Information Technology, Publishing

Today I Realized Just How Much I Miss Lotus Wordpro

Today was one of those days where my mind wandered a lot. This happens on weekends when I’m writing. It happens to a lot of writers I’m told. You are “supposed” to be writing chapter X, but your mind decides to paint a really intriguing scene before its own set of eyes. The scene has absolutely no place in the chapter you are supposed to be writing, it may not even fit in the book you are writing, but you know it’s good.

Those who try to teach people to be professional writers tell them to write these things down in a notebook or in a new document file. There is a reason why those people tend to not be professional writers themselves. You need not only the scene, but the context which caused it to appear. A notebook or directory full of well written yet unconnected scenes is a cross between Chinese Water Torture and failure for a writer.

WordPro had one feature no other word processor has bothered to implement. If there was a good way to get the Lotus SmartSuite running under Ubuntu I would still be using it today instead of OpenOffice. WordPro had tabbed document divisions. Not only did you make each chapter a tabbed division in your file, you added tabs for these wonderful scenes right there, when they happened. A simply glance down the right margin told you the chapters which gave you the most inspiration and the chapters which captivated your attention. Most importantly, everything was kept in the same file. At the end of your process, you could then choose to collect or discard the tabs which didn’t make it into the final document. Each division which made it in made it because you had a frame of reference as to “why” you wrote it.

I used WordPro for a lot of technical documentation writing over the years. Novel, short story, system user manual and developer’s guide all benefited because a word processor worked like a writer’s mind worked. Today, the industry is awash with word processors that all have the same boring and nearly unusable interface. One of the real reasons so few books and movies fail to inspire us today is that writers don’t have a word processor that helps their mind put the story together.