Wise Workflows. Anthony Bonds Ponders
I’d like to take a moment to talk about workflow. I acknowledge that “workflow” is a fairly boring word, ranking somewhere up there with “synergy” and “TPS reports.” But when it comes to finding the right tools to suit your writing needs, an elegant workflow can save you time and frustration.
I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to technology. I do my best to stay wary of investing too much faith in mechanical systems, but there’s actually quite a bit of technology out there that makes writing dramatically easier. So for better or worse, I tend to embrace technology as long as it helps my writing—even if we are soon in for a Terminator-like robot apocalypse.
There are three major components to my workflow. The first, as you might guess, is my computer (computers really, a desktop and a laptop). The second component is Scrivener, an excellent word processor and file management program that helps me keep my notes, research, and manuscripts organized, particularly when writing a novel. All of my Scrivener files are automagically synced to the third component of my workflow, Dropbox, a simple but powerful program for writers who work on various computers. Because I bounce back and forth between writing on my laptop and my desktop, Dropbox helps me keep my scribbles safe in the cloud.
I promise I don’t work for any of these companies—though I’m open to receiving endorsements if anyone reading this article is interested. This is simply the setup that works for me.
One caveat I’ll mention about incorporating new gadgets into your workflow is this: don’t do it unless you have the time to invest in learning to operate a new program or device.
For example, when I first picked up Scrivener, I found there was a bit of a learning curve. I spent many precious writing hours tinkering with settings and trying to perfect my new virtual writing environment. But eventually everything clicked and I’m glad I took the time to invest in learning the new software.
For another, more recent example, I recently procured a much longed-for iPad in hopes that it would be my new go-to solution for portable writing. As a matter of fact, I was really looking forward to being able to say that I wrote this very article on my iPad. I gave it the old college try, but using the iPad’s on-screen keyboard turned out to be a problem for me. For home-key qwerty purists like me, the device’s keyboard is good for little more than short text messages.
And then there is the problem of finding an iPad app that will seamlessly integrate with my current Scrivener/Dropbox workflow. As of this writing, I have not found one that functions exactly how I want it to.
Cue headache. I’ve whiled away whole afternoons of perfectly good writing time trying to force a square iPad into my round workflow. For today, I’m giving up on it. Tomorrow… we’ll see.
Writers tend to have strong opinions about how best to go about getting words onto the page. Each writer has her own rituals, rationales, and technologies of choice. Some writers like SDWI’s own Judy Reves, as well as Joyce Carol Oates, prefer to write first drafts by hand. On the far end of the techno-savvy spectrum are those writers in Japan who crank out novels on their phones via text messaging.
Whatever your writing workflow is, I would suggest always being open-minded to how new methods and technologies might help you improve your productivity. Just be careful not to put the cart before the horse when it comes to new writing toys. There’s no better tool for productivity than self-discipline.
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Anthony Bonds is the author of The Moonflower King, and is a member of Calypso Editions. Having earned his MFA in fiction from San Diego State University, he has worked as an editor and designer in publishing since 2008 and lives in San Diego with his wife. You can read his blog at www.anthonybonds.com.
He is also included in A Year in Ink, Vol. 5 and recently chosen to be the prose editor for the upcoming A Year In Ink, Vol. 6.