Paul's app idea: Writing


Writing is an app designed for creative writers seeking forward momentum in their work. It has no editing functionality, with no ability to revise awkward phrases or even typos (outside of an OS's autocorrect features). It encourages re-typing when looking to hone a phrase. Depending on the task at hand, there are four different modes.


1. Typing

Momentum level: Medium

This will be the main view for most people. It appears like a text editor, but while you can scroll up and review your work, there's no editing or cursor placement allowed... only forward typing. In this way, the app shouldn't be considered a "Word Processor," because it's not meant for the processing or correction of written text, only the continual input of more written text.

Fig. 1: Enable Marking mode.

Fig. 2: Enable Pulsing mode.


2. Pulsing

Momentum level: High

Designed to promote freewriting, the Pulsing view obscures what you're writing, only informing you that you're still inputting text into the app with some sort of pulsing animation. The black bars (Fig. 1) above and below the text slowly close to obscure the text when you're writing with full momentum, and when you slow down or lose your place and have to stop, the view opens up and you can see your most recent line (Fig. 2).

While this mode might sound bizarre, it's actually the closest to how I actually freewrite. I typically turn my screen brightness all the way down, or place my computer or iPad across the room and use a Bluetooth keyboard. The main problem with those methods is that it's hard to tell if the computer is still registering input, and so I get scared sometimes and have to check.


3. Marking

Momentum level: Low

Personally, I don't like to break the writing flow, even for making corrections, but I understand that at some point errors, missteps, or excellent lines worthy of emphasis can prove distracting. The Marking mode gives you analog highlighter tools, where you can draw directly on the text. The app translates your markings into Markdown when you export your text to another application. Again, there's no text editing, only drawing on top of immutable text.

Red: Delete or correct (strikethrough in Markdown)
Yellow: Emphasize or refine (underline in Markdown)
Blue: Share

If you start typing again, you'll instantly exit Marking mode, with the transition hopefully seamless enough that you can tap a highlighter, strike through a word, and resume typing without breaking overall writing stride.


4. Sharing

Momentum level: None

When I'm in a mode of creativity, I often think of bizarre, unrelated things to tweet. Also, some authors like to tweet their ongoing work (often with the hashtag #amwriting) to brag about being productive and to encourage others to get back to writing instead of browsing Twitter. When in Marking mode, you can select text to tweet with the blue marker, which will then pop up the sharing modal. From here you have full control over editing your text (for once!) and can add the #amwriting hashtag as well.

What's left to figure out

1. Files. My fear is that document management can be a distraction to writing. I also don't want to get overly cutesy with some sort of analog model of "pages" or something like that. Some sort of multi-draft support per "document" would be nice as well.

2. Syncing. Dropbox? Simplenote? Computer sync? Email? All of the above? Again, my fear is adding too much complexity, while still wanting to support people's workflow of choice.

3. Re-sync. Once a file is opened on the computer for editing, is it lost to the Writing app forever?

4. Keyboard. Possible dealbreaker: this app is designed primarily for use with a Bluetooth keyboard. I'm sure it could be operated with an onscreen keyboard, but the error prone nature of onscreen keyboards, plus the amount of distraction and flow-breaking an onscreen keyboard presents, means it wouldn't be recommended. Do enough people use Bluetooth keyboards to make this possible?

V 2.0 ideas:

1. #amwriting GIF creation. To make sharing even sexier and more ego-tastic, I think it would be fun to be able to auto-generate a GIF of the words being typed and highlighted which could be shared on Tumblr, possibly with different "styles" to make it all ultra pretty and Instagram-ey. The basic goal is to make your self-quote look as badass as possible.

2. Side-by-side. Two-up view for referencing notes or a former draft while writing.


1. Paper (the app)

2. iA Writer

3. WriteRoom (iA Writer's grandaddy)


As far as I know, most of these ideas haven't been implemented in other writing apps, and where they have been implemented they haven't been implemented together. If I'm wrong, I'd love to know who is doing this, so I can buy that app!

Otherwise, I'd love it if someone wants to make this app, and consult me while they're doing it. Barring that, I'd like somebody to make this app anyway, so I can use it.

I think it could sell well, if done well. The key idea in my mind is to create a mode of writing on the computer that is not "Word Processing." The specifics I outline can be modified or abandoned, but that's the crux that I think would be a true help to 21st century writers (like myself) who can't bring themselves affect the use of a real typewriter.