As a writer and publisher, I take word processing software very seriously. You can, at a pinch, use a word processor for the whole publishing process. I know people who have done that, but it is not something that I would want to do. Word processing should be a process unencumbered by the niceties of presentation and, with the exception of Apple’s Pages, word processing programs rightly put more emphasis on presenting the author with his material in a form which is easy for him to manage, not in a form suitable for other readers. Pages, as I have said, is the exception and, in my opinion, is the worse for it.
There are word processors which go to the other extreme from Pages, emphasising content over form. Of these, I like Scrivener and Ulysses, particularly the latter with its ‘semantic text editing’. However, for continuous hard slog and the organisation (and re-organisation) of complex information, there is only one program. Microsoft Word? Pah – too gimmicky, too slow and too bossy (it always thinks it knows better than I do)! No, the answer is Nisus Writer Pro. It’s not the prettiest program I’ve ever seen (not that it’s ugly), but it’s very fast and it has all the really useful features for a serious writer.
Above is a screen shot from the draft manuscript of Beware of the Feast: The History of Robt. Jowitt & Sons, a 352-page book which I published last year. On the left is the table of contents which allows one to navigate easily between chapters and sections. And look at the text itself; I’ve highlighted an endnote marker and you’ll see that it shows me the text of that note. If I right-click on the marker, it will give me the option of going to the note (it will also let me do other things, such as convert it to a footnote). When I go to the note, I can right-click on the number to take me back to the relevant piece of text. With a thousand notes, this save a lot of time.
I’m now writing a crime novel called Isleworth Madonna in Nisus Writer Pro. It’s a pleasure to use, even in a crowded Starbucks with wonky tables which spill my triple-shot Americano worryingly close to my MacBook Air. I’ve spent years writing this novel but I notice it’s going much quicker since I changed to Nisus Writer Pro!
Although it is quite near to publication (anticipated Spring 2012), Peter Varey’s book on my uncle, P. V. Danckwerts, is still evolving and the subtitle has changed from ‘The Blitz, bomb disposal and beyond’ to ‘brave, shy, brilliant’. I have read an early draft of this book and think it is fascinating. How many people’s lives combine bomb disposal with an academic career as a Cambridge professor? Peter was, I believe, the only Fellow of the Royal Society to be awarded the George Cross.
Beware of the Feast: The History of Robt. Jowitt & Sons is finally out. It has taken me well over 18 months to write and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. It was great to have an excuse to revisit the University of Leeds which I left in 1980 after completing an MA in Bibliography & Textual Criticism. I spent a lot of time in the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library which holds a large collection of Robt. Jowitt & Sons archive material.