Upgrading To Scrivener 3 Mac from Scrivener 2? Don’t panic! Installation & Startup Suggestions @ScrivenerApp #amwriting

Scrivener 3.0 for Mac is here!


Scrivener 3 for Mac is here! It has styles! It has a wonderful new compiler! There are bookmarks, work history and much more. It’s mostly familiar, and it’s awfully tempting to just plunge in. Yet there are road hazards for those who just want to upgrade right now, dammit, and why doesn’t it work just like old Scrivener 2? What happened to my compile formats? What are these ‘style’ things you speak of and how will they help me?

I spent two days down that rabbit hole. Learn from my mistakes. Scrivener 3 is a Major Upgrade. It contains seven years’ worth of pent-up new features. Treat it with respect, and you’ll be up and running in a few hours. Treat it like a minor upgrade, and you too may be crying on the Scrivener forums.

Take a deep breath. Before you download that software, let’s tidy up a bit, and get those Scrivener 2 projects all spiffy and ready to be updated.

First, open your applications folder on your Mac. I suggest renaming the Scrivener app to ‘Scrivener 2’. This will keep Mac OS from getting confused when you install the new version. I strongly suggest keeping both versions active until you are confident to go forward with Scrivener 3. In particular, do not use Scrivener 3 for a project that is running on a close deadline for which you will need to use Compile! Scrivener 3 compile is vastly improved, but it has a learning curve associated with it. You’ll need to unlearn how you used Compile in Scrivener 2, and relearn the simpler, more powerful, Compile in Scrivener 3. Doing this under time pressure equals misery.

If you use iOS Scrivener, take the time right now to be sure all your projects are properly synced to your Mac. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Now, open Scrivener 2. Open each project you wish to bring forward into Scrivener 3. If you use External Folder sync, do one last sync. Make sure there are no loose ends.

Once you’ve done this for each project that you plan on updating to Scrivener 3, you have one last task to perform. Open Scrivener preferences from the Scrivener menu. Down at the bottom of the dialog, click on the “Manage…” button. Choose “Save all preferences…” and save your preferences as a file on the desktop, or anywhere else that you’ll be able to find it quickly. Once you’ve done that, please quit Scrivener 2.

One final thing: Shut down your Mac and re-start it. It seems silly, but at least 75% of the complaints on the Scrivener forum regarding Scrivener 3 installation are solved by a simple restart of the Mac in question. Why take a chance?

At last! You’re ready. Go ahead and purchase your upgrade (or get your free upgrade!) and download Scrivener 3. Install it, but before you fire it up, open your Applications folder. Again, to help Mac OS keep the two applications straight, rename the new Scrivener app to ‘Scrivener 3.’

Now you can open your new software! Enter your registration number, and you’re rolling. But don’t convert those projects just yet. First, let’s visit the Preferences pane. Go ahead and click the “Manage…” button. It’s in the same position that it was in Scrivener 2. Click “Load all preferences…” and select the preferences file that you made in Scrivener 2. It won’t cover everything, because there are new things to prefer in Scrivener 3, but it will keep you from exclaiming, “Oh my [deity of choice]! I already told it not to do that…”

Still in the Preferences dialog, click on the Backup tab. Choose a different backup folder from the one you used for Scrivener 2. Seriously. There will be no easy way to tell the difference between your old Scrivener 2 backups and your new Scrivener 3 backups unless you set up a new backup folder. Also, Scrivener 3 might well start writing over your old Scrivener 2 backups. Let’s not go there.

I know you’re itching to open one of your very own projects, and see it in Scrivener 3 glory. Don’t do it. Instead, select File > New Project… and click on the hated, boring Tutorial icon. You need not go through the entire thing. But I strongly suggest that you take the time to click on the What’s New collection and follow the instructions there.

Yes, it will take an hour or three. It’s a small price to pay to avoid hours or days of struggle. You may even want to view the video tutorials. To find them, select New Project from the File menu and you’ll find the icon right there next to the tutorial icon. I’m happy to wait some more. Take your time.

Now open a Scrivener 2 project. I suggest you choose one that you don’t care about much. Perhaps it’s on the back burner, or its deadline is quite far out. Note that you get an alert asking if you want to update the project. Click the the “Update Project” button. Now, Scrivener makes a copy of your Scrivener 2 project, and rename it to something like “my-project.backup.scriv”.

