“I Started”— You, too, can get a badge before midnight #campnanowrimo

Doing Camp NaNoWriMo? I was surprised when I updated my word count Saturday and got an email with cool badges like this one. They’re available through midnight tonight (July 3).


July Camp NaNoWriMo Begins #amwriting #campnanowrimo

The dreaded Chore Grizzly with his evil to-do list has been hounding me lately…

I’m committed to adding 50,000 words to the draft of my current novel in July during Camp NaNoWriMo. Not that I haven’t been writing… exactly, but things have been pushing it down in my queue, and that has got to stop.

Now, some of these things are things that absolutely should push writing down into the stack—health, for one. I hadn’t had a physical for four years until June 12, so there’s a lot of stuff stacked up. I have follow-up appointments—three of them so far. My doctor is sending me emails daily. And don’t ask about dental or vision care.

Just don’t ask.

Part of the rush regarding health is that I want to be reasonably confident about it by the time I leave for—wait for it—a Northern European cruise in August (Oh joy! The same floating hotel I had last time! I don’t have to learn a new place to stay! I just have new cities to visit…) But that applies equally well to getting writing out of the way.

Of course, I found an out-of-the-way place to write onboard last cruise—but not until it was more than half over. This time I’ve already scouted my writing nook—and if Hubby hasn’t paid money for a special shore excursion, I’m going to pass on some of the tours and just hang out there. If this seems contrary to the concept of “vacation,” well, too bad. I easily slip into sensory overload on these things, and allowing myself time to just hang out and write or swim in the pool or dammit read someone else’s writing is part of my vacation.

But before that, getting my novel within range of beta stage is my goal right after health. And nothing’s going to stop me.

How to (90% Automatically) Track Scrivener (Mac or Windows) Word Counts in Beeminder #amwriting

Markos Giannopoulos posted a great article in his blog, Tracking writing goals: Scrivener + Dropbox + Beeminder. His is an excellent way to track word counts from iOS Scrivener if iOS is all you use—but as Mr Giannopoulos notes, the word counts will be higher than true. That’s because all the files Beeminder will be counting are RTF files—which contain formatting information that Beeminder will happily include as words you wrote in addition to the real words you wrote.

If you have either Windows or Mac Scrivener, and you’d like a truly accurate count Beeminded (almost) automatically, read on.

This technique uses the External Folder sync capability of Mac and Windows Scrivener (available in the Windows version since the release of iOS Scrivener) and Dropbox—independently of iOS Scrivener sync. I tried to use Google Drive, but was unable to get word counts through to Beeminder. Sadly for iCloud Drive fans, I couldn’t even get iCloud Drive started.

Is this technique any easier or more accurate than always compiling a plain text version of your project whenever you’d like to update your Beeminder word count (as Mr Giannopoulos also suggests in his post)? If you don’t often add new text documents to your project, and you usually close your projects, then my technique can automate tracking accurate word counts via Beeminder. If you add a new text document or three daily, or you leave your project window open for days, compiling to plain text may work better for you.

I’ll be describing:

  1. How to set up an External Folder sync to Dropbox that will contain all and only the Scrivener files (in a particular project) that you want to Beemind.
  2. How to add those files to a new goal in Beeminder.
  3. How to Beemind any new Scrivener files you may add to your project and want to track in your existing goal.

Setting Up External Folder Sync for Beeminder

First of all: If you’re using Dropbox to sync with iOS Scrivener—this is completely separate. Don’t use the folder you use to sync with iOS Scrivener for this. ANY other Dropbox folder will do.

Filename caution: Once you start Beeminding a text in your Scrivener project with this technique, changing its name inside Scrivener will break its Dropbox link. You’ll need to fix the link in Beeminder to keep your word count accurate.

  1. To make this work, you’ll need to have the Dropbox app installed on your Windows or Mac computer. This will put a “Dropbox” folder on your hard drive. That’s the place you’ll be telling Scrivener to sync with.
  2. Make a new folder somewhere in your Dropbox folder (that isn’t where you sync iOS). I suggest you name it something obvious like BeeminderWordCount or MyProjectWordCount.
  3. Open your Scrivener project in Mac or Windows Scrivener. Consider the documents you want to Beemind. If it’s just all the text documents in your draft folder, great! Otherwise, I suggest you decide on a keyword for the texts you want to Beemind (“WordCount” or whatever you prefer) and assign that keyword to the texts you want to count.
    1. If you’re using a keyword, search for that keyword and save the search as a collection. Usually the collection has the search term as its name, so in my example, the collection would be named “WordCount.”
  4. Now select File > Sync > With External Folder…
    You’ll get a dialog box like the one on the right (or above.)

