Ulysses | My (almost) Dream Writing App #ThingThursday

Dear Lauren,

What the F is #ThingThursday?



Dear Everyone,

#ThingThursday is a Thing (heh) I made up to talk about Things I'm loving. Or Not loving. Thought it went nicely with #MondayMotivation #Tip Tuesday and #WriteTip Wednesday. 

You have to agree, because it's my blog.



Photo Cred :: Ulysses 

Photo Cred :: Ulysses 

Okay, so it was hard to pick what to talk about for my first ever #ThingThursday because I've been LOVING SO MANY THINGS. In fact, I wrote about a bunch of them here, before I decided to do theses nifty themed posts for days of the week.

But so I did some meditation (wine-drinking) and came up with the thing I'm loving most these days, because it's both beautiful AND functional.

It's a Mac and iPad App called Ulysses, and after years of being a writer, this is the closest I've come to Nirvana.

(and to all you non-writers, I PROMISE that not all of these will be writing related, but today it is)

Now, before you can fully understand the glory of Ulysses, you'll have to take a little journey with me. A backwards glance at the Perils of finding your perfect writer tools.

Let's go back to LL, age 24, A little bit chubbier, but with fewer gray hairs. This nubile (gross word, no?) Lauren had finally decided to get some balls and actually write after decades of dreaming about writing. She spent WAY too much money on an expensive notebook. Spent more money on an expensive pink pen. Because, HEMINGWAY, YO. Wrote down a couple of character names, followed by opening sentence. Put the notebook on a shelf somewhere and lost the pen.

Flash forward to LL, age 25. No more words had been written, but the itch was back big time. This older, still chubbier Lauren was wiser. The notebook was wildly romantic and even more impractical. Time to buckle down. Time to type the manuscript, and everyone knows there's only ONE THING to type out a story on: Microsoft Word. Write story start to finish. Fail to realize it's horrible because you barely reread it, much less edited it. Decide to give up writing forever when you learn it's not going to earn you millions.

LL, age 26. It's time to write again. This time, research has been done. There's a piece of software for Windows called WriteWayPro. It was amazing (it might still be amazing). Start to get excited about how much EASIER the writing process could be with an intuitive process. Get a promotion at "real job." Stop writing, because Day Job is Practical.

LL, age 27. Real job sucks. Determined to write a book and SELL IT, damn it. Seek out WriteWayPro, only to realize it's a Windows-based program, and you've since switched to a Mac. Google "WriteWayPro" alternative. Discover Scrivener. Realize it is amazing. Start book.

LL, age 28. Finish Book. Sell Book. Sell more books, and write them on Scrivener, because it's still the Best Thing Ever.

LL, Age 29. Now published. Also learn that New York publishers only work with Word Docs. Feel resentful, but continue to draft in Scrivener, even though you're forced to Edit in Word.

LL, Age 30. Start to get a little concerned that Scrivener doesn't have any iCloud sync/back up. Find the whole "sync with external drive" process tedious. Cease to find a better alternative, and keep on, keeping on, because Scrivener claims a cloud solution and iPhone app is in work.

LL, Age 31. Officially fed up with Scrivener. No cloud solution in sight, it's feeling clunkier than ever, and reliance on your laptop's hard drive seems Old School. Reluctantly switch to Pages, which is lovely and is always backed up to the cloud.  Remember that trying to wrangle an 80k document to do anything is HARD.

LL, Age 32. Try once more, without much hope, to find a writing app that has Scrivener's organizational abilities without Scrivener's glut of other features that also has iCloud sync. Stumble upon Ulysses. Reluctantly give trial a shot. 

Fall in love. FOREVA' (or until the next best thing?)

Annnnd, that's where we are now. I'm still 32, still loving Ulysses.

Now for those of you newbs who can't figure out why we authors don't just write in Word (although, MANY do!), the benefit of dedicated writing programs is that they allow you to crate what is essentially a "folder" for your story, and then add "sheets/documents" to that folder. Those individual sheets are where you write your individual scenes. Most writing programs will display all of those scenes in a tidy list on the left hand side of your screen.

The benefit of this? Let's say that I'm on scene 24 and write something in that scene that I realize is going to impact "that one scene where Joey and Chandler get in a fight." In Word, you're only option is to scroll around until you find that spot, or to try a few different search terms until you find the spot that your'e looking for. And then you have to scroll around to get back to your original spot. Not a big deal, but both take up precious writing time, and for many of us, that's already in short supply.

With a program like Ulysses (or Scrivener, or Storyist), you can just click on that scene that you've labeled "Joey and Chandler Fight," and ... you're there. Then when your'e done making that update, you click back to the scene you were working on before.

Another reason these individual scene "sheets' are clutch is when it comes time to rearranging things. Let's say that you realize it makes more sense for the first kiss to happen before that ferry ride to the San Juan Islands. In Word, you have to go find the section you want. Select it, generally make a mistake on what you've selected, and have to start over ... then you cut ... then you have to scroll around to the place you want to insert it. Then you paste it in. Only you've probably accidentally placed it in the wrong spot, so now you have to undo the action. And then you scroll some more ... by now you've lost place of where you are, you're not sure you're putting in the right place, and let's not forget that you now have to go and adjust all the chapter numbers, because you've re-ordered them.

With the writing apps, if you need to reorder something, you click on the scene you want to move. You drag the little icon up to where you want to insert it. And you're done.

Don't even get me started with authors who write scenes out of order. Try to do that in Word, and I pretty much guarantee a migraine.

Now this scene feature is in ALL of the writing apps. And honestly, it's really the only feature that I NEED in an app. Most of them have other stuff too. Outlines, notes, word count progress, character sketches, footnote sections, color coding, spot for research, note pads, cork boards, timelines, sticky notes.

All super cool, but I found it distracting. I am an outliner, but I prefer to do that part with pen/paper, so I didn't use it. I'd sometimes try to use the other features, but almost always, I found that that took away from my writing time.

That's what makes Ulysses my dream app. It has the feature that I MUST have ... this ability to have all my scenes in a book displayed on the left hand side so I can quickly view a list of everything I've worked on, and edit/move as necessary.

Ulysses gets extra bonus points because it also has a three pane view option-- so you can see a list of ALL your book projects on the far left. You click one, and the next pane to the right will update to show all the "sheets/scenes" in that book. You click one of those scenes, and the content (words) show up in the editor.

Scrivener does a LOT of things that Ulysses can't, but Ulysses does one thing that Scrivener can't, and it's the most important one:

Back-up to iCloud. 

If your laptop gets run over by a bus, you can go get a new laptop, download Ulysses, log-on with your Apple ID, and it's ALL RIGHT THERE. 

(I also double-back up my stuff to DropBox, which Ulysses also makes super easy).

Ulysses also has an iPad app that I haven't used, but there's apparently an iPhone app in the works, and I'm going to be ALL OVER THAT.

Intrigued? Comment below and let me know what writing app you're using -- and if you're interested in me doing a tutorial of how I use Ulysses, let me know that to! I'm happy to, just don't want to spend the time putting it together if the interest isn't there.



Lauren Layne

New York, NY, USA

USA Today Bestselling Author & Lifestyle Blogger.