This is the first in a series of posts where I will be outlining the workflow and tools I use to write my book – from initial idea, through research, writing and finally revising.
For this post I want to concentrate on a remarkable little application called Day One.
Day One is available for the Mac, iPad and iPhone. It is not available for Windows or the Android operating system (although I believe that the developers are working on an Android version). There are alternatives out there, especially for Android such as Diaro which is available for both iOS and Android. So this article might give you some ideas how you might use these other apps to fit into your digital workflow.
So what is Day One?
At its heart Day One is a simple journal or diary app. You can add one or more entries for each day using either plain text or Markdown (a system of syntax shortcuts to add styling to plain text writing). Each entry is added to what Day One calls a timeline. Within each entry you can add geolocation information, photos either from your own library or direct from a camera on an iPhone, iPad or webcam. You can add tags to help organise your entries, mark individual entries as favourites and also add weather information if you wish.
“Day One is an extremely powerful app which I find invaluable as part of my workflow”
You can post entries direct to Twitter and Publish your entries via Day One’s own publishing system. You can export all of your entries direct to PDF and also set up scheduled reminders to ensure you make an entry. Also, importantly for me, Day One will sync all of your entries via either iCloud, Dropbox or Day One’s own sync system.
Day One is therefore an extremely powerful app which I find invaluable as part of my workflow. It is the kind of app which is flexible enough to work exactly how you want to work.
How I use Day One
Like most writers when I am not actually writing my book I am thinking about my book. Which is a good thing. A book which won’t leave you alone for even a second without tugging at your conscious thoughts, is more than likely a book worth writing.
I travel to work on public transport. It gives me nearly 2 extra hours a day during which I can work on my book. My bus journeys are filled with reading up on research material, surfing the web for information or just thinking about how a scene should progress. I may have been struggling with a particular scene the night before and decided to sleep on it.
This is where Day One comes in. As my mind starts to whir away I pull up the app on my iPhone and add an entry. I use Day One much like I would use a physical notebook. This writing is for me and me alone so I don’t worry about formatting my text using Markdown. I just pour ideas onto my digital page.
I may be ‘jotting down’ something specific relating to a character or a location or a plot element. If so I will add a tag (tags are fundamental to the Mac and iOS platforms and enable easy searching and organisation via user defined keywords). This means that later on I can group all entries containing a particular tag. I can also add entries specific to a particular chapter using tags. I might also be making a note of something I wish to research later on. In which case I will add a tag called ‘Research’ to the entry.
Or of course I might just be writing a diary entry. Keeping a diary whilst writing is an extremely important part of keeping the project on track. At least for me. This I will tag as ‘Diary’.
Tags are the best way to organise your posts outside of the conventions of calendars, the main system of organisation employed by Day One.
Once I have finished making my entries I simply put my iPhone away. I don’t need to do anything else to ensure my work is saved.
Where Day One really shines
For me, as I use a Macbook Pro and a desktop Mac to do my writing, the biggest benefit that Day One has is it’s ability to sync effortlessly with this ecosystem.
I use iCloud for all of my syncing needs on Apple devices and computers. It can sometimes be a bit flaky but it is improving all the time. So much so that problems are virtually non-existent. You get a storage capacity of 5GB as part of the free iCloud account. Because apps like Day One use plain text syncing your journal entries over iCloud take up remarkably small amounts of data. If you sync a lot of photos of course they take up more space.
When I get back home after a day’s work I switch on either my Macbook or my Mac and fire up Day One on these systems. As soon as I open the app up all of the entries from my day are available for review and action. I find this a remarkably effective way to record the ramblings of my mind.
For any writer being able to record the thought processes as you progress through a large project such as writing a book is invaluable. Day One makes this creative process simple and intuitive.
More advanced usage scenarios
That’s how I currently use Day One as part of my workflow whilst working on a book. In reality though I can see myself using some of the more advanced features to add value to the creative process and in particular logging key research information for future reference.
Imagine for example being able to take a picture of something which has fired your imagination. It might be a location or an object or maybe even a person. You snap the picture, log it as an entry in Day One with some thoughts about the picture or the stirrings of an idea. You tag the entry as ‘Idea’ and ensure that you tag the entry with a location which is then searchable as a location on a map.
I am writing a book set in Las Vegas. Yet I have never actually been to Vegas. I am planning on making a trip to the southwest of the United States next year. Using Day One on a simple iPhone I can see my trip to Vegas being logged and recorded as a travel journal packed full of information and images for future research. Every single detail of my trip will then be accessible when I get back home.
I am a big fan of using technology to plan, research, organise and write my fiction. I have little enough time to dedicate to writing (at least until I can maybe take it up full time). Anything which makes the process quicker, easier and helps channel my creative thinking has to be a good thing.
I cannot recommend Day One enough. It is available from the Apple store for £3.99 on iPhone and £7.99 for the Mac. You do need to buy a license for each but once you have a license you can download on multiple systems. Day One has also won multiple awards both for it’s design and functionality. Give it a try and see if it helps with your writing.