Eight Questions For David Collins-Rivera

by: Scott Nesbitt | 15 August 2018

Welcome to another edition of Eight Questions For …, where I where I pick the brains of plain text enthusiasts from around the world and around the web.

This time around, I’m chatting with David Collins-Rivera. He’s an indie novelist, podcaster, and voice actor. He writes the Stardrifter series of novels and stories, as well as other things, in both ebook and audio formats.

While it’s not unusual for writers to do their work in plain text, most of the ones I know who do tend to format their work using Markdown. David, on the other hand, uses a tool I haven’t looked at in years: txt2tags. Ah, memories …

Let’s hear from David:

When did you start using plain text?

I’ve been dedicated to writing the first several drafts of my books and short stories in plain text for at least five years now.

Why did you start using plain text?

After getting burned by a proprietary or specialized writing formats one too many times, which would only work until the next update, or when a particular library was installed, I decided that plain text with some simple markup was the way to go.

What do you use plain text for?

Pretty much everything, in the primary stage of development. The first three drafts of my last novel, for instance, were produced entirely in a plain text editor (the one before that, as well). Audio plays are done the same way, as are short stories, poetry, and even the first drafts of longer emails.

What keeps you using plain text?

Its versatility and reliability. I can create a thing in plain text, and feel confident that it will be as easy to open and manipulate in ten years time as it is today.

Do you use any markup or formatting languages? If so, which ones and why?

I tend to use the Linux/UNIX command line tool txt2tags, which uses a very simple markup language for some basic formatting. From there, I can export the text file to a wide variety of formats, like HTML, PDF, DOC, and others.

I often create an HTML or XHTML file for eventual creation of an EPUB for the ebook versions of my books and short stories.

What are your favourite plain text tools or applications?

I usually write in nano, formatting for txt2tags. I often use the command, wc, for checking the word count of files, and the command aspell, for doing spell checking on plain text files. All of these are done on the command line. They’re simple to use, and extremely quick.

Is there one tool that you can’t do without?

Honestly, nano is my go-to text editor. Without it, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with a computer!

Is there anything you can’t do with plain text?

There are certain formatting processes, like page layout, and such, that really do need to be done with a visual tool. I don’t mind that: plain text does exactly what I need it to do, and the other tools do the rest.

You can learn more about David’s work at Cavalcade Audio. Most of his audio work is free to download — just follow the links at the site!