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Laura Lis Scott's offset thinking.

Porcupine

Porcupine

porcupine.jpg

She trundles across the grass, not fast, going by hope (as much as poor sight) that she might not smite the black cat who bats his paw more out of play than of malice but comes away nonetheless with spines teaching regret, or the happy love-hunting hound whose nose bears scars from quills. She, in turn, so small behind her coat, trembles at their approach for causing nothing but pain. She trundles across the grass, not fast, alone. [Photo: Andrew Butko, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

On ergonomic keyboards again

On ergonomic keyboards again

Following up on my review of three ergonomic keyboards last year, I pass along now Marco Arment's review of the Matias Ergo Pro Keyboard, which he's liking. From the features he describes, it sounds similar to theThe Goldtouch Go!2 keyboard I've been using, but with some differences, including one that would drive me crazy.

[T]he Ergo Pro’s two halves are physically separate and connected by a cable. This is a mixed bag: it provides flexibility, but it’s also frustrating to have no way to lock in your preferred setting, leaving you to figure it out again whenever it’s moved.

It does come with wrist pads, though, which are nice. Me, I'm sticking with the Goldtouch, but I thought I'd pass this along in case this new offering strikes someone's fancy. Preorder links are in Marco's post.

No, NoNaNo

non-participant banner Last year, I took some rather timid steps into NaNoWriMo — which is to say I signed up on the site. I didn't provide a name (Did I want to use a pseudonym?) or project title (Which did I want to write?). I did, however, start writing. I did not reach the officially sanctioned 50,000-word target, but I did put down some 7,000 words or so. And I kept writing, arriving at around 11,000 words by New Year's Eve.

—By which time I had driven the story into a ditch. I needed to get some distance from that one before continuing, so I climbed out, walked back home, and started anew.

NaNoWriMo 2013 didn't result in a draft. But what it did do was get me into the habit of writing, and I loved it.

And so, on January 1, I picked up out of my archives a single paragraph I had written years ago, and decided to run with it. Every day I wrote, piling on the word count, not really knowing where the concept implied in those words would take me. It was an agonizing adventure. Before completing the draft, I started rewriting — which some would say is a fatal mistake, but for me it was essential so I could continue to build upon what had happened before. And so it went, rewriting old words, writing new words, cutting, editing, expanding ... and crying, screaming, growling, laughing, at times despairing, but always determined to keep going.

After setting aside the previous novel, I was not about to give up on this one.

Some nine months and 75,000 words later, I completed my “first draft” and sent it off to “my” editor (about whom I'll write in another post). In about a week, I expect to get her edits and notes back. And then I will be diving into revisions, which will keep me busy through the rest of the month, and who knows how far beyond?

And so, no NaNo for me. But it's where I started, and, indirectly at least, it's what's keeping me away.

Done!

Its done! Not done done, but done — a “first draft.”

Not an actual first draft — I revised it so many times I lost count — but it's the first I actually sent to anyone who wasn't a friend or alpha reader.

Now I wait. And start on the next book, which is going to be something completely different. Different genre. Different "person."

Scrivener to Word

Scrivener to Word

This shouldn't be so hard. I've reached the point where it's time to compile my manuscript from Scrivener into Word format, in preparation for The Great Editing. Now the Compile part is easy. (Well, I say "easy" in that it's pretty complicated, but in a Scrivener way, and after you've been using Scrivener for a while, well, you eventually become something akin to a taxi driver in London; you eventually learn where those dead-ends and obscure addresses are.)

Dealing with the Word document output is another matter. This is because, while Scrivener has the ability to define and use all kinds of nifty Styles for your formatting (e.g., regular paragraph vs. blockquote vs. chapter title), it strips all of those Styles out in the export. What you're left with is a document where the entire thing is defined as "Normal" Style, with a plethora of individual formatting overrides creating everything you see.

But we all know that we all need to use Styles in our manuscripts, right? Because from Word they can convert to html elements in your ebooks, and they carry straight through into InDesign styles for print layout. (And if you're submitting to an editor or publisher, they will get very annoyed with you if you don't give them a clean document, defined entirely by Styles and not by a zillion one-off format settings paragraph by paragraph.

Through trial and error, I figured out how to run searches on particular, peculiar formats and replace them with Styles. It's an Advance Search & Replace function in Word. (Someday Word may approach the power and simplicity of WordPerfect 4.1, but that day has not arrived yet.) It was a kludgey process, but one by one I found my various document components visually, picked out a peculiar formatting characteristic about it (e.g., uses Courier, font-size 14pt), and was able to run a global replace to tag all of those instances instead with a Style.