Personally, I find the naming convention confusing. it makes me think that the file is a real backup rather than an old version copy. If you find it confusing as well, you’re free to change the name to something more meaningful. I’d also suggest taking it out of the iOS sync folder on Dropbox if that’s where you’re keeping your projects.

By now, your updated project is open on your Mac screen. Right now, import your old compile formats, if any, by selecting “Compile…” from the File menu. Click on the gear menu at the bottom of the Formats column. From there, select “Import Scrivener 2 preset…”. You’ll be shown a list of the presets that were available to this project under Scrivener 2. Choose one that you think will be useful, and import it. Repeat as needed.

Please don’t think you will be able to use those presets as they came from Scrivener 2, however. You’ll need to connect them to section types and section layouts as you learned in the tutorial and in those videos. But at least the formats will be close to what you were using in Scrivener 2. Also, you will need to develop section layouts and section types for things in your front matter and your back matter. (A full description of the new Scrivener 3 compile system is way beyond the scope of this blog post. Use the tutorial and the videos, please.)

Other hazards:

  • If you use External File Sync, start a new sync folder. Scrivener uses a new naming convention for these files, and “crossing the streams” is Bad. Trust me.
  • If you sync to iOS, then prep your iOS device by moving your old Scrivener 2 projects to the “On my iPad (or iPhone)” area without syncing. Rename them so that you don’t confuse them with the Scrivener 3 projects (or just delete them.) Remember, these are already saved in the old format on your Mac.
  • When you sync, the entire converted Scrivener 3 project(s) will upload to iOS. Every single file inside the project(s) will have been updated. Make sure that the upload from Mac to Dropbox is finished, and allow plenty of time for the iOS download to complete as well.

I hope that this little upgrade guide has gotten you off on the right foot. Happy Scrivening!

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The Gaming—Writing—Dictation Connection: The Making of a True Dictation Believer #dictation #amwriting

The awesome HyperX Cloud II gaming headset in a fierce dictation session. Zap those adverbs!

It’s all my fault that I’ve been silent on this blog so long. The most damaging incident was two months of being missing in action with CPDTFG (Can’t Put Down The F___ing Game) syndrome.

(I won’t name or link to the game—you’ll have to find your own addiction.)

I’m over it. I had to deal with withdrawal symptoms for a while. And I learned some stuff about human nature which will make its way into my writing (Thank you, D4rk W4rriors Guild: Capidava, Cajocu, Funnie808, MoonCat546, Boberg, et. al.) But it has led to a new set of writing productivity tools—which, thanks to CPDTFG, I desperately need.

I’ve looked over dictation software in the past; in particular I even bought a book about dictation for writers (The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon (Scott Baker)), and gave the Mac/iOS versions of dictation a try (why not? After all, they’re licensed from the same people who make Dragon Professional Individual for Mac 6.0, Nuance. Right? Even though Mr Baker recommended against it…)

Each time I came to the conclusion that

  1. I pause in the middle of composing to think up what comes next. The Mac/iOS dictation software figures that I’ve stopped talking and it’s time to transcribe. Aaauuuggghh!

  2. The more I try to correct the software’s understanding of my speech, the worse its transcription gets. I got more stressed, my childhood accent came back, and Mac dictation became yet more confused. (You do not want to know what happens with Mac dictation when it tries to transcribe rural Oklahoma pronunciation, especially when it started transcribing a voice speaking decent Californian. It’s not pretty.)

But thanks to CPDFTG syndrome, I became desperate, so when I got an email from Scott Baker recommending Fool Proof Dictation (Christopher Downing), I downloaded it. This book is saving my writing life.

Mr Downing starts from the concept that talking to a computer and expecting it to take dictation is an unnatural act—and that just as we need practice to handwrite and we need practice to type well, we also need practice in order to become good at dictation. He details a training regimen—for the writer—to use computer dictation and use it well, emphasising the mental rather than the technical side of dictation.

I’ll list just two of his precepts which have made a big difference for me:

  1. Don’t live-dictate; instead, record and transcribe after. This simple step has turned me from a throw-the-machine-out-the-window hater of dictation into a dictation believer. Seriously. Not watching my words appear on the screen in real time calms me down and lets me avoid the “it didn’t understand me” frustration. Also, transcription doesn’t care if I stop for 30 seconds to think about what I want to say. Right away, my primary frustrations with computerised dictation vanished.

  2. Speak slowly—aim for a 5,000 words per hour (83 wpm) pace. Implementing this has improved both my pre-recorded dictation and my use of voice commands on my phone and tablet. Before, I’d get wound up and start speaking faster when Siri didn’t understand me—now I slow down and use simpler words and sentences. Much better.

