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!

Advertisements

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.

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.

Bose QuietControl 30 Review #amwriting #campnanowrimo

You who’ve been with me a while know that I can’t resist playing with new tech. So I ordinarily wouldn’t have bought the Bose QuietControl 30 (QC30) in-ear headset during July Camp NaNoWriMo—but I made the mistake of putting it on my birthday list, and to my astonishment, it arrived! (Thanks, Hubby!)

The Bose QuietControl 30

As an ADHD writer, I need a serious noise-attenuating headset. I’ve had a mid-level active noise cancelling (ANC) in-ear headset, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC33IS, for years. It does great for airplane noise, but for coffeehouse music and conversation, not so much. I’ve had two gaming headsets, which do well on passive noise attenuation. But I left the quite good Hyper X Cloud II over-the-ear set behind at coffeehouses no fewer than three times, the last time for good. It just wasn’t meant to be. And the Razer Hammerhead BT—well, it’s just not up to attenuating the coffeehouse milieu, either, not even with Comply Foam Eartips installed.

Since I can’t stop losing over-the-ear headphones, there seemed to be only one choice for wide frequency, in-ear ANC—the outrageously expensive Bose QC30. Four times the cost of the ATH-ANC33IS or Razer Hammerhead BT, is it really worth that much money?

Yes. Yes, it is, if you need that level of attenuation. The QC30 drops outside music and loud conversation volume to such a low level that I can turn down the volume on my soothing background music and just write. OMG, it’s wonderful! Occasionally I start thinking that it’s not doing much—but then I turn off the ANC and hastily turn it back on.

The QC30 music quality is great, for my not-too-picky taste. Will it satisfy serious audiophiles? Probably not, but it’s not shabby. Check out this Sound Guys article if you’re curious. I’m happy with how it treats my Bach concertos, though.

There’s also the “Control” part of QuietControl. I can increase or decrease attenuation at will. In other words, I don’t have to dig an eartip out of my ear in order to talk to the coffeehouse barista, then replace it afterwards. I just lower attenuation, talk normally, then raise the attenuation back up to max.

Don’t be discouraged by the (comparatively) low ratings for the QC30 v. the Bose over-the-ear headsets. Expectations for Bose are high, and in-ear headsets always have lower ratings than their over-the-ear counterparts. Here are some common complaints:

  • The batteries die after two years. Rechargeable lithium batteries wear out. Depending on how many times you charge them, this isn’t unexpected. Not even Bose can change physics.
  • The QC30 doesn’t stand up to workouts. Bose doesn’t claim it will. Their sports headsets are not noise-cancelling. Their noise-cancelling headsets are not intended to stand up to sports.
  • The eartips don’t fit. They’re good eartips, provided in small, medium, and large, but of course they won’t fit everyone. Poor eartip fit is the cause of not only fit complaints, but many poor sound complaints as well. I’m lucky the large tips fit me, because the QC30 won’t accept third-party eartips. In my opinion, the inability to accept third-party eartips is one of its few flaws.
  • The neckband shifts position. It can slip off to one side a bit if I’m taking a brisk walk to the neighbourhood Starbucks whilst playing Pokemon Go. The only time I’ve had a real problem with this is if I’m listening to music, forget myself, and start dancing. This appears to be part of the “not ready for workouts” syndrome.
  • The ear wires/neckband physically wear out. I haven’t had mine long enough to give this a test. However, by design necessity in-ear headsets are more delicate than over-the-ear ones. The wires and components of the QC30 are heavier than those of my old AT headset, which has lasted me years. Many Bose customers complaining about this say that it happens after the 1-year warranty runs out—and that their expectations for Bose are that the set will last several years more. I’ll revise my review if this happens, but like my Audio-Technica set, I intend to treat my QC30 as if it’s made of glass. Similar complaints were rife about the AT set, and I managed to get five years out of it (it’s still going, in fact.) Honestly, I’ll likely wear out the battery before I wear out the rest of the device.
Tips for Using the Bose QC30 Headset

Update your firmware. There are many reviews complaining about the voice microphone for phone calls, sound quality, etc. My unit arrived with firmware 1.2.x. By the time I finished updating, the firmware version was 3.0.3! Don’t just depend on the Bose phone app, Bose Connect. I got a more recent copy of the firmware by going to the Bose update site, btu.bose.com. I have had zero problems with sound quality or with folks I call complaining about call quality.

Change the way you think about voice pickup. There’s no microphone in the control module. It’s not hidden in the neckband, either. No, the microphones(!) are on the earbuds themselves. So holding the control module or the neckband closer to your mouth won’t help. Just speak normally. I’d suggest keeping your voice even a bit softer than normal—one person I called said my voice was “over-modulated”. That meant that I was speaking too loudly for the mics and they were distorting my voice. But please do be sure you have the latest firmware (see above.)

