NaNoWriMo 2019 Post-Mortem #amwriting #nanowrimo

Sunrise
Image courtesy of Yongkiet at https://FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Fubar. (Rough translation: Fouled Up Beyond All Repair.)

I didn’t break five digits. I’d go look at my final total, but it’s too embarrassing.

OTOH, I’m past the winter solstice, alive, and not too much heavier than I was at the beginning of October. My short story, “The Replacement”, was published in the NaNo Los Angeles anthology, Journeys to Uncharted Lands. I’m working on publishing it as a short in the usual places. I’ve redecorated my bedroom/office and re-read every novel series in my reading apps, as (looking at my reading app stats and credit card statements) I do every winter when I’m seasonally depressed. At least I haven’t gained 20 pounds or stopped exercising completely, as I did last year.

Happy 2020! More daylight soon!

iOS Scrivener Two and a Half Years On #amwriting

The truth: I hardly use iOS Scrivener any more.

It’s just too limited compared to Mac Scrivener (or even Windows Scrivener). I can never see the aspects of my project that I really want to see. There’s no Scrivenings mode. There are no collections. The Corkboard only ever shows one level of one folder. Keywords and custom metadata are missing.

It goes on. I self-publish, and the facilities to produce a manuscript that’s ready to upload to Amazon and Smashwords just aren’t there. The iOS Scrivener compiler has few features compared to Mac or Windows.

As for research, I don’t use Scrivener at all for that. I use Evernote instead. It’s much easier to find what I need there, and I can display Evernote on a second screen on Mac. On the rare occasions when I use iOS Scrivener these days, I can split the screen between Scrivener and Evernote. I really don’t like my research crammed into the same app as my manuscript. (N.B.: This is Scrivener heresy. One of its heavy selling points is keeping research and manuscript together. I’ve tried it. Every third project, it seems, I try it again just to see if it works better than Evernote. The answer has always been no so far.)

So iOS Scrivener doesn’t work well for me for either planning or publishing. Its lack of easily configurable overview makes it less than ideal for drafting. The only time I find myself using it is when I want to jump start my actual word production for the day by using handwriting recognition. But since I found a workaround to use handwriting recognition with my Mac, I don’t even use iOS Scrivener for that any more.

It’s not a bad app, iOS Scrivener. I like it. If Mac Scrivener didn’t exist, or if I had only an iPad, it would be my writing app. But as I have a lovely tiny Macbook Air 11, I just don’t use it.

Bummer.

iOS Scrivener Sync Altermatives, Part 1: iCloud Drive #amwriting

Many Scrivener users want iOS sync to work via iCloud Drive. Desperately. I hear from users on the Literature and Latte forums that they’re keeping their working Mac/iOS projects in iCloud Drive with no apparent problem.

Don’t do it! I also hear users who lose all their writing this way. It’ll work fine—until it doesn’t. Because of Scrivener’s unique “hidden multiple files” project format, the only recommended cloud service for “working” projects is Dropbox. Period.

Nonetheless, I’m going to suggest ways to use iCloud Drive to get work from Mac to iOS and back, and from iOS device to iOS device. These are file transfer solutions, not sync solutions. They’re not automatic. They’re not “transparent.” They don’t happen in the background without you doing anything (once you’ve set it up). If you’re looking for a “set it and forget it” solution, these aren’t it.

What they are, is safe. They use iCloud Drive. You can automate parts of the process. Still with me? Good! Let’s get into the setup.

System Requirements

iOS Scrivener 1.2 or greater
iOS/iPadOS 11 or greater
Mac Scrivener 2 or greater
Any version of MacOS that supports iCloud Drive

For iOS 11:
FileApp
For iOS 12:
The Shortcuts app, and a shortcut as described here: UnZIP and Open In…

Mac – iOS:

Mac side:

  1. First, set up your iCloud preferences for maximum safety when working with Scrivener and iCloud Drive
    1. Open the Mac System Preferences app, and open iCloud preferences.
    2. Next to iCloud Drive, click the Options… button.
    3. Turn off “Optimise Mac Storage”, in the bottom left of the options dialog. This is essential. Scrivener depends on your projects being physically present on your hard/ssd drive. If any portion of a project has to be downloaded from iCloud, you risk project corruption.
    4. For maximum safety, turn off “Desktop and Documents Folders.” This is less urgent than the “optimise Mac storage” setting, but if you don’t need this for other apps besides Scrivener, please turn it off. You will not use this to transfer Scrivener projects.
  2. Next, set up a transfer folder.
    1. Open up an iCloud Drive window. Create a new folder, and name it something obvious, like “Scrivener Transfers”.

