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Hello and welcome back. Good to see you again.

So Nigel, you’re going to explain how to write device drivers for SCSI disks today, yeah?


Not by a long way.

For two reasons.

1) Why would I want to? Ok, ok, I’m a geek. Why would I need to?

2) This is a blog for geeks who like to write fiction, not non-fiction (that would be, or similar).

But, you said Writing on Linux, surely you mean … oh, I get it. You mean Writing on Linux. Gotcha.

Phew. Thank goodness for that. You worry me sometimes.

Now, let’s say you’re a starving artist.

I am.

Let’s say you have a burning passion to write a book.

I do.

Let’s say you want to type said book, not write it with a pencil, on paper.

I do, I do.

Good, we’re on the same wavelength.

We are, we are. While we’re imagining things, can I live in a loft?

Ok. A loft.

In Paris.

Ok. Paris it is.

Near the Seine?

You’re a starving artist, typing you book in a loft in Paris. Be happy with what you’ve got. You don’t get a view.

Ok. A view would have been nice, but I’m cool. I’m in Paris … Wow!

Hey, my room mate wants to know if they can visit?


Oh, touchy, touchy. All right, I get it. I’ll be quiet.

Good. Now you’re going to type your epic, so you need some software. Mac and PC users have a wide variety of writing programs to choose from, but you’re starving, so you you have to use Linux. The list of writing software for Linux users isn’t so big, but it still has some good options.

And why would anyone want to use Linux?

I’m glad you asked. Linux is a UNIX clone.

Oh, that helps.

Will you let me finish?

Linux is not UNIX. It has been written independently, using UNIX as a guide. As ever, there’s a more detailed explanation on Wikipedia. There are a whole bunch of variants of Linux, but I’m going to focus on Ubuntu.

Apart from a spiffy naming convention for each new release (don’t Maverick Meerkat and Natty Narwhal sound so much more interesting than 10.04 and 11.0?), Ubuntu has been designed to help bring Linux to the masses. It has a simple install process, simple upgrade process and even has an Ubuntu equivalent of the App Store (I’ll leave the lawyers to sort out who got there first and all that).

But why would anyone want to use Linux?

You’re a starving artist. You’re starving, but want to type that book, remember?

Er (puts snack down), what if I wasn’t, say, actually starving?

Well. Lets just say that you bought a Windows netbook, because you wanted something small and cheap that would be easy to carry around.

Yeah, that’d be good in my loft,

But after 13 months the hard disk died, which trashed the re-install image that was held in a hidden partition, and the netbook didn’t come with a Windows install disk (and I’m hypothesizing here, you know, making this scenario up, because you’d never believe that would happen to me, right? Right? Good.)

Now, you’ve got a dead netbook. It’s small and light, but dead. So, what are you going to do?


(Taps fingers)

Er… … … call the netbook manufacturer?

I’ll give you a clue, it begins with “L.”

The netbook manufacturer begins with “L”?

Give me strength. LINUX. You’re a geek. You install Linux! Linux. It’s the excuse you’ve been waiting for. It’s in the title of this article. Linux. Linux. Linux.

Right, right. I was going to get to that.

Yeah, right.

Installing the Ubuntu version of Linux is easy. Not as easy as falling off a log, but that’s an unfair test, why anyone would want to do that is beyond me. You download an image onto a USB memory stick and reboot your PC. After you’ve tried it you can choose to install it on the disk and a few short questions later you’ve got a Linux box.

Wow, great, That easy, huh? Think of it. Me? A Linux box. And all in a loft in Paris. Ahhhhh.

Ok, don’t get too carried away. There are people who’ve got Linux running on old style iPods. Now they are geeks.

Killjoy. So, what do I get with Ubuntu?

All the usual stuff. Wifi, Media Players, Firefox, Tweetdeck, other web browsers, mail clients and all that other stuff.

But what about my writing?

Oh, great. You’re still doing that, are you? Good, good.

40k words and counting (puffs chest with pride).

40k. Great. So, you’ve had your inciting incident and you’re well into Act 2?

My what incident? I haven’t had any incidents so far, it’s all been plain sailing. Or should I say cruising, they’re on a spaceship, see.

Yeah, I see all right. I see someone who needs to read up on the three-act structure, the hero’s journey and the bluffers guide to not boring the pants off people. In fact, scratch the bluffers bit.

What’s up? Don’t like Sci Fi?