He also details extensive exercises designed to improve both the writer’s “machine-understandability” and her ability to compose while speaking, both of which are critical to productive dictation.

One last connection with the gaming world—my technical dictation setup. I broke down and bought Dragon Professional for Mac, for its transcription capability. I can record on Mac, iPhone, or iPad using a cheap voice recording app, and transfer the file to Mac if needed for transcription. But the microphone…

Both Mr Baker and Mr Downing agree that having a good mic is critical. The mic on my active noise cancelling earbuds was woefully inadequate. It seemed like it picked up everything except my voice! The mic on the headset that Mr Downing recommended was inexpensive and worked well, but the headset had no incoming noise mitigation. There went my ability to focus while working in a coffee shop!

But my gaming, er… episode caused me to consider—PC gamers need both superb microphones to communicate in noisy environments, and headsets with excellent noise mitigation so they can hear the tiny rustle in the “bushes” to their left that heralds an ambushing enemy. They also need comfort for hours-long gaming sessions, and they need all this at a reasonable price.

I need both a superb microphone to dictate in noisy coffee shops, and a headset with excellent noise mitigation so I’m not pulled out of the “flow.” I also need comfort for hours-long dictating sessions, and I need all this at a reasonable price.

Therefore, I went to a local Best Buy and asked a nice man a third my age about gaming headsets. I am now the proud owner of a HyperX Cloud II which lets me dictate clean copy in a crowded Starbucks at 4 pm.

Dude.

Scrivener Special Abilities on Plus-Size iPhones @scrivenerapp

The plus-size iPhones display the Scrivener project binder in a small sidebar.


Here it is, nearly July—and that means it’s New Phone season if you’re an iPhone user. You may wait until mid-September to get the latest and greatest straight from Apple’s development labs. Myself, I like to snipe for bargains in late August as the phone companies discount Apple’s older models, which will likely be discontinued or released with different (usually smaller) storage configurations.

But if you’re a Scrivener iOS user and have a small iPhone (iPhone SE, or any of the iPhones 5) or a medium-sized iPhone (6, 6S, or 7)—there are some little-known capabilities of Scrivener iOS on large iPhones (6 Plus, 6S Plus, and 7 Plus) that may influence your new phone decision.
Without the extra keyboard row on the iPhone, you can't access fonts, spacing, or indents.

A small iPhone (1136‑by‑640‑pixel resolution—example: iPhone SE) won’t even display Scrivener’s extra keyboard row in landscape mode, for the simple reason that if it did there would be no room on the screen to display text. Because several formatting functions can only be accessed from that keyboard row on an iPhone, as a practical matter, Scrivener can only be used in portrait mode on a small iPhone.

Medium iPhones (1334-by-750-pixel resolution—example: iPhone 7) get that extra keyboard row in landscape mode. With that increased screen space, Scrivener can be used effectively in any orientation on a medium iPhone.

If you’ve used Quick Reference in your project in iPad Scrivener, those files will be available as Quick Reference items for your iPhone Plus binder.


Ah, but on a large iPhone (1920-by-1080-pixel resolution—example: iPhone 7 Plus) you get so much more! The binder sidebar, unavailable on smaller phones, is available on a Plus-size iPhone in landscape. It’s like a teeny iPad. If you also have an iPad, and set up some Quick Reference files in your project on iPad, you can display them in that little binder on iPhone. (At this time, you can’t designate Quick Reference files on the iPhone, whatever its size. Maybe next year…)


UPDATE 1 JULY 2017—

Keith Blount of http://literatureandlatte.com says that for the next Scrivener iOS update, Quick Reference will be enabled for Plus-size iPhones! Huzzah!


I’ve gone ahead and gotten myself an iPhone 6S Plus, not even waiting for August—I wanted to lock in the 3.5mm headphone socket before it disappears from the product line, as well as enjoy the sidebar in Scrivener. Happy phone shopping!

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

url-minder
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!

GTD Revisited, Week 2: Mind Like Teflon #amwriting

Some minds are like water; others are like Teflon


Certain things just slip off my brain, like a raw egg off a greased Teflon griddle.

Now, one of the stated goals of GTD is “mind like water.” To quote,

In karate, there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.
—David Allen, Getting Things Done

I wish. I’m not calm like a still pond. Unlike his ideal GTD practitioner (or the karate student of his analogy), I am unable to control my level of attention. The result? I can build a habit (such as flossing my teeth), do it three months in a row, and have one day where I’m distracted—and it’s gone. I may as well give up on habits; I will always need a checklist for the simple things I need to do daily.