    1. Click the “Choose…” button and select the folder you set up in step 2.
    2. Tick the box for “Sync the contents of the Draft folder.”
    3. If you’re using a keyword search collection as in Step 3.A, tick the “Sync only documents in collection:” box and select your search collection from the dropdown menu.
    4. Make sure the “Format for external Draft files:” dropdown has “Plain Text” selected. This is what’s going to make your word counts more accurate.
    5. CAUTION: Do not tick the “Prefix file names with numbers” box! This option prefixes numbers to the text filenames in Dropbox to show their position in the Binder. That might cause several file name changes in Dropbox every time you moved a file within your project, breaking many Dropbox shareable links. You’d then need to update those links in Beeminder to keep your word count accurate.
    6. Tick the “Check external folder on project open and automatically sync on close” box. This is what’s going to make updating the Beeminder count (almost) automatic.
    7. Finally, click the “Sync” button. Your sync is now set up, keeping plain text copies of the files in the folder you’ve set up for Beeminder to count.

Whenever you quit Scrivener or close your project, the synced files will be updated automatically. If you don’t close your project ever, you can update those files by selecting “File > Sync > With External Folder Now.”

How to Set Up Your Beeminder Goal

  1. Go ahead and start your goal in Beeminder, using URLMinder as your data source.
  2. You’ll come to a page with a place to insert URLs for Beeminder to track for word count (see right or above.) In a fresh browser window or tab, open Dropbox.com.
  3. In your browser, in Dropbox.com, navigate to and open the folder you created in Step 2 of “Setting Up External Folder Sync for Beeminder” above (EFS for short). You’ll find a folder inside named “Draft.” Open that “Draft” folder.
  4. Now you’ll see a list of the texts that you added to EFS in EFS Step 4.G. For each of those files:
    1. Copy a “sharable link.”
    2. Return to the Beeminder page and paste the “sharable link” into the URL list box. Be sure to tap “enter” after each one.
  5. Now you have a list of the texts you’d like to word count, each separated from the next by an “enter.” Go ahead and finish setting up your Beeminder goal.

You’re done! Be sure to close your project or choose “File > Sync > With External Folder Now” in Scrivener each day to log your word counts to Beeminder.

How to Beemind new Scrivener files

One of the joys of Scrivener is the ability to break the stuff you’re writing into small chunks so that the text never gets overwhelming. But that means adding a file, which means adding another file to the list that Beeminder tracks.

I wish that I could tell you that Beeminder will automatically start counting new text files that appear in your EFS folder—but it won’t. It only monitors individual files. So whenever you add a new text to your Scrivener project that you’d like to have counted, you’ll have to add it to the URL list that you created when you set up your goal.

First, if you’re using a keyword search as in EFS Step 3.A, be sure to add the keyword to your new file(s).

After you close your project (or choose File > Sync > With External Folder Now), the new file(s) will be added to your EFS folder.

From there it’s pretty easy—just go to the “Settings” area of your Beeminder goal and scroll down. You’ll find the URL list there. Follow Step 4 above to add your new URLs to the list. But—you will need to remember to do this for every new file you want counted. (This is the other 10% of the “90% automatically”.) But if you were doing this in any other writing software you’d still have to remember to add new files unless you kept your work in a monolithic plain text file.

That’s it! Happy word count tracking!

April #CampNaNoWriMo—Yes, I’m Participating

Let the jackalopes—er, Plot Bunnies, multiply

I apologise for posting so infrequently. I’ve been struggling with structure. I’ve re-read Story Genius by Lisa Cron, and even picked up and read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (which actually describes the same phenomenon from the opposite end of the telescope, as it were.) I’ve also dealt with a nasty case of the flu. Writing has been happening very little, I’m afraid. I know I’m not alone in the fear of Doing It Wrong, but it’s been debilitating lately.

I know when I pick up the Ulysses app demo and try once again to see if I wouldn’t like writing with it better than I do with Scrivener (answer: no, I wouldn’t), that I’m lost in the Procrastination Archipelago.

Well, that’s what NaNoWriMo is for, in all its variants—getting writers out of procrastination. So here I am, determined to meet my goal of fifty hours of structuring and writing for the month. With any luck, I’ll do a lot more. You can follow my stats on the Camp NaNoWriMo site. See you in the Land of the Storysquatch.

NaNo Lessons Learned #amwriting #NaNoWriMo2016

NaNoWriMo 2016 results
NaNoWriMo 2016 results

I have the traditional Good News and Bad News.

First, the Bad News:

  • I did not manage to write 50K words on my new manuscript.
  • I need to learn how to plan my novel before drafting. Seriously. I know that other people can plan without completely hosing their enthusiasm for a project. I still haven’t figured out how to work it for myself. OK, I commit to reading three more eye-rolling “how to plan a novel” books before March. Blech.

Next, the Good News:

  • I managed to write more than 43K words on my new manuscript. Better than 86% of goal—I’m not at all displeased, even if I don’t get NaNoWriMo Winner Goodies this year.
  • I confirmed my knowledge that a resentment is a major damper on my productivity. That tells me that if I find myself stuck in resentment quicksand I must take even more energetic steps to get back on track than I used this month.
  • I learned that planning recreational travel during NaNoWriMo is contraindicated. Yes, in the past I’ve managed to keep on track in Camp NaNoWriMo despite going to family funerals. But if I’m trying to have fun by traveling somewhere, I find that I can’t really enjoy my trip because my word count is suffering, and I can’t really focus on writing because I’m on a trip. All that really saved my word count on my San Jose trip was the fact that I traveled north by train. I can get a lot of words written on a nine-hour train ride.

