Clay Not Prose

“First go from fingers is not prose, it's clay.”

When I read this line recently, I immediately grabbed it. I love the way it immediately reframes the writing proposition, while setting a vision of what a written piece is at the outset.

As an emerging writer (based on long-standing filmmaking experience), I hoover up everything I can on writing approach and technique.

I know this to be true: no film can stand without a strong internal structure. Some people call it the ‘architecture’ of a film.

I believe the same to be true for books.

The hard part is finding that structure at the outset. To take those first flashes of inspiration and get them down into a form, where the clay pot (to allude to the opening quote) starts to take shape.

As some of you know, I’m a geek at heart. What’s the point of technology if it doesn’t serve purpose?

In writing, I think there are two basic approaches to the actual writing bit:

  • Draft writing: hammering the keys/longhand (with love) as mind to page happens.
  • The noodling/structuring bit as a work is put into an ‘argument’. I’ll use the term ‘argument’ loosely here.

For shorter pieces – like this one – I’m hard put to find a better tool than Ulysses. To fire up a draft, get it down on page, get out of the way while I write yet be organised enough to find and work with stuff down the line (including WordPress publishing) it’s pretty-near perfect.

The downside? It’s a subscription – roughly around $5 per month. And for Mac.

Worth it for me? Without a shadow of a doubt. The plan for Brilliantio and Bestseller Courses is to have two blogs that form the cornerstone of all the content and products (courses, programs, coaching, etc) we put out.

I’ve long looked for the perfect writing solution, and the latest iteration of Ulysses looks like it.

However…where does that leave the long form stuff? The eBooks, especially.

For anything over about 2,000 words, I don’t think that anything beats Scrivener. I’ve used it for many years as an aid to putting documentary film scripts together.

The way it enables an overview of structure and rapid moving around of the ‘blocks’ in a long work is unmatched. The latter is important in order sometimes to discover the optimum structure in a piece of work.

The problem with Scrivener is that all too often you get into mucking around with fine detail and formatting while writing – despite its Composition mode. The temptation to dive into editing while writing is all too great.

Which is why these days Scrivener for me is more of an editing tool rather than a first draft tool. Write the drafts first in Ulysses, and then port them over to Scrivener at the stage the serious editing and structuring needs to happen.

Leaving…long form ideation and milestones. For me, there’s no substitute for mind mapping. But I’ll leave that for another day!


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