Right now, I’m struggling with simple things to do that aren’t getting done in a timely fashion—for the reason that I have serious trouble remembering them. Example: make a call to cancel an appointment during business hours. Whether I am able to do this is entirely dependent on

  1. Looking at Habitica or my calendar before end of business.
  2. Making the call right that moment.

If for any reason I can’t make the call exactly then (need to gather materials, need to keep the phone line open for an incoming call, need to keep lunch from burning—anything) it will slip off my Mind Like Teflon and I will be very lucky to remember it before end of business. Most often, I don’t.

Put an alarm on my phone, iPad, or Mac? (or all three at once—I’ve done that, too) That might work for a very rare event, but if I’m hyperfocused I’ve been known to not hear a Star Trek-like klaxon alarm going off at 90 decibels. If you think I’m exaggerating—well, I’m not. I nearly died as a teenager because I was hyperfocused on reading a book—in a car that was on fire. People were yelling and pounding on the windows—I didn’t hear.

Further, if I have a loud alarm going off every day, it shortly becomes background noise. I will turn it off and go right on with whatever I’m hyperfocused on, without ever registering that the alarm went off. I know, because I have.

Beeminder, like the alarm that goes off every day, is beginning to merge into the background.

This is a long, rather negative post, I’m afraid. This is something I’ve struggled with for a long time, and it’s not getting better as I’m getting older. If anything, it’s getting worse as I add “senior moments” to all the other things that keep me from getting… stuff… done.

Habitica at least has the virtue of being free (though I choose to subscribe.) And there is a certain flurry of activity every night at about ten PM as I look at my Habitica lists and say, “Oh, s__t.” I’m therefore not about to abandon it, as I may well do with Beeminder. But I need to find a better way to get time-sensitive things that are not appointments—done.

Any ideas?

GTD Revisited, 2017 #amwriting

My current GTD system


I’ve been using GTD in various incarnations for a while now:

Other examples exist.

Of course, GTD itself is just a discipline for gathering stuff to do, prioritising stuff to do, and getting it done in decent order. Implementation method is optional—and I’ve gone through several iterations (as shown above) on how to make it work for me.

My problem with my implementation up until this week was that I’d stopped using it. I was using automation to stuff everything into Trello, using it as my collector. But I’d stopped looking there on a regular basis, and had started using Habitica’s To-dos as my collection point—not by intentional design, but by, well, laziness.

Habitica has many virtues. Being a collector for possible things to do is not one of them. The least productive (things that I should just decide Not To Do), the hardest (high-value things to do that need to be broken down more), and medium value but non-urgent things to do all end up at the bottom of my Habitica list, getting redder and redder, their experience points getting higher, and breaking the game by providing experience points, gold, and mana all out of proportion to their true value if and when I finally get them done. I find this horribly demotivating in terms of getting the high-value items (like finishing my novel draft or making an appointment for a physical) done in a timely fashion.

I’m not the only Habitican who’s noticed this problem—and the Habitica developers are considering several different approaches to making this more motivating for prompt attention to to-dos and working better with outside to-do systems. In the meantime…

I’ve cut out the middleman. In order to do my weekly GTD review, I once had to open Trello, and open Google Calendar, and consider where to put my Trello cards on the calendar once I’d decided to do them this week. I then had a rather elaborate and failure-prone protocol for putting the lucky Trello cards into a special column so that Zapier would automatically place them on the Google calendar on the chosen day. Then I had another Zapier automation which would stuff them into Habitica just before they were due.

Now I collect things to do on my calendar. I actually have four calendars in my Google account—one for real, timed “Appointments,” one for “Scheduled” to-dos , one for raw, “Unprocessed” to-dos, and one for “Processed”, prioritised to-dos that have not been scheduled (this is also where I put time blocks so I’m sure to leave enough time for writing and exercise.)

Note that I don’t use the Google Tasks thing. They show up off to one side. I need to see my things-to-do stacked up on the day I plan to do them, as in my illustration. The to-dos are the all-day items.