I worked my way through:

  • Section titles
  • Chapter titles
  • Blockquotes (I have a few variations, representing text from various sources)
  • Direct thoughts (a character Style, to preserve the italics I'm using for these)
  • Normal

Note that if you are using italics for things like direct thoughts, or for emphasis or whatever, you want to find and define those first before you do the process on your Normal text style, or bye-bye italics!

As I said, for a semi-professional longform document app, Scrivener's export to Word should not be this hard. I hope they address this in upcoming releases, because it's one thing to do this every couple of months in preparation of publication, and even that's a pain, but clearly this will not scale. And right now it's the suckiest step in the entire workflow getting text from brain to print and digital.

PS—If you're curious about the manuscript itself, I'll be talking about that first and more informally in my newsletter.

[Photo: Karen Roe (Creative Commons)]

In which words flow, but not where I need them

The place: The Facebook website thingie. The time: A moment of weakness (escaping from my manuscript).

The assignment: "Exercise!!! 250-500-100 words (some kind of narrative). No "to be" verbs!"

The inspiration: This great photo....

Sneakers

My jotted whatnot:

Without Sole

Has anyone seen my sneakers? They walked off with my soul, and now I wander the earth, barefoot and in mourning, experiencing a life bereft of meaning.

Who knew shoes could take so much merely through their absence? Those soul-stealing soles completed me. Betrayers!

Tomorrow I have a date with a pair of sandals. In my younger days, I feared them. I thought they would tie me down. Those doubts plague me still.

Enough! No more whining! I shall pick myself up by my bootstraps—

Now where did THEY run off to?

—LLS, June 2014

Placed here for posterity. Now back to real stuff.

The pain and suffering of Scrivener exports to Word

The pain and suffering of Scrivener exports to Word

As a writing tool, I love Scrivener. Unfortunately this comes with some hindrances:

  • Scrivener is not a standard format, so you have to compile and export anything you do to to anything with it.
  • Microsoft Word is a standard format in publishing—obviously people in publishing are a bunch of masochists—but Scrivener's exports to Word are unstyled.
  • Scrivener's exports to the .mobi format are barely adequate. Scrivener's exports to the .epub format are famously incompatible with ebook retailers and need to be cleaned up.
  • Scrivener has no export to InDesign—perhaps to be expected, as InDesign can import Word docs.

What I'm realizing is that I'm going to have to use Scrivener for a first-draft tool only, and then export to Word and finish every work in Word. For someone who loathes Word, that's a sad prospect.

But what's more sad is that before I can get going on the Word doc, I have to go through and define all the Styles in the manuscript. And it's not easy, because the process results in loss of tabs, loss of italicization, loss of any and every special style I defined in my Scrivener manuscript (e.g., styles for text messaging). I have to spend hours going through a novel-length document looking for words and sentences that should be italicized, sentences that should be styled as text messages, and so on.

This has me questioning my entire workflow.

Scrivener » Word (garbage) » Word (manual cleanup) » [final delivery formatting app]

And it's a huge distraction from writing.

Jay Lake, Remembered

I never met Jay Lake. I stumbled across Green when it came out in trade paper in 2011, and loved it. Aside from reading the sequels and other books by Jay, I started following his blog. It was at times heartbreaking to read about his travails with cancer. Yet he was also inspiring with his battling spirit (always with a degree of cheer, even when it must've been bravado). When he crowdfunded the sequencing of his genome and registered for NIH drug trials—the NIH loved that he had the sequencing done, what an opportunity!—he won even more of my admiration.

When we learned that the trial treatment did not work as hoped, my heart sank. Having watched my father die a couple of years ago—an experience that still haunts me—I felt all too keenly what would be next.

By all accounts, Jay was much loved by his many friends. I loved him virtually, through his blog, and through his dreams shared in his books.

49 is too young. Fuck cancer.

P is for Priorities

P is for Priorities

I haven't been blogging the A to Z Challenge these past few days because they were blocking me from getting the necessary things done—namely writing my novel, editing Kate's novels, and preparing books for publishing (and other life obligations). I've been blogging for well over a decade, and love it. I'm not stopping blogging altogether. It's just that, given the day job, trying to wedge in the A to Z Challenge as well was turning out to be a burden. I have to focus on priorities.

So no more A to Z, unless serendipitous Muse comes for a visit. Thank you, everyone who stopped by and commented. I hope to see you again.