    Work on your Mac Scrivener project as you usually do. When you’re ready to stop work on your Mac:

  3. From the File menu, select File->Back up->Back up to…

  4. In the Back up to: dialog, check the “Back up as ZIP File” box towards the bottom of the window. This is essential. Here’s where you make this process safe for your data. By making a ZIPped backup and transferring that, you save your project in a single file that isn’t vulnerable to sync corruption like an unzipped, .scriv project.

iOS side:

When you’re ready to work on your project on your iOS device:

  1. Open iOS Scrivener.
  2. Navigate to your projects screen if needed.
  3. If there are any copies of your project on your iOS device:
    1. Tap the “Edit” button at the top of your vertical projects button.
    2. Delete the iOS copies of the project. This will eliminate any possible confusion by working on an old copy of your project.
    3. Tap the “Done” button
  4. For iOS 12 or 13
    1. Open the Files app
    2. Navigate to the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it)
    3. iOS 13+:
      1. Tap on the (most recent) backup project. The Files app will unZip the project. Wait until the project is unzipped AND uploaded to iCloud.
      2. Tap on the unZipped project. It will open in Scrivener.
    4. iOS 12:
      1. Create an “Unzip and Open In…” shortcut as described in this L&L forum post: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=287616#p287616
      2. Tap on your zipped project, and select Unzip and Open In… as your action.
      3. After unzipping, select Scrivener as your target. Your project will open directly in Scrivener.
  5. For iOS 11:
    1. Get a free third-party utility, FileApp. (Not the same as Files!!!)
    2. Open FileApp. Tap on the plus icon in the upper right corner. Then tap the import icon in the lower left.
    3. Tap Browse, navigate to your transfer folder on iCloud Drive, and select your zipped project. It will be copied to FileApp
    4. Still in FileApp, tap your project to unzip it there.
    5. Drill down into the unzipped project until you find a folder that has an extension of .scriv (very important!)
    6. Long press on that .scriv folder, then tap the export icon and open your project in Scrivener.

When you’re ready to put away your iOS device:

  1. Return to the projects screen.
  2. Tap the “Edit” button at the top of your vertical projects button.
  3. Select the project you just worked on.
  4. Tap the export button
  5. iOS Scrivener will make a zipped backup of your project
  6. Save to to the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it) in Files
  7. (Optional) Delete the project from your iOS Scrivener app (select the project and tap “Delete” at the bottom of your screen) If you do this, you can avoid confusion about which version of your project you worked on last.
  8. Tap the “Done” button

Back to the Mac:

When you’re ready to start work on your Mac again:

  1. From the Finder, open the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it) on the iCloud drive.
  2. Delete the unzipped project—it’s now old
  3. Double click on the most recent zipped version. Rename the unzipped project to something obvious (“My Project From iOS”) and drag it to your desktop.
  4. Go ahead and double-click the iOS version on your desktop to open it. Scrivener will incorporate the iOS changes. Close the project.
  5. Open your old Mac Scrivener project in your usual way.
  6. From the File menu, select File->Import->Scrivener Project
  7. In the Open dialog, select the project version from iOS that you dragged to your desktop.
  8. When you see the “Merge?” dialog, go ahead and select “Import and Merge”. After you’ve checked to be sure your changes made it over, you may delete the iOS version on your desktop (it’s secure in zipped form in your transfers folder.)

