I was asked over on the Twitterz which writing programs I used, and what music I listen while using them. That is not a question to be answered in 140 characters. But I’ll answer succinctly as I can.
Taking the second question first, I have a long playlist on Rdio, called ‘Writing’, which consists of a couple of hundred jazz songs I cribbed from the Blue Note 75 app. (Get it, if you’re a jazz or blues fan). It’s great background music. I had it on today while writing Saturday’s column.
If I want something to drive me along a little, I’ll create a playlist of about a dozen albums to roll through the day. Nothing heavy enough to break my concentration, but not aural wallpaper like the jazz list. A random sampling from the artists I might normally program: The Double X, Velocity Girl, Flight Facilities, Kate Miller-Heike, Death Cab for Cutie, RAC, Juliana Hatfield, Angus and Julia Stone, Real Estate, Jamiroquai, The Concretes, Minor Alps, 10 000 Maniacs, Camera Obscura, Blake Babies, The Waifs, Liz Phair, Sea of Bees, First Aid Kit.
Cafe music, I guess. Which works well with that Coffitivity app I have to generate the sounds of a cafe in the background.
With the playlist set, it’s down to work.
There are four main programs I write in.
Dragon Dictate - for dictation, natch. Although I found I used this less with The Dave series because the last major update borked the program for me.
Pages - which is my utility word processor, for throwing out columns, blogs, features and so on. I love its elegance and simplicity. I did use it to compose the first draft of the Hooper manuscripts, because the iPad version syncs beautifully with the desktop, meaning I could work on the books away from home. Being able to access the documents via iCloud almost meant Murph could work on them at the same time. But Pages file management system is arse. As I generated more and more files, it became increasingly difficult to manage them by Apple’s preferred method - tags. I still use Pages every day, but not so much for manuscript work now.
Scrivener - the crack cocaine of writer apps. I took this up over the summer. I’d been meaning to for years, because its users are addicts who swear by the program. I could and probably should write an entire blog on Scrivener alone. For now though, I’ll just say, it works well for a working writer. The document management and structuring functions are first class. It is especially good at allowing me to keep a firm whip hand hovering over the structure of a long story arc. I don’t go that deeply into all of the apps capabilities. There is a trap for young players in which you spend more time managing your metadata than writing actual copy. But if you're looking for a writing app which gives you a God-like top-down view of your manuscript and granular scene-by-scene control, then this is your app.
Word - What can I say? Every publishing house uses Word because every publishing house uses Word. When it comes time to submit the draft, there is no avoiding it. This also means that redrafting and final edits are also done in Word, often on my iPad outside the house. I like to think the change of scenery freshens me up.
Besides Coffitivity I use iTranslate for, well, translation services. And Vitamin R for time tracking and management. It’s like a nuclear powered Pomodori app and I know that if I don’t open it first thing in the morning I will get a lot less writing done by the end of the day.
My research gets bundled into Evernote. I use the Dictionary.com app on my iPad for it's theasaurus, but a big hardback copy fo the MacQuarie Dictionary for spelling and meaning. There are a bunch of specialist writer apps on my pad that are obscure enough, but interesting enough, that I will do them separately.