Can There Be Too Much Tracking? #amwriting #campnanowrimo

For Camp Nanowrimo this year, I’m tracking minutes spent actually writing fiction, as opposed to new words or some other measure. All well and good, but how do I track it when I’m so distractible? How do I tell genuine research, for example, from a distraction? How do I count minutes when I lose track of time so badly that I forget to set a timer for—how long? Was that an hour that slipped by? Do I count time when I’m staring at the screen for—seconds? Minutes? while my brain throws a distraction event and I check out of the planet temporarily?

Seriously, I have little sense of time passing. It’s the ADHD thing. I have a bunch of systems in place, and yet I still manage to miss occasional appointments—I live in dread of it.

So I’m doing the best I can, here. RescueTime helps if it hasn’t crashed and I’m on my Mac. I assume any time Scrivener’s on screen I’m writing. RescueTime’ll catch any time I check out for more than 5 minutes. And I close Scrivener when I’m done on the Mac so RescueTime can’t count any time when Scriv’s just onscreen momentarily.

iOS has been more of a problem historically. I resist using a free service, but I’ve finally given in and turned on Apple Screentime on both my devices. Again I only count time in Scrivener, regardless of whether I was really, really researching or whatever. I’d rather under report than over report.

Other than that, I can only hope that the time I spend tuned out makes up for accidental double recording.

So as far as I can tell, I managed to catch up to “par” today as far as reaching my 3000 minute goal for the month. Onward!

July 2019 Camp NaNoWriMo Progress #amwriting #campnanowrimo

Progress in Minutes (50 hours==3000 minutes total goal)
1894 / 3000 (63.13%)


Progress meter courtesy of honorless.net

Legend:

Colour Progress towards today’s target
Red Progress < 90%
Gold 90% <= progress < 100%
Green 100% <= progress

Update History:

Date and Time Description
2019-07-22 23:59 Progress posted
2019-07-19 19:02 Progress posted
2019-07-17 18:32 Progress posted
2019-07-17 13:20 Progress posted
2019-07-09 16:55 Progress posted
2019-07-08 17:47 Progress posted
2019-07-08 00:12 Progress posted
2019-07-05 22:45 Progress posted
2019-07-04 23:14 Progress posted
2019-07-03 21:09 Progress posted
2019-07-02 22:50 Progress posted
2019-07-01 23:05 Progress posted
2019-07-01 09:05 Created

New Short Story in Alpha Phase—Already! #amwriting

Wow! This is amazing. There’s no comparison to writing my entry for last year’s NaNo Los Angeles anthology. Last year I scrapped a 4,000 word draft at about this point, and was scrambling to make the March 21 deadline from scratch. This year, I’ve only scrapped about 900 words. I will have time to adjust and polish before the March 31 deadline.

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

What’s the difference? There’s two parts. First, last year was when I finally created my own method of, for lack of a better term, “outlining.” I learned how to identify what I think of as “islands” and Save the Cat! (Blake Snyder) describes as “beats”. (I hate that term, by the way, but I’ll use it so as to communicate.)

I know that Mr. Snyder insists that all 15 of his beats be nailed down before starting to write, but I… well, I just couldn’t. Not the way he does it. What I did was write a logline using the “enhanced logline template” from Save the Cat! Strikes Back (also Blake Snyder), Chapter 1. This rocks for me.

Save the Cat! Strikes Back by Blake Snyder
Save the Cat! Strikes Back by Blake Snyder

The enhanced logline hits the high points of the beats (“islands”) without forcing me to think of a precise beginning or ending in advance. It skips several of Mr. Snyder’s fifteen basic beats—but the logline structure enables me to just write in my usual “seat of the pants” manner. When I start writing, I think, “Okay, I have a 4000 word hard limit, so that means everything up to and including ‘breaks into the second act’ has to happen in the first 900 words or so…” This helps keep me focused. Usually no more than a paragraph into a diversion, I’ll be able to ask myself, “Will this get me to my next island in 900 words?” If not, it goes. Often I don’t even bother writing the paragraph. “Yeah, that’s interesting, and if I had words to spare I’d go there, but…”
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

(By the way, if you want the lessons of Blake Snyder’s books condensed to one volume and re-phrased for narrative fiction rather than screenplays, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel (Jessica Brody) will save you the tedious translation of screenplay jargon into novel jargon.)

The other difference is that last year, I hadn’t had the experience of working with professional editors on fiction. I hadn’t had five subplots ruthlessly cut because—Dun! Dun! Dun!—they had nothing to do with the main story. In a 4000 word (max) science fiction or fantasy story, I can’t mess around. I need to get my universe established without wasting words, and get the story moving—fast. Maybe I can wander a bit in a novel—but if a subplot has no effect on the finale, I can and should chop it no matter how personally interesting I find it. Not helping me get to an island (beat)? It’s got to go.

In case you think that this eliminates all the art in a story—it doesn’t. I composed my best sentences in last year’s story because I absolutely had to cut something and yet convey its concept better. My story was more compelling for cutting extraneous events to the bone.

So onward! This year’s NaNo Los Angeles deadline is coming!