Optional Automation

If you’d like to have the “Mac Side” steps 3 and 4 automated, do this:

  1. From the Scrivener menu, select Scrivener->Preferences…
  2. Tap on the Backup icon
  3. Turn on these Backup preferences: Automatic backup, backup on close, backup on manual save, compress backups as ZIP files, use date in backup file names.
  4. Keep at least 25 backups.
  5. Choose your iCloud “Scrivener Transfers” folder as your backup location.

    Now whenever you either close your project, close Scrivener, or use cmd-s to save, a fresh zipped backup will be saved in your Scrivener transfers folder, named so you can tell them apart, ready to be opened in iOS Scrivener. If you don’t think you’ll turn off your Mac, close your project, or remember to type cmd-s, there’s one last automation step:

  6. Still in the Preferences dialog, tap on the General icon and select Automatic Quit. Put a checkmark beside automatic quit, and adjust the interval so that it’s not so short as to be annoying, but often enough that Scrivener will quit (thus making an automatic backup in iCloud) before you pull out your iPhone or iPad to work.

iOS – iOS

iOS to iOS is easier than the above in that we only need to worry about one environment. It’s harder because we have no way to automate any of this. Using this method to transfer files between two (or more!) iOS devices is totally dependent on user discipline to keep versions straight. Be told.

Prepare the Files app

  1. Open the Files app on your first iOS device, which I’ll call D-One.
  2. Next, set up a transfer folder in iCloud drive. Just as for Mac – iOS, create a new folder, and name it something obvious, like “Scrivener Transfers”.

Switching from D-One

When you’re ready to put away D-One, or switch to your other iOS Device, D-Two:

  1. Return to the projects screen.
  2. Tap the “Edit” button at the top of your vertical projects button.
  3. Select the project you just worked on.
  4. Tap the export button
  5. iOS Scrivener will make a zipped backup of your project
  6. Save to to the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it) in Files
  7. (Optional) Delete the project from your iOS Scrivener app (select the project and tap “Delete” at the bottom of your screen) If you do this, you can avoid confusion about which version of your project you worked on last.
  8. Tap the “Done” button

Starting up D-Two

When you’re ready to work on your project on your second iOS device, D-Two:

  1. Open iOS Scrivener.
  2. Navigate to your projects screen if needed.
  3. If there are any copies of your project on D-Two:
    1. Tap the “Edit” button at the top of your vertical projects button.
    2. Delete the iOS copies of the project. This will eliminate any possible confusion by working on an old copy of your project.
    3. Tap the “Done” button
    4. For iOS 12 or 13
      1. Open the Files app
      2. Navigate to the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it)
      3. iOS 13+:
        1. Tap on the (most recent) backup project. The Files app will unZip the project. Wait until the project is unzipped AND uploaded to iCloud.
        2. Tap on the unZipped project. It will open in Scrivener.
      4. iOS 12:
        1. Create an “Unzip and Open In…” shortcut as described in this L&L forum post: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=287616#p287616
        2. Tap on your zipped project, and select Unzip and Open In… as your action.
        3. After unzipping, select Scrivener as your target. Your project will open directly in Scrivener.
    5. For iOS 11:
      1. Get a free third-party utility, FileApp. (Not the same as Files!!!)
      2. Open FileApp. Tap on the plus icon in the upper right corner. Then tap the import icon in the lower left.
      3. Tap Browse, navigate to your transfer folder on iCloud Drive, and select your zipped project. It will be copied to FileApp
      4. Still in FileApp, tap your project to unzip it there.
      5. Drill down into the unzipped project until you find a folder that has an extension of .scriv (very important!)
      6. Long press on that .scriv folder, then tap the export icon and open your project in Scrivener.

Repeat the cycle as needed. Enjoy!

2019 NaNoWriMo—Not So Much #amwriting

Those of of you who’ve followed me a while know that every winter I deal with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Yes, even here in sunny Southern California. Usually I don’t notice until February, by which point I’m so deep in that I can’t claw my way out until May or June.

This year I noticed early—right after the start of NaNoWriMo. My weight had spiked. I craved carbohydrates. I felt tired all the time. My blood pressure was rising, and my exercise falling. Nothing was interesting. And writing wasn’t happening.

I made a decision to put my health ahead of writing this November. Sue me.