For My Own Information:

  • It’s easier to focus in my dining room, even with the fridge and television handy, than it is in the nice office area I set up in my bedroom. This is counter-intuitive to me. I have a lovely standing desk, a beautiful large monitor, a chair if I want to sit down, reference books, supplies, etc. on hand in my bedroom. If I work in the dining room I have to go upstairs to get references, or a notebook to draw a plot or a map in, or a pen to draw the map or plot with, ad infinitum. Yet I clock more words in the dining room. Go figure.
  • It’s easier to focus in Starbucks than it is in a nice office I’ve rented for a day. Even if I have to tell the guy next to me in Starbucks that hockey is fun to talk about but I have to work now, I still get more done in Starbucks.
  • It’s almost impossible to focus when I’m in the same place as Hubby. OK, maybe not as surprising as the others, but still, he is a walking distraction… I suppose after many years of marriage, that’s a good thing.

Trying to Crank It Up for the Finish #amwriting #NaNoWriMo2016

Up until this morning, it was looking good for winning NaNoWriMo—I’ve been posting word counts on an intercept curve for the last three days. I’ve updated the mind map, and in general I know where I want to go with this story.

Nothing is more destructive to my productivity, though, than a rip-roaring resentment. I’m fighting one off now, concerning two—no, three—microwave ovens (with a fourth in prospect) two appliance retailers, four service technicians, and of course the Hubby.

It’s not the Hubby’s fault. It’s not—well, it’s not two of the four service technicians’ faults. (I’ve got a snit on against one of the retailers and its service technicians. Oh boy, do I have a snit on. This started in mid-August, and here it is, November and Thanksgiving and still no microwave. Someone Must Pay.) I’m fighting the temptation to rip into anyone who comes anywhere near me with the most vicious snark and sarcasm in my arsenal, delivered with a Southern Belle accent that drips with honey and venom. Hubby used to take the brunt of this because, well, on account of husband and lives in the same house, poor man.

But I’ve learned better now. I must somehow turn this negative energy into manuscript. I think it’s time to write the Big Confrontation Between Hero #1 and Villain. A minor fight between Hero #2 and Landlady is also in the offing, as well as a spat between Hero #1 and Hero #2. Vicious snark—yes! Hurt feelings that will go on for a chapter or three… or maybe a whole episode or three…

Too bad none of them has a Southern accent. I’ll just have to make a Highlands accent do.

Stopping to Invent a Map to Look At #amwriting

Looks together and organized, doesn't it? NOT.
Looks together and organized, doesn’t it? NOT.

THE PROBLEM WITH being neither a NaNoWriMo planner nor a pantser is that sometimes I run off the map.

Take yesterday, for example. I got no words written. Why? Because I know darn well that I need a new character. A real supporting character, not a bit part. I know how, in general, this person fits into the story, but not specifics. I’m going to have to back-write (him/her/it) in which means that I need a visual of how he fits into the overall novel.

That means I need to go back and revise my so-called plan. I really can’t make any progress that I feel good about until I do. So, I need another branch on that mind map you see in the upper left.

The map looks really organized and cool, doesn’t it? Almost as if the colors mean something, and events and people are lined up in neat stacks. It’s not—not really. I color it brightly to keep my attention; the colors themselves have no meaning. The stacks are plotlines involving a given person. Problem is, I’ve introduced new ones and abandoned others. The map needs… combing before I can get on with writing.

So I’m taking today to do that, as well as catch up on blogging and business stuff. If it means not finishing 50K for November, oh well—I’ve had plenty of experience with what happens when I keep drafting when my map means nothing. Mostly, a mess is what happens, which takes me months to untangle. Nope, better that I hit 50K mid-December than have something that I need months to make fit for other eyes to read.

Laters, dudes.

It’s Published! (The Only Marketing Post You’ll Ever See Here) #amwriting

I published "The Bully Trap"
I published “The Bully Trap”

OK, I CHANGED my mind.

I published The Bully Trap, episode one of Fraser and Spenser, Consulting, under the pen name of SF Lakin. Here’s my book website:

That’s the direct link to the book page. You can get free samples from most of the retailers on the list. If your favorite eBook retailer isn’t on the list, I’ll be very much surprised.

If you’d like to subscribe to my book email list, it’s here:

Special offers and news will go to email subscribers before they go anywhere else, be that else Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or my website.

What’s it about? It’s an origin story for a pair of detectives in Victorian London, one of whom is magical. Episode one could be classed as a thriller, but Episode Two (my NaNoWriMo project this year) will be a mystery.

No, not those detectives. These are entirely different chaps. Honest.

Enough with the marketing—right now, I’m sitting here in a swamp that’s a mixture of ecstatic joy and abject terror. I’m scared of audiences to the point of tears. And yet, I promised myself that this would be the year I published—and it has been.

Thank Heavens that the technical side of publishing is comparatively easy for me. In fact, tweaking my website, my distribution, my cover—et freaking cetera—threatens to become an even more attractive distraction from new writing than video games. After all, I can convince myself that I’m being “productive.”

This blog post falls into that category as well. NaNoWrimo is calling, and I need to write about 1800 words today. Ta, folks.