Web/Tech Writing

Why is it so easy to write in Ulysses?

As anyone who’s listened or read me on the subject of writing knows, I’m very sceptical of word targets. It can be all too easy to fool yourself into thinking something’s working on the basis of a word count alone. Cutting the words you don’t need is as much a creative act as writing them in the first place. Equally, setting down words you don’t want — and will have to cut later — is the opposite of creativity.

That said I’m now a good way through my current novel, the third Pieter Vos title headed for 2016 publication. It’s the first book I’ve written in Ulysses and boy is it happening quickly.


Quick Ulysses tip — duplicating scenes

Here’s something that happens to me quite a lot. I map out the structure of a section of the story, with headings, keywords and a synopsis in comments in Ulysses (more detail on how to do that in Writing A Novel with Ulysses, plug, plug). But then when I get down to writing things start to change.

At some stage I’ll reach a scene which I still want but I need more from it. A bit of the original idea and something new. In other words this more than a single scene. Do you need to delete that original empty scene and synopsis and create two new ones? Not at all.

Just select the original scene then drag it holding down the Option key to where you want the extra scene to go in your narrative. You then get a copy of the original scene. Everything’s preserved so you can delete the parts you don’t want, add in new ones, and get to work without having to go through any repetitive reconstruction of the original.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.25.43

Just a little thing but it saves some tedious drudgery, which leaves more time for the hard stuff: writing.


Revising with Ulysses III — some simple techniques

Revision. I love it. My modus operandi these days is to chug ahead with a part of the book then, when it’s finished, give everything a thorough revise before proceeding further. This way I hope to avoid any dismal gotchas — ‘this could not have happened because of what you wrote on Page 182, idiot’. It also means I have a better feel for the story too, and where it’s headed.

So how do you revise? The standard advice — and I’ve given this in my books on writing too — is to turn on track changes in Word so that you lose nothing of the original then tear into your raw manuscript with gusto. The latter part is good practice always. The former… let me be honest. Yes, I use track changes in Word. But it’s mostly out of habit. I can’t remember the last time I went back and reintroduced something I’d previously deleted.

Ulysses doesn’t do track changes. So how do I approach it now? With a delightful and rather old-fashioned simplicity. Let me explain.


Setting up a joint climax — Ulysses in action

I wrote here the other day about how you can use Ulysses to read and edit non-consecutive scenes. Here’s an illustration of that in action from the book I’m writing now, the third in the Pieter Vos series (with you some time in 2016).

This is about halfway through the book when we’re heading for two different climaxes to a pair of story threads. They need to resolve issues raised in earlier scenes separated from the climax scenes by other action. It is much, much easier to deal with these though as if they were written consecutively.

So all I do is use Command-Click to choose the connecting scenes I want and that’s what I get — just the scenes I need. It’s a really efficient way to deal with what otherwise might be a complex task, and I also often find myself improving (hopefully) the earlier scenes I’ve written along the way.