I’ve changed my sleeping habits so that I’m awake from sunrise on. I’ve made outdoor exercise a priority. I’ve managed to find a food plan I can stick to even on my worst days. As a result, my blood pressure, inflammation levels, blood glucose, etc. have all stayed in healthy territory. Even my weight (which goes up 7–10 lbs. each winter) reversed the late October spike and is now holding steady.

I’ll take it. Steady is good.

NaNoWriMo comes after all that. No more late-night catch-up sessions fueled by caffeine, carbohydrates, and anxiety. NaNo comes after getting outdoors in the sun… (or maybe with it if my electronics will stay charged.) NaNo is less important than getting enough sleep, getting exercise, and keeping my food clean. I signed up for an ordinary 50,000 word project, but honestly I’ll be thrilled if I make it to 10k.

So no progress bar this November. In December, I’ll let y’all know how far I got in NaNoWriMo and more importantly how the winter is going for me in general.

Scrivener iOS Update (Yay!) #amwriting

After a long hiatus, Literature and Latte have updated Scrivener iOS to v. 1.2! This update fixes several long-standing, annoying, non-data-loss bugs. It also provides compatibility with iOS / iPadOS 13.

Bugs fixed:

  • All modern screen sizes supported. No more letterboxing!
  • Dynamic type better supported in the Binder and the remaining UI. If you like to cram stuff on your screen, you can. If you like big type, you can have that, too.
  • Fixed the search field disappearance bug.
  • Fixed the disappearing image link bug.
  • And many more!

I’m enjoying the ability to show more stuff in the Binder synopses. If you’re a Dark Mode fan, you’ll like the new Dark Mode support.

Many people protest iOS Scrivener’s Dropbox sync protocol. Loudly. I’m going to be writing a new series on an alternative to Dropbox sync with iOS Scrivener. Learn how to improve your data integrity, and transfer your Scrivener projects amongst your devices, iOS and otherwise, with a cloud service of your preference and tools provided by iOS / iPadOS 13.

Stay tuned!

Handwriting Input for Mac Scrivener—the Hard Way; AirDisplay v. YAM Air Review #amwriting

The most productive way for me to write fiction is handwriting, slow though it is. But I find the necessary transcription to digital form painful. Don’t even talk about typing from paper copy—repeating the stuff I’ve already written is like fingernails on a chalkboard. Even using a notetaking app that will convert a page of handwriting to digital text for pasting elsewhere requires a cleanup effort that drives me loopy. No, the way I’ve found that works for me is using a handwriting-recognition keyboard on iOS Scrivener. Do the cleanup as I write, that’s the ticket.

YAM Air lets me use my iOS handwriting keyboards to input directly to Mac Scrivener

Camp NaNoWriMo, though, meant I needed to keep track of my writing minutes. That’s hard for me to do on iOS. I have to start timers, turn off timers, restart timers… not to mention recording my results. It’s an error-prone process. So I stuck to the Mac most of July, where RescueTime tracked my app usage. But MacOS has deprecated its old Ink handwriting interface, so even if I had a graphics tablet it was typing for me on my Mac, until…

I noticed that one of the apps I use to make my iPad serve as a second monitor, AirDisplay, let me pull up the iOS on-screen keyboard. Yes, that let me use my iOS handwriting keyboards to input directly to my Mac!

All was not smooth with AirDisplay, though, and I can’t recommend it for this purpose. It was challenging to get Scrivener to stay visible—I found it almost impossible to keep menu bar menus accessible, let alone keep my insertion point visible so I could see my typing. The final deal-breaker was a bug in AirDisplay that means the Delete button on my iOS keyboards won’t work.

Maybe you can write without ever needing to delete a letter, but I can’t.

Disappointed, I wandered around the App Store and discovered the YAM (Yet Another Monitor) family of apps. YAM Air turned out to be the iPad-as-a-second-monitor app of my dreams.

When I bring up the iOS keyboard, the Mac screen stays stable behind it, so that it’s easy to access Mac menus. The stable screen position also lets me take advantage of typewriter scrolling in Mac Scrivener to keep my insertion point in view. Yes, if I need to access something at the bottom of the screen I must put away the keyboard, but if I need to do that I’ve stopped writing anyway.

