I’m in the middle of editing Act I and I’m finding to be a lot of work. I mean, I guess it’s not really harder than I thought it would be, I always knew it would be a lot of work, but now it’s real and I’m in the middle of it.
I use an editor called Sublime Text to do all of my writing and editing. It gives me a nice folder tray on the left where I can hop from chapter to chapter. It can do basic spell checking. It also does a word count on the bottom, and estimates reading time. The word count plugin didn’t work the way I wanted it to so I pulled down the WordCount from GitHub and modified it. I wanted the page count to be estimated by a words_per_page integer instead of being dictated by the size of the editor window, which is how it worked before.
As I’ve mentioned before, I edit my prose in MarkDown but I may switch to asciidoc as many have done before. From the MarkDown I can generate HTML using MultiMarkDown, an enhanced syntax for MarkDown. Once I have HTML, I can generate anything from epub, mobi, pdf, etc.
Should I Break Down and Purchase Scrivener?
Just about everyone I meet recommends that I just go by Scrivener and say goodbye to my homegrown toolchain. I’m still resisting this! I want to see if I can take the book all the way to publication using the tools I’m using. I don’t want to give up yet. I really hate proprietary formats. Plain text is timeless and valuable.
Anyway, if I get picked up by a publisher then I think they will take the manuscript the final mile in terms of formatting so I will not need to worry about it. If I go the self-publishing route, which is more likely, I may run into technical barriers that will force me to use tools that are proven to work.
One thing I’ve found is my need to reorder scenes. On my second pass I found that I prematurely wrote a climactic scene: a scene that was in the middle of Act I should have been the conclusion of Act I. After that scene I had to finish off that part of the story and I struggled because I found myself making things up that didn’t really add to the story. Changing the order of things is tedious using my tools because I have to physically copy and paste content between chapter files. If I need a new chapter, which I haven’t so far, my toolchain can accept adding an “a”, “b”, “c”, etc. to the end of the filename. That is: harvester_chap01a.md. The make tool orders that file after 01 and before 02 so I’m cool. When I am done with each draft, I’ll go and do the permanent renumbering.
Git Version Control
I’m totally digging using git for version control. Here you see I have a draft1 branch and a draft 2 branch. I love that I can go back and look at the book exactly as it was at the finish of draft 1. I never get emotionally tied to words as I edit. If it’s not working, it’s gone. If I later feel I found a place for a previously ditched passage, I can always go and find it.
Spelling and Grammar Checking
Spelling and Grammar checking are primitive in Sublime. I couldn’t find a good command-line utility either. I tried using ispell, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was taking this command-line shit too seriously. So I fired up Microsoft Word for the Mac, pasted in my chapter, reviewed the spelling and grammar recommendations, and made necessary edits in Word. When I was done, I copy/pasted the resulting prose back into Sublime. QED.
One thing I like about working on the second draft is the focus I’m putting on the characters themselves. I’m starting to flesh out each character a lot more. As the story unfolded in the first draft, my idea for who a character was had changed from my original vision. So, in the second pass I’m aligning the characters to be truer to the final vision I had for them. This way, their actions later in the book are more consistent with the way I introduce them.
Of course, it’s always nice when a character surprises you.