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 *****************************



    ##### (c) 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 “(c) 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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