NaNoWriMo / Obsidian?

An alternative to the Longform plugin is writing in a single markdown document using headers.

I use the kanban plugin where the card titles are links to the text headers.

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Nice. I’m using the Kanban plugin for Revision tracking and for work, but I hadn’t thought about setting it up with one long MD file with headers… That’s a great idea. Do you just use one size of header for each section or big/small headers for Acts or anything like that? Thanks for sharing your workflow!

I have multiple levels going down to scenes.

And room for a couple of lower levels for notes etc, if I ever want them.

I’d also note that it’s easy to switch back and forth to an outliner (eg Dynalist, Workflowy) if there are times that suits you better. I find OPML works best. Always typing formatting. Though mostly this is something I’ve tested rather than used.

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Yeah I am quite new to this so I need to learn more about stuff like those outliners you mentioned. You may not be OK with this but if you are I’d love to see even just what your Outline from Obsidian looks like to see how you organize.

It’s just a document with lots of headers; only one line if they are all folded. I think it will be better if I try to describe it. Remember the method is still, to some extent, a work in progress; only used it for a couple of years (going back to separate files from time to time to feel the advantages and disadvantages). Though it is the old word processor paradigm.

My header levels are chosen to give me headroom and leg space for flexibility in the future.
So, Scenes are ###; Chapters are ####; Sections or Parts are ##.
This makes it easy for me to manage word counts and structures. That’s personal and based on my own working method and my target word count for the book.

Having this means that I have a lot of flexibility for the top level #.
I could have 1st Draft; 2nd Draft etc. I could have Research. I could have Characters and Locations. And outline planning.

And the lower levels are available for notes, comments, deleted sections that might come in useful. Etc.

The advantage of the system is that everything is contained in one simple plaintext file which can be opened in any program that understands markdown with the structure immediately apparent.
And the six levels are sufficient for anything - LotR, the GoT series.

The biggest disadvantage I have encountered is exactly the same as Word and other word processors have been criticised for: most editors, including Obsidian, don’t have a good way of managing the sequence of the document by manipulating the header outline. Some are better than others. Easy enough to tackle by moving it to an outliner via OPML, moving things around, and then moving it back again.

Thanks for that! With regards to your last paragraph - that is the biggest reason I started using Longform. Drag & drop reorganizing of scenes is incredibly helpful for me. The major benefit I see doing things with headers in one MD file is the ability to leave header areas with comments. I still haven’t found a great way to add comments for revisions and such and currently just add them to my Kanban board for revision tracking… but what if I forget where I wanted to change something? I use brackets in-text to denote placeholders but sometimes you just really need a comment on a section. I guess linking the text section to its own page for comments would work, though.

I hope a true comment system will be added eventually because that and word goal tracking are the biggest missing features for writers IMO. The corkboard thing is easily solved with your Kanban board method so I’m not as concerned by that one.

Absolutely agree.
The problem I have with Longform is two fold. One is that it introduces other difficulties but the major one is that it is an answer to the wrong problem (being shaped by the Scrivener design and the Obsidian penchant for single level notes).
Markdown already has a robust and widely used longform whereas the Longform design works only in Obsidian.
There’s no reason why the outline view can’t allow drag and drop manipulation as well as navigation, but I don’t think the feature request ever garnered that much support. In practice, cut and paste of folded sections doesn’t take much longer.

For comments on a single section, when you’re writing rather than revising, this is the quickest and easiest. Select and [[ and you’re away, with no interruption to the flow of you’re thinking. With this you can have comments on a large section and also comments on smaller sections within it.

I prefer to use colour when I’m editing or revising. Mostly for speed. A few approaches available in Obsidian. Though I’m wondering whether I might just switch to Workflowy when I next reach that stage.

I’m afraid that, for me, Obsidian doesn’t begin to have the features I need for writing. I need a system that does everything I need and doesn’t get in the way of my thinking and even the best bits of Obsidian clunk too much for that. Fine for notes, good for links and research, but not actually for writing.

Can you share what you are doing for a “system”?

Personally, I started this thread, but subsequently decided to remain with Scrivener, along with Curio for working out background material graphically. The main roadblock with Obsidian for writing projects is that, for my needs, I was inventing the infrastructure rather than using it.

I’m quite happy to do so.
I generally avoid it because my approach appears at odds with the way most people do things, and my main program is off the spectrum for modern UI.

My focus is the file/document and I’m happy to use many programs so long as I can maintain that focus. Most seem to want one program to do it all.

So for writing, I have my file/s. The same file may be open simultaneously in a number of programs. Usually, but not exclusively, WriteMonkey 3, ProWritingAid, Obsidian, Typora. Switching program is just like switching panes or menus for me.

Backup programs that I might or might not use include Mindomo, Aeon Timeline, Plottr, Excel. Having realised that I can use OPML as a central file format that can convert easily to markdown, I’m exploring whether outliners like Dynalist, Workflowy etc might have a value for me. For the moment, that implies using Scrivener as a conversion mechanism.

I forgot essential support programs like PhraseExpress, AceText and EditPad Pro. And a multitude of dictionaries and thesauri that I load occasionally.

