Writing isn’t just writing. Writing is rewriting; writing is editing; writing is brainstorming and organising; writing is all of these and more. According to writing coach Roy Peter Clarke, writing is a recursive process and every writer has their own process for each step.
In an interview with Conan a few years ago, the novelist George R.R. Martin revealed he writes on a DOS machine with Wordstar 4.0. The software is ancient but he’s wrote all the current books in A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones) on it (some two million words) so, despite its age, it works for him.
At one point in his career John McPhee used KEDIT, a text editor, with two extensions, Structur and Alpha, to support and automate his system for structuring his writing. I tried his system for some of my essays and found it to be too much work. But it works for him.
When I wrote screenplays in university I tried the system Vince Gillian used for outlining episodes on Breaking Bad: a Sharpie and index cards. But that didn’t work either. I guess the magic isn’t in the Sharpie but in the person who wields the Sharpie.
In his introduction to the thirtieth anniversary edition of On Writing Well, William Zinsser says:
“I don’t know what still newer marvels will make writing twice as easy in the next 30 years. But I do know they won’t make writing twice as good. That will still require plain old hard thinking […] and the plain old tools of the English language.”