Others hold out for writing the first draft. I think that is particularly true for those of us who define ourselves as pantsers. The fun part is figuring out what the story is, which we usually do by writing it.
But the other day I figured out my real favorite part of writing: The thinking part.
I was lying in bed, and began to work out in my head how a story was supposed to work. I got it figured out, and then I got up, made coffee, fed cats, had breakfast, and sat down at the computer. It was like pulling teeth to get myself to write it up.
I’m not a lazy lie-abed. I walk everywhere, partly because I frequently do great thinking while walking. Often I create a complete scene and repeat it to myself enough to remember it.
Then I get where I’m going and confront the reality that I have to write the damn thing down.
Figuring the story or the essay out is the fun part. Everything else is work.
Back in the distant past, before alphabets and paper, the storytellers and thinkers did the work in their heads and then told them to others. I’m sure there was work involved with that as well – I suspect they practiced and that they refined their stories and lectures over time – but it was work done mostly in one’s head.
But then the Sumerians – as I recall it – came up with writing things down, and since then we’ve had to struggle with the work of writing. Since humans are inventors, we’ve created a plethora of writing and publishing tools over time, leading up to today’s amazing world in which we have machines and software that can do almost everything.
Most writers have strong opinions about writing tools. Some only write with fountain pens on legal pads. Others swear by word processing software of the past – Word Star or Word Perfect. I’m sure there are a few writers who still use a typewriter.
A lot of people use the latest fancy writing software. Scrivener gets the most praise these days. It apparently has places for storing your research and saving your chapters separately (which probably works better for outliners than it does for pantsers).
Me, I use a reasonably current version of MS-Word, partly because that makes it easy to send the story out to beta readers and editors and partly out of inertia. It works. I used to save everything in RTF back when some operating systems did not speak kindly to others even when both purportedly ran Word, but these days I find that anything saved as a doc file can usually be opened by someone else.
I gave up writing by hand as soon as I learned to type, replaced my old manual typewriter with a correcting electric one when I could afford it, and got my first computer for writing purposes in 1983. But right now I’m fine with basic Word once I remember how to take out the automatic grammar correct (which is usually wrong) and automatic spelling correct (which is usually right but distracting) and just write.
I might try Scrivener or one of its kin if I do a nonfiction project where I’m going to want to keep close watch on my sources for the bibliography and footnotes. But for most stories and essays, basic word processing suffices.
But it still doesn’t solve the pesky problem of having to write the damn stuff down.
I suppose I could try dictating. The software that translates dictation to the written word has improved over the years. But that still involves translating the ideas from my mind into sentences with punctuation and proper grammar.
When is someone going to come up with an app that takes my thinking directly from my brain and puts it on the page? That’s the writing tool I want.