Week 28

Jon Winokur retweeted a great quote this week:http://twitter.com/#!/AdviceToWriters/status/102179205718085632

This is very true. My story gets limper and bittier the longer I leave it between writing sessions.

I've got to the bit in my book now where the story has taken over, and I get excited just thinking about it. I've upped how much I'm writing, spending an hour at my desk most mornings before work as well as at weekends. This means I'm sitting down in front of a computer most of the week.

The trouble is, if you write every day as David Gerrold suggests, you very quickly get RSI and eye strain.

My set-up at work is pretty good, so I didn't give much thought to how much more time I was spending sitting at a low desk and non-office chair. This week I've felt an ache in my joints which I'm going to put down to writing rather than advancing age, so I propped up my laptop on a box file and stuffed the chair with a few cushions to get the height and arm angle I needed.

The worst thing was my eyes though. I wear contact lenses, so my eyeballs suffer get dry at the best of times, but looking at a white, backlit screen all day at work and then again at home was making them as dry as the Gobi desert.

It made me think about writing programs again. I've got a Dell, so most of the good ones (Scrivener, Ommwriter, WriteRoom) are out for me. I use Word, and a complicated file system that I think does the trick.

Trouble is, Word has no option but formatted text on a white screen. There are two issues with this.

One, a white background increases your chance of eye strain. Better, I'm told, is a black screen with green type. Sounds weird. I'm not sure how it'd feel to write a book in MS-DOS. Alternatively there are programmes like Flux that dim your screen for you.

Second, writing in plain text actually helps the writing process. Not convinced? My colleague tells me he used to work in publishing, and when they gave a document in plain text to a proof-reader, they were sharp-eyed and critical, but when they gave the exact same document as a Word file - ie formatted, and displayed as if on a piece of white paper - they were more lax. He contends Word or any formatted word processing software gives a more satisfactory look to your work, and you become less critical of it as a result. It looks like a book. Strip all that back, however, and it's just you and the words.

All this made me wonder what other people use to write. How do you manage all the notes and scenes and additional bits? Do you write in one big file, or do you use special writing software?

And most of all: what tricks do you use to avoid eyestrain?

Word count this week: 2,592 Total word count: 51,264 First draft: 33,470