Fiction authors, journalists, academics, screenwriters – all kinds of authors are using Ulysses for their writing. We asked some of them to share their story. Niklas Janz is a Swedish academic and occasional novelist. In this post he explains among other things how he uses Ulysses for organizing his novel writing.
Please tell us something about you: Who are you? Which role does writing play in your life? What are you writing and how much?
My name is Niklas Janz and I live in Stockholm, Sweden, where I work as a researcher and university teacher. I do write quite a bit in these professions. But I also write fiction; I published my first novel in 2008 and the sequel is coming out in 2014 (it takes time to write in your free time!). The books are primarily directed to young adults and are sometimes categorized as fantasy or magical realism, as substantial parts of them take place in the main characters’ dreams. I guess you can say that they deal with what may be happening to you while you think you are sound asleep. They are (so far) only available in Swedish.
However, because my “day job” is quite demanding, this writing can be a bit irregular. Very intensive at times, but there can also be periods without much writing at all.
Could you describe what you use Ulysses for?
My first and main use of Ulysses is for writing fiction. Although it can handle many writing tasks, this is where it really shines in my opinion. Having said that, it also sees a good deal of use for general note-taking, together with Daedalus for iOS. It works quite well for this, too.
As Far as Software Goes,
I Hold Ulysses Very Close
to My Heart
A neat thing about Ulysses is that it is very free-form, and as a consequence, it can adapt to different needs. For a novel, I would create a top-level “group” to hold the project itself. Then I create sub-groups to hold characters, plot and synopsis, locations, to-do notes etc. And of course one group to hold the chapters. Now, the hierarchical nature of the file browser allows me to place each chapter in a group of its own, which means that I can add chapter-specific notes in that folder if I like. If I then add a “chapter” keyword to the chapters, I can easily create a filter to show all chapters in succession, and I can even create separate filters for different revisions if I like. This is how I work, but it would be entirely possible to, for example, keep all files in a flat catch-all group, and then instead rely entirely on keywords and filters to organize things.
Why did you choose Ulysses?
I actually started using Ulysses back in its very early days, I think I even started out with one of the very first public betas, more than 10 years ago (12?). It has gone through a lot of changes since then, the most dramatic of course coming with Ulysses III, but it has always retained a very strong focus on the actual writing process.
At the time when I downloaded the first beta I had been toying around with an idea for a novel for some time and had made a few false starts, but it never seemed able to take off. The first time I opened Ulysses I just started writing. And I haven’t stopped since.
I don’t exaggerate when I say that my first novel probably wouldn’t have been written without Ulysses. So, as far as software goes, I hold Ulysses very close to my heart.
What do you like best about Ulysses? Do you have a favorite feature?
Ulysses’ killer feature is the way it encourages immersion. It is hard to explain just what it is that it does, but sitting down in front of it feels like entering a pond of cool water on a hot summer day. A place where you can disappear and forget about the outside world. And for a writer, this really is something of a Holy Grail.
Of course, that is not all there is to it. But everything else, from text formatting to organization and export, is designed to stay out of the way. I don’t have to think about saving my work, I don’t have to worry about different copies of my text being out of sync, I don’t even have to worry too much about backing up. This is bigger than it may seem, because it relieves my mind of many potentially distracting issues and tasks. All I have to do is write.
It is a bit hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes Ulysses stand out, but one thing I have noticed is that most other software of its kind seem to focus on organizing your writing. With Ulysses, it’s the other way around. Focus is on writing. There are also other programs that offer “distraction-free writing” of different kinds, but if there is to be a novel, the organization features also have to be there. Ulysses has them, but it keeps them out of focus. It is a subtle difference, but it matters.
To put it simply: Ulysses makes you want to write. And having done that, it helps you to keep things organized, so that the novel can grow without drowning you in the text.
To learn more about Niklas’ fiction writing, visit his page niklasjanz.se. It is in Swedish though, as that is the language he writes his novels in.