Writing on Your iPhone: One Novelist’s Story
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While researching an article about iPhones, I was contacted by Cheryl Kaye Tardif, best-selling author of numerous novels such as Whale Song. Tardif has embarked on a new project: writing a complete novel on her iPhone – the first major mainstream author to do so.
I kind of stumbled onto this by accident. One night while watching TV I was inspired by an idea for a new novel; I’m a bestselling suspense author with 3 published novels.
This new novel idea hit hard and fast and I didn’t want to lose one thought, so I reached for my iPhone 3G, which at the time I’d had for a week or so. Opening the Notes application for the first time, I started typing in my ideas. This led to opening a new file in Notes and actually writing the first paragraph or two of the novel.
Then I discovered I could email my Notes to myself. I did this and later that evening after the TV show I was watching was over, I rushed upstairs and opened the email on my PC. Copy and paste brought it into an MS Word doc, and ta-da! I’d officially started a new novel.
The novel, Finding Bliss, is still in the “fermenting” stage, says Tardif – she’s wrapping up another novel to send to the publisher, and editing another that’s due to come out soon. But she’s excited about doing this.
My first question, of course, was “why”?” I mean, I’m a big techie (of course) and I’ve written quite a bit on similar devices like my trusty old Palm IIIe, but the thought of tapping out 80,000 words or so on the iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard fills me with dread!
Tardif gives several reasons for undertaking such a big project on such a small device. First, there’s the convenience. “This is huge for me,” she says, “since I am struck with ideas virtually anywhere, any time.”
Second, she finds the immediacy of the iPhone fits the topic of the novel quite well. “Finding Bliss is told in first person, from the perspective of Bliss Morgan, a damaged teenage girl who must fight to survive in a world of abuse, lies and loss. It will read almost as a diary, and writing my thoughts down when I get them is key.”
But most importantly, she says, writing a novel on an iPhone is great publicity. “To be honest, writing Finding Bliss in this way makes this novel unique, intriguing, and very pitchable to a publisher and sponsors.” Before you dismiss that as shallow, opportunistic, or overly commercial, remember that we live in an attention economy, and writers are not just expected but required to bring with their manuscripts a willingness to market their work and the savvy-ness to do it well. There is a special term for authors who aren’t willing to go the extra mile to capture the public’s attention: “unpublished”.
Tardif has found a great way to distinguish herself from the pack, and the public (and publishers) are paying attention. She’s been featured in several newspapers, and been contacted by retailers and websites looking to arrange exclusive releases of her finished book – and she’s only two chapters in!
Tardif offers this advice for authors looking to use their iPhones to write on:
Writing a novel on a small device like the iPhone 3G requires a fair amount of patience. There’s also a learning curve with the phone, so writers attempting this have to be willing to take their time. This probably won’t be a novel that’s written in 4 months.
I think that anyone attempting this should understand why they want to write this way. Are there advantages? Do the advantages outweigh the restrictions? Keep in mind, there is little room to edit, and certainly major editing would be done once converted into the Word doc.
More importantly, she sets a great example for writers looking for creative ways to promote themselves and their work. It hasn’t all been done before, but you’ve got to be willing to do whatever it takes to get yourself noticed. “Let’s face it,” she told me, “every author needs to get noticed if they want to succeed, especially fiction authors. And I plan to succeed! :)”
Interesting! I, too, am putting fiction in readers’ hands. My new novel is available to read on the iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, Sony Reader, Amazon Kindle, etc. It wasn’t an easy conversion but so far, readers seem to love the portability and I love that reading is hot again. eBooks are here to stay.
BIRTHDAY GIRL is available for download at http://birthdaygirl.fatbrain.ca
A very cool idea, and if it catches on it might encourage developers to create more apps that turn the iPhone and iPod touch into real pocket computers. Ms. Tardif might want to take a look at TextGuru, the iPhone app that comes closest to real word processor functionality that I’ve seen. It has copy/paste (hooray!), lets you save files in a variety of useful formats, and allows up/downloading of files to a computer. (Not affiliated, just a happy user.)
This reminds me… Why isn’t there a Bluetooh keyboard for the Iphone. I have written loads of stuff on my old Palm Pilot using a small folding keyboard.
Typing on the screen is usable, but not very fast, due to lack of tactile feedback.
– Jens Poder
Just to share, in case others haven’t seen these articles…cell phone novels have been apparently been gaining popularity in Japan. See, for instance, this 2007 article from Wired: http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2007/01/72329 and the January 2008 article in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/world/asia/20japan.html . The latter article provides an interesting note: “Of last year’s 10 best-selling novels, five were originally cellphone novels….”
Anne: Good point. As a general rule, anything new we in the US can think of to do with our cell phones, the Japanese have already tried it, perfected it, and become blase’ about it. To be fair, Japanese writing can make use of ideograms to pack more meaning into a smaller space than English can, but it’s true — they’ve been writing and reading novels on their phones for at least a couple years now.
Interesting writing project, the lack of tactile feed back surely require a fair amount of patience. I’m not a writer, but sometimes, suddenly I have something in my mind I thought worth to be written, and I grab my mobile phone and wrote those words with the keypad, tapping the keys two or three times and even four times, just to get my letter comes up, iphone with its touchscreen it will be easier for that aha moments. I feel that if I’m going to do a writing project with that little device, I need to get used to with it, and at the point when I’m not amazed anymore with its advance in technology, write.
I thought this was awsome! I recently purchased an ipod touch, which has the same apps as the iphone. And just like your story mine started the same way. I began playing with the notes app and started writting a short story which is also written as a journal. at first I thought it was an original idea to write a novel completely on an ipod but it seems you beat me to it. Oh well I may not be first but my story uses the ipod through out it. it is an inexhaustible tool for the characters. I felt by using it in the story that was being written on it was a nice touch. anyway god luck with your iphone novel. lord knows i’ll need it on mine
Interesting read. There is currently quite a lot of information around this subject around and about on the net and some are most defintely better than others. You have caught the detail here just right which makes for a refreshing change – thanks.
I recently bought an iPod touch, and it’s my new favorite writing tool; takes some practice to get up to speed, but when I don’t feel like sitting at the computer, or I’m out somewhere, it’s great for an impromptu writing session or for keeping track of ideas I might otherwise lose. I don’t find the idea of writing an entire novel on it crazy at all. However, I do find the idea that a novel’s having been written completely on a particular device then becomes a marketing hook for the novel–well, really silly, and frankly, sad; sad, I mean, that writers have to resort to such gimmicks to sell books. No matter what you use to write the book, it’s still the words that matter in the end.
I don’t think there is any way I could write a book on the iPhone although the iPhone is my platform of choice for my first book – a Choose Your Own Adventure – like story for adults. It’s called “Beer, Women and Bad Decisions…” and I can’t imagine a better platform to kick off my little writing career!
That’s a great angle. I was thinking about getting an iphone to be able to capture every thought as they came to me, like in the bathroom and stuff. I hope it goes well for you.
Has anyone tried the Manuacript app for iPhone? I’m tempted to give it a go myself but am daunted by the price tag and lack of a trial version.
I like using “Write 2” app for writing on the iPhone:D It’s a really nice & simple app with great features. Has anyone tried it?
I just spent an hour researching the best writing app for my little iPod. I settled for Manuscript. It’s not THAT expensive for the amount of time you’d be spending with it to write a novel or short story. Just bought it, and it looks like everything I was after. Recommended!
Check out the new Classic Notebook app!
It’s free on the AppStore right now.