Posted on March 5th, 2012
The entire draft manuscript of the Enough book was written using PlainText for iPad and iPhone by Hog Bay Software. Most of this work happened on the iPad but two initial essay drafts occurred on the iPhone as it was what I had available at the time. Sometimes, my writing brain decides to start working at times when my preferred tool is not at hand. I wish it cared about me more than that but it is a very selfish muse.
I decided on using the iPad and iPhone exclusively for this book a couple of weeks before I actually started writing the first essays. I had long wanted to experiment with the iPad as a tool for long-form and long-term writing and this provided the right opportunity.
I especially wanted to challenge myself to use only the onscreen keyboard. Could I have worked faster using a physical keyboard? Perhaps. That said, I am likely more comfortable than most using the iPad software keyboard. I theorize that this is because I never learned how to touch type. I’m a fairly fast two-finger typist or, as I frequently say, hunt-and-pecker. This being said, I certainly cannot type as quickly on the onscreen keyboard as I can on a real keyboard. In this instance, I found this to be of benefit as the further effort spurred longer thought and greater attention to detail about what I was trying to say and thus, I hope, a better book.
I took some time to decide on the best app to use for this purpose. The requirements for me were that it had to work on both iPad and iPhone, it had to use plain text files for its storage, and it had to synchronize with the desktop in some manner. There are many that fit that list. I chose PlainText mainly because I enjoyed its interface more that the rest, it allowed me to organize files into folders, and it synchronized using Dropbox, the excellent cross-platform file syncing solution. Therefore, all of my work would be easily available to me on all of my devices. Also, Dropbox has its own cloud-based storage with versioning; this provided a feeling of added security.
Once the initial drafts were complete, I imported the resulting text files into a wonderful program called Scrivener. I had tried it many times in the past but never quite took to it. As someone who was used to writing straight to plain text files, it seemed a bit overkill to me. It also struck me notably as something that was more designed for those who write chapter-based fiction. Therefore, it did not seem like the right fit for a short-form essayist like me.
Then, at some point as I was struggling over structure and building the scaffolding that would allow me to start to make this collection of files and supporting research into a book, I decided to give it more than the skeptical try that I had before. I read a few posts with suggestions on how to get started and watched a few of the many video tutorials. I’m glad I did, because it quickly dawned on me that Scrivener is the perfect tool for any writer who wants not only a decent writing tool but also a way to organize the various and sundry stuff that surrounds and bolsters the work itself.
Overall, I would say that this experiment was a success. The next person who tells you the iPad and iPhone could never be used for serious work, feel free to point them to this book. That is not to say that this method would work for everyone, but it certainly proved enough for me.