Now, AirDisplay does a fine job as a second display app. Its iOS keyboard interface is buggy, though, and managing the display behind the keyboard is awkward. But YAM Air’s iOS keyboard interface is stable, and the display behind the keyboard is straightforward.

Also, YAM Air offers drag-and-drop between iOS and Mac. How cool is that? And all for $3.99 USD.

It’s YAM Air and handwriting on my Mac for me! Yay!

July Camp NaNoWrimo Postmortem (belated) #amwriting #campnanowrimo

No, I didn’t make my goal.

I did get interrupted by the last two rounds of editing for the LANaNo Anthology story I’m contributing. So that’s something writerly and productive I’ve accomplished. Yay!

Beyond that, I’ve come to accept that I don’t know how to make progress on my novel-in-progress. Rather than keep banging my head against what I now recognise as a brick wall, I’ve hired a writing coach. I’ll have a session with her shortly.

There’s no point in keeping on doing the same thing and expecting different results.

I Get Questions re: Adonit Pixel, iPad 6th Generation, and Notetaking #amwriting

A reader recently asked:

I read your post about using the adonit pixel with an ipad 6th gen!

I’d like to buy this gen ipad for notetaking @ school. You mentioned this pair worked fine (despite not being listed on adonit’s site as a compatible apple device)

I was wondering if you could describe what it likes to actually write notes on a notetaking app? it would help a lot with making my decision on whether or not to just chuck my pixel for the apple pencil.

First, my disclaimer: I’ve never actually used my iPad for note-taking in class, nor do I use anything else. I’m the world’s worst classroom note-taker. I survived my university experiences by borrowing others’ notes, reading classroom handouts, or by reading the text. Just reading, not taking notes. Occasionally, I’d use Post-its to mark important passages. My ADHD makes it difficult to learn from listening; if I try to actually take notes at the same time the result is that I learn nothing. My primary learning modes are reading and hands-on. I will make notes during hands-on exercises, though.

So given that my experience is 95% based on creating background notes for my novels, any note-taking app will work with the Adonit Pixel; turn it on and it will act like a plain capacitative stylus, or your finger. The problem is that if you want to be able to use its pressure-sensitive and palm-rejecting capabilities, you’ll need to use a note-taking app that supports those. Adonit have a list of apps that support these features with the Pixel on this page.

What’s more important, in my opinion, is choosing a note-taking app that works well with your method of note-taking. If your system works well with, say, Apple Notes, then use Apple Notes. Same for Notability, Goodnotes, or my personal favourite, NoteShelf. There are many others to choose among. I chose NoteShelf for its flexibility and its superior integration with Evernote, but Evernote integration may not be important to you. If the note-taking app which works best for you doesn’t support the Pixel’s pressure sensitivity and this is important to you, by all means go get an Apple Pencil.

Productivity (Again? Still?!) #amwriting #campnanowrimo

I need to be easier on myself, I think.

It doesn't get easier.
Image courtesy of africa at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not productive on weekends—no matter how I try, various social commitments distract me. And it’s tough for me to be productive mid-week if I have an engagement in the evening.

To put it simply, I get scared. I’m terrified of being late. (Lateness being a Major Sin according to my mother, may she rest in peace.) So I dare not do anything that might put me into an ADHD hyperfocused state… which means I get almost nothing done.

This isn’t an unfounded fear. Before I set up systems to bombard myself with visible and audible alarms, I’d miss about a third of my appointments. I still miss some.

So, having fallen behind—again—in Camp NaNoWriMo, I’m cranking myself up to an unhealthy level of paranoia, which of itself will make it more likely that either I’ll fall behind further, or miss an engagement.

Or both.

So starting today, I’m going to schedule anything I need to schedule as early as possible. If I have an evening commitment, I’ll arrange for pickup by someone prompt so that if I become hyperfocused, it’s not a disaster. And I’ll avoid evening engagements as much as possible. Not just for the duration of Camp NaNoWriMo, but in future, period. I’m tired of this crap.