Mark This Down for Future Use
How about some practical content? Lately my blog post topics have often centered on my writing career, or my thoughts on things affecting other writers. However, among my most popular blog posts are those with practical information. No surprise, right? So that's what this blog post is about: Practical content for writers who are ready to step away from their bloated "word processing" software and use basic tools to focus on the story rather than the presentation. Yes, this means I'm harping about Markdown and text editors again, but this time I'm handing out more than advice. This time, you get tools you can use!
Before you get started writing your next novel using Markdown, you'll want a basic text editor, i.e., the software you'll do your writing in. There are many options, but who wants to take time to evaluate software when you have a book to write? So find your platform and just download the free editor I recommend below. (You can always change later.) There are some online services that allow you to write directly in your browser, but for now I recommend starting with software that you install on your computer or mobile device.
- Linux: gedit (GNOME users), Kate (KDE users), emacs (everyone else)
- Android: Droid Edit
- Windows: Notepad++
- OS X: Sublime Text (check out the Distraction Free mode)
A couple caveats: I use the Pro version of Droid Edit and if you can spare the low purchase price then I recommend ditching the ads and using the Pro version yourself. Also, I have not used Sublime Text at all, but it looks good. The last time I used OS X (several years ago), the text editor I used was Smultron, which is not free now. I've never used iOS at all, and could not find a free editor that seemed useful.
After you open your text editor, you'll be looking at a blank screen. Now what? Well, rather than explain Markdown and hope that you make the leap to writing your own document, I created a Markdown skeleton for a novel. Don't start with that blank screen, start with the rough structure of a novel and then fill in your own content. That novel skeleton has it's own page here: A Markdown Skeleton (As you'll see, that page even has an e-book generated from the skeleton.)
Wouldn't it be terrible to have your hard drive crash and lose your novel? Or have all of your personal data, including your novel, held for ransom by malware that encrypts it and demands payment to decrypt it? Or to make a bunch of mistakes while writing something and want to be able to go back to an earlier version, but not have a copy of it from before those mistakes?
All that anguish can be avoided by storing your Markdown novel files in a folder that is automatically synchronized, with versions, to the cloud. I recommend Dropbox or SpiderOak, both should serve you well and will allow you to "go back in time" if something bad happens to your novel files.
What Are You Waiting For?
I did not give you any hardware, so you'll need to provide your own computing device, but other than that I've given you enough tools to write your next book using Markdown. When you're finally done with the story itself, you can use the Markdown files to create Word files, ePUB files, and more. Get going, those words aren't going to write themselves!