I’ve convinced IFTTT to dump raw to-dos from iOS Reminders and Evernote into that “Unprocessed” to-dos calendar and make them nominally due on the next Monday. On Monday I do my GTD review. I take anything undone from the last week, delete its to-do from Habitica and stuff its calendar item back into Processed and re-prioritise it. All the Unprocessed to-dos are either deleted or given a priority. Anything that is priority 3 or above is moved to an appropriate day in the “Scheduled” calendar. (I never put more than six items/appointments due on any one day, including writing and exercise—if I don’t have room for something, then either it or something else goes back into the Processed calendar.) I then move leftover Processed to-dos to the following Monday. Zapier then takes all the items added to Scheduled and stuffs them into Habitica at 00:01 am on their due dates.

This way, no to-do hangs around in Habitica for more than a week, growing more and more evil. Monday morning I don’t have to open both Trello and my calendar, because everything lives in my calendar now. Zapier doesn’t have to try to parse Trello cards and stuff them into the calendar, just stuff the scheduled calendar items into Habitica later.

Okay, I admit it. Programming all the automation is—dare I say it?—fun. And eliminating the Trello collection step makes it a lot simpler. So, onward to Getting Things (like more writing) Done.

Late Night Tech Wrestling: Vivaldi, Rescuetime, Adonit Pixel #amwriting

I’m a sucker for a new stylus in town—the Adonit Pixel


Last night was an all-nighter squaring away new tech in my writing universe.

First the Adonit Pixel. I love it—Adonit have made many small changes from its last incarnation (the Jot Touch), all for the better. The tip is improved. The diameter is slightly smaller. It has better battery life. The function buttons haven’t changed location, but they are stiffer, making it harder to click them by accident—and if you do click them accidentally in the middle of writing or drawing, the drawing is given priority over the button command.

What doesn’t it have? Look at the photo very carefully—what’s wrong with this picture?

No pocket clip, that’s what. Not only that, but the stylus is perfectly round, so that I don’t dare lay it down on a table or desk—it will roll if the surface is even slightly off level.

I finally got disgusted at 2 am and got two pairs of pliers and a Fisher Space Pen removable pen clip. I bent the tines of the round barrel grip outwards until it freaking fit the oversized body of the Pixel. Problem solved.

My new Mac browser—Vivaldi


Then there was the browser thing. Firefox for Mac has broken so that it can’t be used to drag webpages to Scrivener. I had replaced it with a new-ish entry into the browser sweepstakes, Vivaldi. It’s wonderful—speedy, flexible, and takes Chrome extensions as if they were made for it.

But at 3 am I found out to my sorrow that Rescuetime had not been logging my websites—it just had a great lump sum entry for Vivaldi as a “utility.”

At 3 am I was not making great decisions. I tried installing the Rescuetime Chrome extension into Vivaldi—no dice. I switched back to Firefox, but it still had its problems. I even tried switching to Safari—a mark of true desperation. Finally I tried looking at the Rescuetime help pages.

By this time it was 4 am. I had to read everything twice because I kept missing obvious stuff. I finally got it through my sleep-deprived brain that

  1. Rescuetime does not now nor has it ever supported Vivaldi, and probably never will.
  2. There is a workaround involving the very Chrome extension that I had given up on.

The workaround:

First, lie to Rescuetime the Chrome extension in Vivaldi and tell it you don’t have the Rescuetime the App installed on your system. Then, go to Rescuetime.com, drill through reports until you see Vivaldi time only, and tell Rescuetime.com (and therefore Rescuetime the App) to ignore all Vivaldi time.

Voila! The Rescuetime app records no time for Vivaldi. Meanwhile, Rescuetime the Chrome extension, thinking that there is no Rescuetime app, reports all the detailed website time. Rescuetime the App continues to report the time spent in Scrivener and in Solitaire. Problem solved.

(If you need the workaround, please go to the Rescuetime help link above for details missing in my description.)

The moral of this story: I should write down things to do like “put a pen clip onto my Adonit Pixel” and “Figure out why Rescuetime is barfing up Vivaldi website time” at 2 am and go to sleep.

But I probably won’t.

What font do you use when writing? (poll) #amwriting

It took me a while to decide what font to use while writing — a completely separate issue from what font to use when creating output for others to read. I finally settled on Verdana, for the following reasons:

  • It’s designed as an on-screen font, so it is equally readable on my tiny iPhone screen and on my non-Retina Macbook screen.
  • There is a distinct visual difference among the capital i “I”, lower-case L “l”, and numeral one “1”. Not being able to distinguish among the capitalized word ill “Ill”, the roman numeral three “III” and the number one hundred eleven “111” drives me absolutely bonkers when I’m writing. I want to know what letter I just typed, dang it.
  • It’s a proportional font, so I can immediately see the difference between a hyphen “-“, an en-dash “–”, and an em-dash “—”. It also makes the difference between capital o “O” and numeral zero “0” obvious—another case of wanting to know what letter I typed.
  • It has regular, bold, and italic variants. I tried American Typewriter for a while, but it has no italic variant. That meant that while I could italicise my text, I wouldn’t see it while writing in Scrivener. Boo.
  • It’s available on both Mac and iOS systems. In other words, it’s included at no extra cost and I mostly don’t have to do anything to have it available.