No, I like Sci fi … I … er …. Let’s get back on topic, shall we?

You’re the proud owner of a Linux box. But now you need some software to help you write.

Nah, I need antivirus software first.

No, you don’t. You’ve got Linux. Now I’m not going to say there are no viruses for Linux, but they are extremely rare.

That’s ’cause nobody uses Linux.

It’s no-one, the word is no-one, not nobody. And yes, lots of people use Linux. Over half the web servers out there use Linux. According to good old Wiki-P the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world use it! Which is one of the reasons viruses are rare. The people who run these web servers, which normally pass around the viruses for Windows, work hard to make sure their computers don’t get infected. And since Linux is open source, all those changes, bug fixes and so on, get fed back into your installation. Ta-da! Keeps the virus population down to a minimum (but no lower).

If you’re a author using a Mac you’ve got lots of good choices for software to help with your writing. Scrivener, WriteRoom, Pages,

And Word, right?

LibreOffice, Millel,

Word, Word.

Bean, Nisus Writer, AbiWord

And Word, Word, there’s Word too.

Yeah, and there’s Word.

My favorite, and this will be a shock I know, is Scrivener. If it really was a shock, go back and read a few of my previous posts.

If you work on a PC then you’ve also got lots of choices. And don’t bring up Word, or I’ll thump you.

There’s Scrivener (in beta at the moment, but available soon they say), PageFour, RoughDraft, Liquid Story Binder , Writemonkey, and a long list of others.

All in all, Mac and PC users have quite a list of choices.

And some of them are free, right? ’cause I’m starving here is Paris.

Yes, some of them are free.

On Linux you’ve got less choices, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

The de facto standard office application on Linux has been OpenOffice but that’s changing to LibreOffice (based on the same code but more independent).

But then there’s Storybook, yWriter, PyRoom (great distraction free writing tool) and more.

But my favorite if Kabikaboo. Yes, it makes me dislexic when I look at the name too, but its a good application.


Because it simple.

You like simple, don’t you.

Yes, and wipe that grin off your face. Simple is good.

Kaboo is a simple but rare application. You get a tree view of subdocuments on the left and a writing area on the right. You can nest documents. If you click on a parent document it will allow you to edit the subdocuments in one go. Finally you can output any part of the tree as text, html etc.

Sounds a lot like Scrivener.

It is. It’s very basic, but it has the core idea that Scrivener uses, being able to structure your document, not ponce around with bolding this and underlining that. Here’s and example


Looks good. Well, apart from those word echos.

It’s a first draft, if not earlier.

R-i-g-h-t. Is there anything I don’t get?

It doesn’t make coffee and it can’t sing.

Heard that one before. Anything a little more … writing oriented?

Yeah. It doesn’t have a “find” function.

Find?! It doesn’t have find? You mean you expect me to write 100, 000 words in this thing and it doesn’t even have a search function!

I did. I wrote my first draft in it.

Ah! The one that got banned under the Geneva Convention?

No, not that one. That was the previous one (previous four – ed) and I can’t answer that question fully, they made me sign a document to say I wasn’t allowed to disclose the whereabout of its burial (their burial – ed).

So, you wrote a 100k without being able to search for anything? How did you manage?

I used the Mk 1 eyeball. In fact, if you saw the thickness to the beer bottles I use for lenses you might even say I use the early prototype for the Mk 1 eyeball. You’d be surprised how much you don’t need with a first draft.

Well, I need something.

Yeah, you’re right, you do. A good log line, a plot (inciting incident, turning points, darkest moment), descriptions of your antagonist and protagonist (normal world and their arc), a knowledge of the locations and setting.

And all of it written down. “It’s in my head” doesn’t count.

Really? I need all that? I mean, it is all in my head. They’re in this spaceship, see.

You said. 40k words and no inciting incident.

It’s a really cool spaceship.

Sounds epic.

I can tell you all about it if you like.

That would be – Wow! would you look at that, we’re out of time.

Really? Already? I was just about to tell you about-

Sorry, we’re at our upper internet limit already. We’ll have to keep that for another time. Sorry.

Can I at least keep the loft, in Paris?

Hum. What do you think? Should he get to keep the loft? Would a little loft time help him figure out the error of his ways (or at least his plot)? Or would he just aimlessly wander the banks of his epic, er, I mean, the Seine?

Please cast your vote quick, have you seen the cost of a one-bedroom loft these days?


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