No, NoNaNo

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I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this year.

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.”

HMS Victory photo by Karen Roe https://secure.flickr.com/photos/karen_roe/8040198099/

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.

Has it gotten any easier?

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.

Entering creative space (Morning Check-Up for Artists)

Laura Lis Scott:

Time to close the browser.

Originally posted on chrismcmullen:

Writing

Imagination On. Check.

Motivation On. Check.

Quiet On. Check.

Distractions Off. Check.

Comfort Zone On. Check.

Eyes Ready. Check.

Mind Open. Check.

It’s a go.

Take a deep breath.

Creativity blasting off in 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0.

Let those creative juices flow.

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

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Jay Lake, Remembered

Laura Lis Scott:

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.

Originally posted on Whatever:

I can’t actually remember when it was that I first met Jay Lake, which is an unusual thing for me. I can often tell you the exact time and place I met most people I care about, from my oldest friend Kyle (on the bus on the first day of second grade) onward. I suspect my memory of meeting Jay is more diffuse because I first knew so many people who knew Jay, so that by the time we had our first meeting it felt, by commutative property, that I already knew him. I’m racking my brain here and coming up with nothing. From the point of view of my memory, Jay just was.

The picture above, taken at 2013’s Nebula Awards Weekend, was one of the last times I saw him in person. In case you’re not clear what’s going on here, he’s attempting to taste my…

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Facebook will remind you how fucked up you are and also try to make money off of it.

Laura Lis Scott:

Because Facebook wants you to be dysfunctional. (Cf. Piggies for tomorrow.)

Originally posted on The Bloggess:

I was just on Facebook, and this popped up in my feed as something suggested for me personally:

squirrelbutt

And first of all, it’s disconcerting when you get targeted advertising for half a dead squirrel, and it’s not even the good half.   Why send me this ad?  It’s as if Facebook said, “Hey, we saw this asshole and thought of you.”

And then it’s even more insulting because it’s all “Still interested?” as if they’re implying that this was something I was definitely interested in at one point.  And no, I’m not interested.  That’s why I didn’t bid on it when I saw it yesterday, eBay.  I was just looking at it.  STOP MAKING WEIRD ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ME.  It’s creeping me out and it’s also making me feel bad about my internet surfing because probably everyone else is getting targeted ads for pretty dresses or new phones, whereas my page is all, “THIS ASSHOLE COULD…

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