Nicole Fenton is the coauthor of Nicely Said. She reads and writes in Brooklyn.

Dreaming of Writing in Space

As writers and editors, we move a lot of text. Words roll like rivers through our minds til we change the space between them, guide them, combine them, and make them flow into phrases, paragraphs, or pages. Once we feel finished enough with language landscaping, we pass off a draft to fresh eyes for critique or commentary. Ask questions, find holes, revise. And in a final celebratory click, we post something we hope is worth posting to our readers, who may or may not see it, link to it, or react to it at all.

There’s a lot of talk about publishing these days. We need lightweight tools. We need repeatable processes. We need ways of making money. We need to chunk up ideas and flex them into form. We need data. Big, big data. But all this comes after we’ve taken time to think and talk through things so they’re worth reading.

This week, I’m working on a piece that’s bending my brain. The structure is solid. The bones are intact; I did my research. I can see where it’s going, but it’s not there yet. It’s a draft in a slew of drafts, somewhere between an idea, an outline, and something shareable, but not lively enough to stand on its own or have my name beside it.

I’m jumping between Pages, iA Writer, Basecamp, and Gists. As if wrangling the ideas isn’t enough, I’ve given into the task of shifting bits from text to Markdown and then to Basecamp’s styling. It’s enough to break my flow and it has.


Now I’m dreaming of writing in space with an app that doesn’t exist yet. It’s a combination of things that are out there, or maybe just a bridge between them. It would let me write, edit, share, and publish in one place—and have all my versions backed up for reference. It would let me follow the flow without moving text at all:

  • Write, read, and edit in Markdown from any device, without needing to squint.
  • Autosave and sync everything to Dropbox.
  • Store separate files for each major version of a document.
  • Share drafts for review by permalink or private message.
  • Publish to WordPress, Tumblr, Facebook, or Squarespace by giving the app permission to do so.
  • Display links to individual versions of the post publicly on my site or Facebook account.

This would give me a way to make new things, discuss them with friends, and make them better—while choosing the audience along the way. That’s my dream today. What’s yours?

3 Responses to “Dreaming of Writing in Space”

  1. Bryan Kearney

    My dream is never have to use Lorem Ipsum. As a UX and UI designer, I would love for all the names, labels, buttons, descriptions, (or really any/all text on the screen) to be real. I don’t care that the real words change quickly and often. Designing without real words is like developing without real data.

    I would love to see a Words First movement similar to Luke W’s Mobile First.
    Aso, I think Words First effort would pair nicely with start-ups going the minimal viable product route.

  2. Vito Tardia

    I'm dreaming more or less the same thing, with the addition of better code snippets and adaptive content support. I'm doing some experiments with WordPress by injecting markdown and using special short codes for code snippets, images and other content types.

  3. Andrew Janke

    I wonder if revision control like subversion or git wouldn’t be a better persistence backend than dropbox, at least for persistent history. You could branch prospective drafts and share the branch, put explicit labels on points in the revision history, view diffs, and so on. Dropbox’s history is nice, but it’s linear, and only identified by time; you might want to backtrack or abandon prospective drafts, creating a tree of versions. It’d also support collaboration with those people you shared drafts with.

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