19 thoughts on “Writing a Novel Using Markdown: Part Two”

  1. Wonderful art­icles — nice to know I’m not the only crazy out here who has been seduced by Markdown. Your work­flow seems to add the much-needed flex­ib­il­ity that basic Gruber Markdown does lack — I’ll shame­lessly steal some of your ideas ;o)

    My own work­flow is an attempt at the oth­er extreme — Gruber Markdown only, although I’m then get­ting what flex­ib­il­ity I can from Calibre con­ver­sion (Calibre will take raw Markdown as input).

    Briefly, I do this :

    - Write in pure Gruber Markdown
    — Convert w/ Calibre to ePub
    — have Calibre remove blank lines between para­graphs and add indents
    — spe­cify page break for all h6’s under *Structure Detection*
    — add one line of “CSS” under “Look & Feel”
    — Use ePub as basis for con­vert­ing to any fur­ther formats needed — Mobi, PDF, you name it

    The res­ult­ing ePub will go fault-free through http://validator.idpf.org/ *unless* one has a num­ber first in the text fol­low­ing any of the Markdown # to ###### tags (causes an “id” in the ePub with num­ber as first char­ac­ter in name, and that’s a no-no).

    The ePub can be uploaded as-is to Amazon KDP, and the only errors I’ve ever got­ten are typos ;o)

    As always with Markdown, you can add any and all html you like (I do use the occa­sion­al ), but you can get a quite read­able lay­out without using any.

    Title page and start of first chapter of your example could be done as shown below. You might get a smile out of tak­ing it through Gruber’s online Dingus con­vert­er — just remem­ber that Calibre will take care of cen­ter­ing and indent­ing.

    Have fun — and thanks again for the art­icle and the encour­age­ment to keep using Markdown ;o)

    *************************** start of example *****************************



    ##### © Ian Hocking 2013


    ## One

    **I**n the moment before Saskia Brandt awoke, she had a vis­ion of red chrys­an­them­ums fall­ing. The flowers looked unreal. Their stems were too straight and their falls too slow. Their *Gestalt* was art­ful sad­ness.

    Then the sky bey­ond them wintered and the dream faded.


    **S**he awoke to freez­ing dark­ness. Her throat was dry. She turned and coughed.

    *************************** end of example *****************************

  2. Ahem … your com­ment sys­tem does some con­ver­sion of its own, it seems. Anyway, in the above example, pls replace — with triple hyphens (- — -) and add an extra blank line after the “© Ian Hocking” line. Sorry about the fuss. Just shows no format­ting is fool­proof ;o)

  3. Great stuff, Thomas! Your meth­od looks inter­est­ing. I’ve actu­ally made my own work­flow a little dif­fi­cult since I wrote this art­icle, so it might well be time for me to update it… As you imply, the more min­im­al, the bet­ter…

  4. Hi ?an,

    Thanks for cool infos on your web­site. I am CPA and I’d like to write some ebooks for busi­ness­man. I decided to use mark­down but ? dont know so much thing.

    Could you please offer me some easy edit­or soft­ware for mark­down ? And where can ? buy mark­down book tem­plate ?

    Thanks in advance

    Yavuz Gurkan

  5. Hi, Ian.

    Thanks for the very detailed look at how you went about using mark­down. It got me writ­ing my own ver­sion, using mul­ti­mark­down, node.js, and grunt. Basic prin­ciple is the same as yours but not as advanced. I’m think­ing of extend­ing the idea by incor­por­at­ing some of the ideas in Scrivener into a programmer’s text edit­or (In my case, Sublime Text) to give some of the good­ies that make man­aging files and folders a bit easi­er.


    Still very early days, but just wanted to say thanks for shar­ing.


  6. Hi Yavuz

    I’m afraid I don’t know of too many places for tem­plates. The tem­plates I offer her are the only ones I know about. It’s pos­sible that LaTex might be a bet­ter fit for you. Meantime, in terms of soft­ware, I tend to use Textmate 2, Writer Pro, and Byword.