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I can certainly understand that. The infrastructure isn’t there in Obsidian yet. And I don’t know if it ever will be because there’s little consistency in the perspective of the few plugin developers who are developing writing related features.

I’ve never got along with Scrivener for productive work. It strikes me as being something of a Heath Robinson construction that encourages the same view of writing and manuscripts. There are so many little bits. Like Liquid Story Binder with lubrication. But, afaics it’s the approach that works for most people and is very similar to the way Obsidian works.

I use WriteMonkey 3. Interestingly it started development at about the same time as Scrivener but a totally different design philosophy. It’s markdown not rtf. There are no menus; I doubt even the majority of active users have a knowledge of half of the features available. There’s a command palette and a multitude of keyboard shortcuts which allow a very fine level of control but you can struggle if you can’t remember them all.

There is also a WriteMonkey 2.7, which some prefer. It hasn’t been in active development for a few years now but still functions perfectly well. 3 is a complete rewrite and something of a redesign. 2.7 has some features missing from 3, which itself has its own unique features some of which I use a lot. 3 runs on a json database with synchronised attached files (which is what I always do); 2.7 loads each file alone and works only on the file; the design of 3 is the one most similar to Obsidian.

I’ll just describe a few features I find indispensable:

  • Word Count - there’s a document total at the bottom of the page. A session count at the top (including wpm and time spent). Immediate count at the bottom of any selected text.
  • Folding - apart from folding under headers, I can fold any selected area and then fold the area around it and so on ad infinitum. I don’t think I understood how useful this was until I started using it.
  • Focus - the three side panes can be hidden or visible; sections can be hoisted, I can fade everything except the line, sentence or paragraph being worked on; typewriter mode to control cursor position.
  • Repository - I can cut or copy selected text into the right side pane (and back wherever I want) which is a major aid when editing or switching parts around.
  • Projects - makes it easy to work with sections of text (like small Obsidian notes), shuffle them around and put them back together to make a whole. I can deconstruct a long document and reconstruct it in a few minutes.
  • Single right click copy all.
  • Multiple themes with control of brightness etc, avoiding any reliance on f.lux

I could go on and on, but I doubt there’s any point as I really don’t recommend anyone use it. For most people it is too different, the learning curve is too great and they don’t spend enough time writing to benefit. If anyone’s interested I could do a few screenshots.
It’s also free, with a donation of any amount to release a few extra features.

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Just to clarify. I think that most of the best programs for writers have been developed by writers (or those who had a need at the time for a writing program with features they couldn’t find on the market). This includes Scrivener, Ulysses, WriteMonkey, yWriter, Final Draft, Plottr, PreWrite etc. Anthemion’s Writers Cafe/Jutoh is an exception being written by a husband for his writer wife. I believe that for Obsidian to move to that level as a tool for writers will require a writer/developer who has the time, commitment and vision to set out to produce a complete solution using Obsidian as a base. I don’t believe that adding ad-hoc plugins will be sufficient.

Thank you for three interesting and graceful replies!

I assume that you added your support for drag and drop for bullets, because that would solve your problem.

One option for doing the drag and drop in a single .md file is to open it in Logseq. That allows you to drag and drop the sections and headings.
Quite a large number of Obsidian users have explained how they integrate using both Logseq and Obsidian on the same files. Though I’ve never personally enjoyed using Logseq, it’s clearly a good option for some.

Actually, it seems that Murf’s Obsidian Drag and Drop Blocks plugin solves the problem. Coming Soon.

Definitely intend on using Obsidian for NaNo '21. I supose I am unique in that I have only used a simple text editor in all my years of participating so I don’t need all the bells and whistles that full-blown aspiring authors find essential. My personal aspirations of becoming a writer are long behind me, but I use NaNoWriMo as something of a benchmark to make sure “I still got it.”

It will be our seventh year, but first with Obsidian. One year I used an application closely resembling FocusWriter but I it’s long out of development.

Created a dedicated vault and styled it to be “writer friendly” by way of CSS and nifty Minimalist Theme settings. Good luck everyone! Get those writing totems out!

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Neat, that plugin sounds excellent! I really like the flow of Longform (although I admit I’ve only just started writing out some skeletons for scenes…) so I’m going to try to use that for this year’s NaNo. I’d definitely use drag & drop in daily use though, I migrated to Obsidian recently from OneNote and I liked being able to quickly move blocks of text around in it.

You know, now that I have all of my personal notes, work notes, writing notes, and everything else pulled into a single Obsidian vault… I feel like I should make a separate vault for novel writing. It would make it easier for me to visualize things with the graph view without all of the clutter of other personal stuff and my work knowledgebase.

You can move selected text: select then drag and drop. If you tab indent where it’s dropped before dropping, it will even create a fold option above it. Also works for folded sections.
It’s similar to the way it works in Word and FocusWriter etc. An alternative to cut and paste.

I have a highly organised system of nested vaults, partly for this reason.

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I didn’t know about the tab indenting, but yeah I sometimes move text via highlighting. Just feels clunky compared to OneNote but it’s one small con next to a huge list of pros in Obsidian for me so I don’t mind much.

Hmm. I may explore this then. I like the idea of the “monolithic” vault but it just clutters up my novel prep a bit. I may just need to be smarter with my use of links and tags.