re wishing, can I ask for thought-activated writing? All bigtime writers talk about the novel “writing itself”, and I’m beginning to think this is the only way I’ll ever now what that‘s about.
Do I see a magic wand in the crowd..?