Outlining, At Last? #amwriting @ScrivenerApp

Story Genius, by Lisa Cron

Story Genius, by Lisa Cron is the Unified Field Theory of storytelling.


Those of you who have been watching me struggle with Pantsing v. Plotting (iThoughts and the Dreaded Outline, Movin’ On Down the Productivity Highway, Back To Work, Or NaNoWriMo Waits For No One, et. al.) know that I’ve blogged several “breakthroughs” about outlining that, well, have come to almost nothing. There’s always been something “wrong” with the systems I’ve looked at—Too rigid. Too much information to fill out that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with my story. Terminology straight out of an MFA program that doesn’t mean anything to me—even after I look it up. Directions to not let the outline be a straitjacket—but then I can’t let go of treating it like an engineering specification. Something. Always. Doesn’t. Work.

Well, if I can’t use Story Genius, by Lisa Cron to plan a novel, I’ll—strongly consider giving up writing and starting a knitting blog.

Ms. Cron explains why just sitting down and writing doesn’t work. She explains why plotting doesn’t work. She explains why most character bios are bunk. Instead, her thesis is that a story is NOT a series of things that happen (plot), not even if it has some interesting characters. Rather, it is a series of events that force its protagonist to change, to learn some specific lesson in some specific way. Every story. Yes, that one. That other one, too. Even “Grog Survived Being Almost Eaten By A Cave Lion.” Her list of academic references are impressive. Her system is—a lot of hard work.

But it’s work I need to do.

Ms Cron suggests that a would-be author (me) needs to select the lesson that the protagonist will learn in the course of the novel, and create very specific backstory that will make it absolutely necessary for the protagonist to learn that lesson. This creates a coherent focus on the specific theme I choose for the novel.

What? Me, focus? (Laughs derisively.)

Exactly. The world of Fane of Air and Darkness (FOAAD), The Bully Trap, and several other partly-finished stories, is one I’ve been thinking about, building, and creating a history regarding, for more than five years. That’s a lot of backstory, most of it sloshing around in my head. Following Ms Cron’s “blueprinting” process is forcing me to narrow my focus to only those backstory elements that have to do with FOAAD, and to write them down in sufficient detail to build a story with them. It forces me to look at contradictions. It forces me to put certain aspects of the Fraser and Spencer universe aside, as they will confuse the issue of FOAAD.

It’s slow going. Things that have nothing to do with FOAAD keep wanting to take over my brain and my keyboard. There are things that I know I’m going to have to cut from what I’ve already written. There are things I’m resolutely going to have to decide to, well, explore in a sequel. And of course, I’ve spent far more hours than I probably ought to have done, re-structuring my Scrivener project to accommodate this new method. (If you’re interested, Gwen Hernandez wrote an excellent article on this, Using Scrivener with Story Genius and included her Scrivener template which I’ve shamelessly perverted to my nefarious purposes.)

Dammit.

I want to shove it all in, and it’s hard work building a dam to keep irrelevant (for now) stuff out. But already I can feel the urgency building in my backstory—which is going to explode on the page in the story itself.

Ok, if writing a novel were easy everyone would do it. But keeping cats out of my knitting is much more soothing.

How to Tap Your #FitbitAlta Screen On

Tap sideways from one of the ends.

Tap sideways from one of the ends.


I see a lot of frustration in the Amazon reviews on how to get the Fitbit Alta screen to turn on. I’ll confess that until I saw a YouTube video by a skilled Alta user I was struggling a bit, too.

The key is to remember that the screen is not a touchscreen. I’ve been conditioned by smartphones and tablets to tap up and down on the screen. The Alta does NOT have a touch screen; instead it uses the same accelerometer that it uses to track your steps to turn on your screen. The most effective way to tap is on one of the ends, sideways (axially, to use a more precise term.) This works every single time. Since you’re tapping on the (silicone) band, it’s quieter, too.

Enjoy this black-belt level technique!