From George R. R. Martin and his love of WordStar to Stephen King's first draft of Dreamcatcher written with a fountain pen, we all have our own ways of getting the words out of our heads and onto the page. My friend Kevin Schwartz is in the process of fulfilling his lifelong dream of writing a novel, and after speaking with him about it, I asked him if he'd be interested in writing a few words about his process. As a busy guy with two young children and a demanding full-time job, he's come up with a system that works really well for his lifestyle.
Kevin Schwartz, 2014
A year or so ago, after decades of being a fairly avid reader, I ventured into the world of writing. What, at the age of fifty, possessed me to jump into the deep end of life? I wish I had a compelling story, like a flash of lightning delivering an inspirational message from a superior being. The boring truth is, I thought it would be cool to write a book, to be an author. This notion gained steam as I found myself thinking, while trudging through some mediocre books, I can write a better story than this.
Choosing a medium for development became a priority. I have a laptop at home, but it's a family computer, monopolized by my kids' game playing. I wanted something portable and lightweight. I didn't want to be schlepping around a laptop. I'm someone who, when flying cross country for a week- long trip, will stuff all my clothes into a duffle bag I can carry onboard. Simplicity is a key factor in most decisions I make. I went with an iPad Mini. Depending upon the pants - jeans, most shorts: No; cargo pants, dress pants: Yes - it fits in my pocket. since my iPad is always with me, i'm always ready to write. Short bursts of writing time add up. Waiting for an oil change, a doctor to see you, even a red light to turn green while driving, are opportunities to get some words in. When at home, I do my writing in my recliner in my bedroom, often with music piping through headphones.
A friend of mine, accomplished author William Esmont, turned me on to some writing apps. WriteRoom is my world for content development. There are other iOS writing apps, like Pages and My Writing Desk, but for pure blank-slate, full screen, chapter organized, development, WriteRoom is great. It has an I-can't-live-without feature, something the other iOS apps don't have, which is DropBox integration. My only couple of wish list items I'd like to see incorporated are Emphasis support (italics, bolding, ...) and a searching capability. Another useful app is SimpleMind+, which is a visual mind mapping tool.
My productivity increased greatly after purchasing a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad Mini. The out-of-the-box internal keyboard has two major deficiencies. The first is that the keys are too close together, making it impossible to place your fingers onto the home row. You're forced into the old hunt and peck, one or two finger, style of typing. I progressed to the point where I was typing fairly quickly, but not nearly as quickly (or eloquently) as on a more traditional keyboard. The second shortcoming associated with intensive typing on the iPad Mini keyboard is comfort. With the keyboard physically part of the monitor, there are two basic options: prop up the device on one of the several iPad mini cases which double as a stand. This could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, as your wrists aren't properly supported. Option number two, lying the device flat on its back, results in an inferior viewing experience - looking downward is more taxing on your neck than looking straight ahead, as you're afforded with upright monitors.
I imagine experienced and published writers are authoring away in productive and comfortable writing environments, using sophisticated tools like Scrivener and Microsoft Word, working on desktops, laptops, or large-screened tablets such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. This is likely the domain of veterans, and admittedly a preferable platform for serious writing. If my first book takes off, enabling me to quit my day job as a Software Engineer, I would setup an office in my home, for a more advanced experience. For now, though, I'm doing just fine with my iPad Mini.