The Tools of Creation


Creating content isn't what it used to be, and I mean that in an entirely great way. 

If you want to see any of my art, go here.

If you want to buy any of my books, go here.  

Back in the early 90's, hunched in front of my Macintosh SE, pecking away, that was only half my problem. The writing was generally easy, but layout, art and design were a slog.

At the time, it was the only way we had.


The Old Way

When we made an RPG book in the olden days (cue banjo music) there was a ton of writing in the ancient (but still much missed) WriteNow.

Art was by hand and about a third of the pieces never survived the creation process, instead being balled up and thrown out at some point. Art was a mess with treacherous problems at every turn. If you got the piece right, the photo of the piece turned out dark, if you corrected for it, everything in the book turned out too light. It went on and on. 

Design took FOREVER. Fonts were finicky, layout programs universally terrible and glitchy and prone to exploding. But worse, printers were SLOW. We'd wait weeks for blue lines to turn up, only to find wonderful errors to hold up the print run and send us back to the drawing board. 


The New Way

The new way, for me, involves two machines that make the Macintosh SE look like one of those musical birthday cards. 

All my writing, graphic design and layout are done on my Macbook Air (2GHz Intel i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB HD) and all my art on my Asus Eee Slate (Intel i5, 4GB RAM, 64GB HD, Wacom Digitizer).

Gone are the days of crappy blue lines, printer problems (for the most part), and art film. 

Thank god.

So, what programs do I use now? 



For writing, I use several tools:


Ulysses III

Ulysses III is my new favorite (in fact, you're soaking in it RIGHT NOW). 

This beautiful application is less concerned at the output of text (though it does output well and in multiple formats) and more concerned with clear organization and allowing the easy transfer of text between applications, with styles/links/embedded items remaining intact.  

It uses Markdown XL (or Markdown, or Textile'd) allowing your text to be dumped into pre-existing defined styles in other apps and just have it work. It makes moving text between a layout program and a website painless and perfect the first time. 

I highly recommend it for professional writers out there. This is my go to program now. 



I still use Scrivener, the hugely capable writing solution that needs very little introduction.

I still use it simply because so many projects I am involved in use it. It is marvelous for this who require a ton of notes, hyperlinks and other bibs and bobs in the creation of their work. 

It does a TON of stuff very well. Once you overcome the learning curve, it's a marvelous program. I use it a lot, but it's not the first thing I jump to when writing.



Slugline is a marvelous little screenwriting App that kicks ass at one thing: getting out of the damn way.

 You just start writing and Slugline does the rest. 

Slugline makes Scrivener and even Ulysses III look like the dashboard of the Space Shuttle in comparison to its simplicity, that's part of the reason I really love it. Whenever I have a script to write, I go here.


Layout and Design

Luckily for me (and unfortunately for Shane Ivey) I don't do much of the layout, but I do design and some limited look and feel tasks. I stay the hell away from Adobe products (they are simply too glitchy and full of hard drive humping malware) and have moved on to more open solutions.



Pixelmator is my art and design editing tool.

You remember when Photoshop was responsive? Yeah, me either. I've used every damn version of it up until the last one, and it's always found a way to lag, drag or crash.

Pielmator is Photoshop without the cruft. It does nearly everything Photoshop does (all the filters, etc..) but utilizes the core rendering tech on the Mac to allow high speed processing. 

Oh and it's $14.99.



Pages is Apple's word processing solution that does a lot of good things with layout, bordering, drop shadow and more. It's a great tool for throwing together rough layouts for reference for the actual layout process.  



Omnigraffle is a great flowchart/diagramming program. It is far and away the best one of the Mac. 

I use it for designing game loops, flowcharts, diagrams and more.  



Of course, on the Asus, I'm limited to Windows software. I use two, in particular.


Alias Sketchbook Pro

This is my go to art app. It's natural media tools are hard to beat and its pencils are the best I've ever seen in an art program (they feel so damn real you can practically hear the graphite scraping across the page).  


Painter 12

I use this for everything past the sketch stage. When I need to lay down thick paint or watercolor or markers, this is where I go. I have it kitted up to the ting yang with funky extensions and hacks. What this involves, mostly, is shutting off content I don't want to use. I spend most of my time here working in the same four tools, over and over again.   

I hope this overview on the machines/programs I use is helpful to some budding professionals out there. Happy creating.