Highland 2

Last year I wrote a novel. I experimented with a few different text editors, and even switched to Word for a while.

The truth about writing is that you can do it in just about anything. Pencil on paper. A plain text editor. A bespoke writing app. Most of the choices come down to personal preference and workflow.

At some point, I’ve probably written in most of the better known text editors, word processors and writing apps: Word, Scrivener, Byword, Ulysses, iA Writer. Right now, I’m trying out Highland 2.

For me and my personal preferences there’s definitely a sweet spot between simplicity and having loads of nifty features. The needle is pointed firmly in the direction of simplicity. Highland 2 is a markdown editor, which in itself helps to keep things on the simple side. (When you’re writing fiction you need almost no formatting.)

The main difference between simple text editors and bespoke writing apps, is that dedicated writing apps tend to include some form of document management. This usually means a navigation sidebar. Highland 2 also has an ‘includes’ feature, which can be used to join multiple files (chapters) together into a single document. It’s nice but I’m not sure if it’s a game changer.

Scrivener, for example, builds the ‘separate files’ into a single file and shows them in the sidebar. It’s Scrivener’s most useful feature. Ulysses offers much the same thing with it’s ‘sheets’ feature.

In DBC Pierre’s great book about writing literary fiction, Release the Bats: Writing Your Way Out Of It, he gives some truly wonderful tips about writing a novel. One of my favourite pieces of advice is comically simple. On your computer, create a folder with the name of a novel as its title and use a separate file for each chapter. When you’re done, copy the chapters together. In terms of document management it’s really that simple.

In other apps like iA Writer you have to resort to the traditional method that DBC Pierre mentions. Use folders with a separate file for each chapter. On a side note, if you’re using iA Writer, Byword or another text editor that doesn’t offer extensive document management, it’s actually pretty straightforward to merge multiple .txt files using BBEdit.)

The other option is to stick with a single file when writing a novel and use something like Word’s outline view. A lot of this comes down to personal preference.

Highland 2 offers a nice balance of personal customisation while never feeling over-complicated. It includes some interesting features. The question is, does it solve any problems that a simple text editor (and plain text files) or a word processor like Microsoft Word can’t already handle?

Also see:
How I Write a Novel
On Text Editors and Word Processors