Well, I have finally turned in the last document for my new book, The Hidden Power of Blend Modes. That’s quite a milestone, and while there’s work yet to be done, I thought I’d document the process while I still remember some of it.One element I wanted to share was my work flow. It’s not of much interest to the majority of folks, but I figure there are common elements to all writing projects, so to other writers out there, this is for you! As with virtually everything I write, this is just a snapshot of what’s working for me right now and so is meant to be a perspective, nothing more. And this will also serve as kind of a ‘lessons learned’ document for myself. Yes, I made notes along the way for the next project 😉
So, I wrote the entire thing on a 2009 Macbook Pro, from the proposal through final draft. That includes all the Photoshop work (I know, right?). For the sharp among you, you’ll realize that includes CS6 Extended. And since I’m nervous about changing much while in the middle of a project, I also did it on OS 10.6, rather than updating the operating system. After everything is settled, I will upgrade, but I didn’t want to chance little things changing along the way.
Oh, and I also did more than 90% of the work in a recliner in my living room. Yes, really. And, yes: I need to get back to the gym. Thanks for asking.
Aside from the laptop, I relied heavily on my Wacom. I started with an Intuos4, but made the final editing push with an Intuos5 and the wireless kit. Rock. The touch feature alone is worth the upgrade. I’ll have another post reviewing it, but let me sum up for you: Get it.
My suite of software consists of the following:
Scrivener 2 is this amazing writing application. It’s really aimed at fiction writers, but is very flexible. I’ve seen examples of people using it for scholarly work, screen writing, speeches, etc. The only real limit is you. I used it for development of the concept, writing the proposal, and organizing all the bits of my book. In fact, I only switched to Word so I could submit filled-out templates to my publisher. I could easily have written everything inside of Scrivener, then only exported for page layout. I love writing in it, and I only use 1/10th of its capability and power. Currently, I’m using it along with Evernote to coordinate marketing for the book.
You probably already know about MS Word. I used the Mac version, and while it did its job, I can’t say I’m really thrilled with it. My publisher sent me a template for the page layout, which did have some nice features. This made tagging certain kinds of content easy, but also presented some unexpected problems. For example, if you happen to delete an element of formatting, it doesn’t always come back easily by using Undo commands, or reapplying the format preset. I frequently had to start a new template and enter content by hand, since even copying from the clipboard caused all manner of nonsense to happen. Still, if you can just fill in the blanks, it works pretty well.
The two screenshot apps I used were Layers App and Snaps Pro (Ambrosia Software). Each of these serve different purposes. Layers let me target a specific active window, like the Layer Panel in Photoshop, along with dialog boxes. When I needed selection control, I used Snapz Pro. Both have unique advantages, so I went between them frequently. Layers has the advantage of giving you layered PSD-ready files, which as awesome for capturing lots of information all at once, which you can then filter and manipulate. When that gets to be overkill, go with Snapz Pro. One of my favorite things about Snapz Pro is that it remembers the location and size of your last capture – a serious boon when showing progress in a specific area of the screen.
Finally, I used Dropbox and Cyber Duck for file transfers. Dropbox saved my can quite a bit. Many of my guest writers used it to share their source files and tips, and I used it here and there to communicate with my editing team. It’s easy, and the basic version is free. Best of all, you can sync multiple machines and use collaborative features where ever you have access to the web. Cyber Duck is a free and amazingly useful FTP application for the Mac. It’s straightforward, and supports bookmarks, as well as history. This turns your FTP experience almost into a browsing experience. You can throttle uploads, and check download locations. Did I mention it’s free? Be sure to donate, though!
There you have it – how I was able to bring together all the pieces of my book from a comfy chair.