Neil Gaiman writes all of his books with a pen and a notepad. George R.R. Martin famously uses a very old version of WordStar running on DOS on a PC. There is no one solution, no one-size-fits-all system, that all writers could use because everyone works differently.
I have always favoured word processors over writing by hand ever since I became a journalist, 25 years ago. This is partly because my hand-writing is awful and partly because I find the process of writing with a pen to be laborious in the extreme. I have always enjoyed typing on a computer screen.
I’ve been a Mac user since 1992 and I’ve tried many pieces of software on my Macs over the years. I have discovered, however, that the more stripped-down the software, the better I get along with it. I have found that specialist tools like Scrivener are no good for me because I get distracted by the framework of a book when I should be simply putting words on paper.
I first bought iA Writer in 2011. I read a review that said it was distraction-free software and that appealed to me. Since then lots of similar applications have come along (such as OmmWriter, Ulysses and Byword) and I have tried all of them, but iA Writer remains my favourite.
The software works using the Markdown formatting syntax. To make a heading you type a hash (#), to create an ordered list you just precede the words with a dash. The point is that you think about the words you’re writing, not which font they’re in.
iA Writer has a couple of features that I really love. Firstly, it looks sensational in fullscreen mode. The white paper and black text works brilliantly with the font the software uses. Secondly the Focus Mode fades out all but the sentence you’re currently writing and keeps that sentence in the centre of the screen so you don’t have to scroll up or down. The idea is to stay in the zone and put one word after another.
If you are looking for software that takes away the technical side of software and gives you only a stripped down and elegant enviroment, then look no further. Cast off the shackles of Microsoft Word and rediscover the simple joy of writing – not word processing.