Stephenson Holt Author

Fonts, Podcasts and Writing Software

Like most authors, I guess, I listen to a few podcasts about writing and the traits of other authors. When asked to recommend I always say that I’ve tried a number, deleted most from my phone but stuck with two that I’ve loved and listened to from episode 1 to present day.

The Taylor Stevens Show – listened to episodes 1 to 280 as of today where Taylor explains how to write, edit, re-edit but in minute detail. Listening to one of these podcasts always makes me return to my work in progress with fresh ideas in my head. #280 is entitled “The importance of character voice,” and as both my work in progress jumps between six female characters as does it’s predecessor, being edited at the same time, so a need to distinguish between the six women became even more paramount.

Writer’s Routine with Dan Simpson. Dan interviews a current, published author each week and asks them about where they write, how they write and why they write. I’m always jealous of described office setups and do most of my own writing between 5.00AM and 8.00AM while laying in bed writing on an iPad. For a full interview of how “Arranged Marriage” was written by me you should go to the excellent author-interview blogpost by Christal A Cooper at her Blogspot.

Those are the two podcasts I subscribe to but I must also mention one now defunct, podcast, an 18 series show called The Invisible College. Cathy Fitzgerald made the series for BBC Radio 4 and the last episode went out in June 2017 and I have gone through the series four times so far and always learn something new. Basically, Cathy goes through the BBC archive looking for advice from famous writers, from Ted Hughes to Ray Bradbury, often the clips are humorous, always worth listening to.

In the Writer’s Routine Podcast the interviewed author is always asked what software they use and even what font they prefer. The answer on software is usually a one word answer and can be Word, Scrivener or Google Docs, probably in that order of preference.

My story is slightly more complicated and is dictated by my use of a Windows laptop, an iPad and an iPhone so, not really that compatible. My Windows laptop runs an outright purchased version of MS Office and I was happy to do all my work in Word and love the formatting stage and was savvy enough (because of a hobby of photography) to back everything up on an external hard drive. I purchased (on recommendation) an iPad version of Scrivener for £47.00 and tried it for a while but couldn’t at the time, see any benefits over the Word platform.

Then, in a day job, sat in an office, I was introduced to Dropbox. Happy days.

My personal Dropbox account allowed me to work on my laptop using Word documents in Dropbox, then download the Apps for Word and Excel onto my iPhone and iPad and that let me work on my manuscript on any of the three lumps of hardware, wherever I was. My planning spreadsheet is on Excel so that suited also. The backup from Dropbox to laptop hard drive and external hard drive then became once or twice a week only.

All went well until Microsoft, in their wisdom, decided that even though I had a one-off purchased version of Office on my laptop, if I wanted to open and edit a Word or Excel file on my iPad or iPhone, I would have to pay them a monthly fee. No.

An alternative was needed. Scrivener was resurrected on the iPad and this time I went through the tutorial and learned how to use it properly. Scrivener is now my tool of choice for a first draft (I’m using it now) keeping each chapter separate from others, emailing each finished chapter to myself for storage on laptop and hard drive (in Word format) and for eventually compiling all chapters together at the end of the first draft. I have found, over two novels that I have the ability to move things about on the pinboard, like chapter two needs to be chapter one, renamed, and chapter sixteen actually happens before thirteen so move the card on the pinboard and it all happens in the eventual compiled version.

I recently listened to author Abigail Mann who wrote The Sister Surprise on the Writer’s Routine Podcast and she described backing up Scrivener files to a hard drive, losing her originals and only then finding out that she’d been backing up a blank template. Having followed her on Instagram I was able to DM her with the following advice :-

At any time, but specifically on finishing a chapter or the edits to a chapter, find on your iPad the little file icon, bottom right, with an arrow sticking out of the top of it. File Out. When touched it gives you choices, choose “Send A Copy” and you get more choices of which format you want it in. In my instance it’s Word, touch Word and you get yet more choices, including Dropbox if you have it, or Mail. I choose Mail, my email opens, the Word file is attached and I can send a copy to myself.

Every now and again, go into your emails, click on the files, Save As and direct them to your preferred hard drive folder to be a new chapter or to replace a previous edit. THEN BACK THAT FOLDER UP ONTO AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE.

She was grateful and sent a nice message back.

Something else I found from the Scrivener tutorial was the ability to have all researched documents in a Research sub folder so that once you are in the main Scrivener novel file you have all your chapters and all your research, all in one place.

So, I have a complete version of a first draft in Scrivener but do not have a separate version of Scrivener on my laptop (extra purchase) so what to do. Having sent all the chapters and finally the compiled version of the first draft in Word format, it would seem logical to start editing in Word. Except, that would limit me to the laptop so Microsoft loses out again. Google docs was my researched choice, downloaded onto my iPad and became the perfect free tool for editing. Edit chapter one, send the whole compiled novel to myself by email in Word format, edit chapter two, send that by email and so on, keeping copies of every update. You will note that Google Docs is as easy to back up as your Scrivener chapters.

After what seems to be a hundred edit runs, the finished-for-now product is kept on the laptop, in Word format, formatted for chapter headings and given an index that links to chapter headings and the whole lot is ready for either Beta readers and an editor or (more usually) Kindle Direct Publishing.

So not a one word answer then. Oh, nearly forgot. Font. I don’t know why but, after experimentation, my font of choice is Bookman Old Style that has more rounded characters than most fonts and makes it easier, for me, to spot bloopers. Not that I spot them all of course.

Nothing hand written I hear some of you exclaim. No notebooks? Well, I handwrite while journalling but that’s a bit different than novel writing. Journalling is not carried out on modern equipment and needs to use a different part of the brain entirely. I have a leather-bound book with a long, leather belt that wraps it twice and seals it closed. Inside the leather cover is hand-made paper and the paper is written on in fountain pen – a limited edition Conklin flexible nib pen. I feel the difference is necessary. Novels writing is for getting it down, polished and published, journalling is for posterity, for your old age or for those that come after you.

Note taking while walking, jogging, gardening, sitting about – Notability is a great App to have on your iPhone and notes can again be emailed to yourself.

If any of the above helps, changes your life or you disagree with anything I’ve said, please let me know.