    With best wishes


  7. Hi Steve

    Great work! Looks inter­est­ing. I’ll have a play with it at the week­end. I’m par­tic­u­larly pleased to see it on GitHub, which is the right place for this sort of thing (and bey­ond my expert­ise right now).



  8. Cheers, Ian. At the mo, as I say, it’s really early days. I’ve not got round to the pub­lish­ing part par­tic­u­larly — it just con­cat­en­ates the mark­down into a single file and pro­duces the HTML ver­sion — but it’s a start.

    I’m still think­ing about restruc­tur­ing manu­scripts some­what, still. Maybe some­thing like this;

    Draft 0.Book name/
    A.Front matter/
    01.Chapter Title/
    scene 1.mdd
    scene 2.mdd
    02.Chapter title
    C.End Matter/

    Do you ever deal with mul­tiple drafts? Unplaced frag­ments, plot sum­mar­ies, story bible? And how do you do backups or source con­trol? Interested to find out what you’ve learned while actu­ally *fin­ish­ing* books…


  9. Yes, it looks like the dif­fer­ence might be that I don’t break my chapter files into scenes, but I can see that might be a good idea.

    As for pre­vi­ous ver­sions, I give all my drafts (which are of the entire book, incid­ent­ally) a ran­dom ver­sion num­ber, and when I make a big change the draft, I move the entire file to archive folder and then cre­ate an entirely new draft file with an incre­men­ted ver­sion num­ber.

    Would prefer to do this with some kind of subversion/version con­trol soft­ware…



  10. Thanks for the thoughts, Ian. I’ve just moved all my notes into one loc­a­tion and I don’t quite know how to order it all yet — I’ll evolve some­thing soon, I think.

    Source con­trol is *the­or­et­ic­ally* straight­for­ward — just a mat­ter of stor­ing all your .mmd files — but mov­ing from ‘pos­sible’ to ‘easy and pain­less’ is a big old gap.

  11. Thanks for this! I’ve writ­ten a num­ber of ebooks and in my exper­i­ments with Markdown I’ve been able to get book files accep­ted without an issue in both Amazon and Smashwords but I couldn’t get the indents right. Your CSS file works won­der­fully for this. Thank you!

    I gen­er­ally write my drafts in iaWriter, but I am exper­i­ment­ing with Markdown Pro. I gen­er­ally code my ToC manu­ally using HTML. Your CSS file and tips are incred­ibly help­ful. Thank you again!

  12. Great, Annie! Glad it helped. I’ve been using a few apps recently for writ­ing (though most of what I’ve been doing is edit­ing, so I’ve used Scrivener). Otherwise, I’ve been using WriterPro.

  13. Thks much for post­ing all this — it con­vinced us to do all our blogs / news­let­ters / books in mark­down.

    Markdown text files make it simple to store our pub­lish­ing in our data­base as json (we use Postgresql).

    Since you like mark­down — you might try jekyll — a simple blog site engine based on mark­down. Takes about 30 secs to install (no kid­ding!).

    Git hub book has a free mark­down edit­or, which plugs into their ver­sion con­trol sys­tem.

    For those writers not on mac — all your scripts can all be run on linux as well — it’s really simple to dual boot a Windows machine with Ubuntu Linux.

    Since pan­doc is real simple to install on our linux sys­tems we will be try­ing that out but noted your prev com­ments on pan­doc

  14. I have a ques­tion … how do you handle char­ac­ter dialouge in Markdown? I ask, because a car­rige-return fol­lowed by an indent (I use three spaces) for a line of dialouge is not rendered like that when con­vert­ing it — the indent is ignored, and the dialouge is appen­ded to the pre­vi­ous line.


  15. Thanks for your ques­tion, Brett. The three-char­ac­ter space is prob­ably being inter­preted as ‘format as-is’. For true Markdown, each new para­graph needs to be on a sep­ar­ate line. The quotes you use will not be smart quotes ini­tially; your Markdown ren­der­ing pro­gram will need to take care of that.

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