K is for Keyboard

K is for Keyboard

k.jpg

Regular keyboards give me a pain — a pain in the wrist, specifically. It makes a huge difference when you're typing a lot for emails, blog posts, proposals, articles ... and novels. I tried a number of keyboards.

Kinesis keyboard photo

Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic photo

Goldtouch Go!2 keyboard photo

How I am happy.

J is for Jot

JIf you have nothing to say, jot it down. If you have something to say, jot it down. Just jot it down, and sort it out later.

I is for Iambic Pentameter

I is for Iambic Pentameter

the_scream.jpg

ITo what domain should I devote my pen?To verse where I betray my ignorance? For I to put these words on blogging, sense Is strained by hackneyed turns of phrase — what then? Oh Muse! Betray me not! This dalliance Is but a metered post occasioned when The A to Z endeavor strikes again A block on all my words. And so I hence State: I am giving up writing iambic pentameter. Trochee troubles set up by dactyl frustrations. And lines get tangled up in dull calculations So my all my metrical feet can all, in the end, fit inside there.

H is for Ho Ho Ho Hee Hee Hee Ha Ha Ha

HIt's one thing to know formal English, but this is not all that's required for the subtleties of communication. Consider these monosyllabic grunts—and their variants—that begin with H:

  • Ha! (That’s funny!)
  • Ha! (I don't believe you.)
  • Ha! (Go away, critter!)
  • Aha! (I see!)
  • Ha–ha! (That’s very funny!)
  • Ha–ha! (That is not funny.)
  • He... (Who?)
  • He (Helium)
  • HECKa–BBBBBB! (I'm making a hip TV reference you probably don't get.)
  • Hee! (Made me giggle.)
  • Hee–hee! (That's funny.)
  • Heeeeyahhh! (I didn't really want to be President)
  • Tee–hee! (I want you to think that I think that's funny.)
  • Hee Haw(How old are you?)
  • Hey–hey! (I have arrived, and I have a tattoo.)
  • Hi! (Hi.)
  • High. (Probably best not to drive.)
  • Hi ho! (Don't say more or you’ll get a DMCA notice.)
  • Hmmm.... (I'm not sure about that.)
  • Ho! (“Whoah,” but more indignant.)
  • Ho Ho’s (Yum!)
  • Ho Ho Ho! (Fat man in red suit coming.)
  • Ho–ho–ho! (Did you eat your peas?)
  • Ho-ho-ho! Hee-hee-hee! Ha-ha-ha! (I am the walrus.)
  • Hoo! (Small mammals, watch out!)
  • Hoo–hooo! (Small mammals, seriously, pay attention here.)
  • Hooray! (I am now cheering for you.)
  • Huh! (I see.)
  • Huh? (WTF?)
  • Huh uh (My answer is “no,” but I don't want to say the word.)
  • Huh huh huh! (That’s funny!)
  • Huzzah! (Hooray [in some retro-ironic kind of way]!)
  • Hwahhh! (I know kung fu!)
  • Hyeeahh!! (I like pretending to know kung fu!)
  • Hyohhh–oh! Yo–ee–oh! (Stay away, airborne monkeys!)

Did I miss any?

F is for Fear

FI confess! I have many fears: fear of death; fear of illness; fear of embarrassing myself; fear of letting people down; fear of heights; fear of spiders; fear of being stupid; fear of intimacy; fear of ending up alone; fear of the dark; fear of food poisoning; fear of ridicule; fear of failing…. They’re all irrational, and many are contradictory. That’s the nature of fear. It fucks with you. It makes you hesitate. It makes you timid. It compels you to make conservative choices — not great for a creative artist. (Not great for an entrepreneur, either.)

Fear is everywhere. It poisons our souls. It paralyzes us. It brings out the worst in us.

Fear corrupts our culture.

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom. —Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

Fear poisons our politics.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. —Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address

Fear is something we try to laugh off.

Coward, n. One who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs. —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Facing fear can be daunting in itself, but is there any other way?

A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it. —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin

I may be afraid to face my fears, but I’m even more afraid to not face my fear. I’m afraid of a life governed and controlled — even destroyed — by fear. This fear trumps all others.

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. —Theodore Roosevelt, Strenuous Life

So how do you defeat fear? Maybe it’s through counting your blessings? Or focusing on what’s real and what’s only imagined? Maybe it’s through a mantra or litany?

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. —Frank Herbert, Dune: The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

I do a little bit of all of that. Yet defeating fear is not an accomplishment. It’s a practice. I work to defeat my fears every day.

My fear of heights, though, I’ll leave be. I can live with one.