I Met the Short Story Deadline #amwriting

I did it! I managed to get an entire Fraser and Spencer story into 4000 words, and submit it by Los Angeles NaNo’s deadline.

After I turned it in, I slept for about 2 days.

I learned a lot about how my own creativity works, and what it takes—for me—to get a well-structured story out fast.

Now I hope that what I learned scales up to novels.

I also have a decision to make: I’m going on a Road Trip. Yes, I’ll be spending three weeks bopping around the US Southwest in a car with Hubby and Number Two Son. Should I even bother with April Camp NaNoWriMo? I’m going to be busy: driving, checking out communities as possible retirement destinations, and attending a niece’s wedding.

…Yes, I think I should. I’ve always had more success with April and June Camps NaNoWriMo than with the big November push. It won’t hurt me to sign up. I might even finish my novel! And I certainly should take advantage of the upside of my SAD (seasonal affective disorder.)

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Nostalgia, Real or Imagined #amwriting

“Is it real, or is it Memorex?”

Do people really want to bring back this? (Image courtesy of Just2shutter at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

So ran an advertisement for blank magnetic tape cassettes a few decades back (and now even mag tapes are a memory.) What’s prompted my bemusement is a recent [thread on the Mac Scrivener forum] asking for Scrivener to, of all things, provide a realistic typewriter key strike sound when a letter is added to a Scrivener document—the loud mechanical thunk of a typebar or type wheel hitting paper over rubber platen. One poster has already bought a utility that can cause their Mac to do this. All. The. Time.

I have to ask, do these people even know what that sounds like for real? When there is no volume control? No soundproofing? (At least one of them does. I can’t imagine why he wants to revisit it, but de gustibus non est disputandem. But even he admits to wanting to turn it off after a while.)

I spent my early working life in a huge partition-less office, with typewriters, phones with real bells, keypunch machines making those old computer punch cards, printing calculators, and people shouting to converse over the din. I was under constant auditory assault.

I’m grateful every day for non-impact printers, silent keyboards, and phones that can be set to vibrate. It’s no longer necessary to work in a painfully loud and distracting environment. Even when I choose to do so (coffee shop) it’s now socially acceptable to use serious hearing protection (my gaming headset.) I’m certainly not going to bring the old noisy environment back on purpose.

I’ve seen an argument (on the key strike utility website) that says that the old key strike sounds can make faster typing possible. Auditory feedback, slightly different sounds for different keys, etc. can make a positive difference in a touch typist’s speed. Maybe so, but I’m not a fast enough typist for it to be worth the noise. If you are, enjoy—but please put your headphones on when you’re in a shared office.

Some things used to be better than they are now. Hearing a loud noise whenever a character is added to a document is not one of them.

The Short Story Rolls Forward! #amwriting

The words are rolling.

I’d forgotten how good it feels to have the words flowing.

Oh, not fast enough to suit me. Never that! but a heck of a lot faster than they have been in the recent past. The short story I’ll be submitting for that anthology (positive! Think positive!) has a title now, “Fire Prevention” (which may change; who knows?) and the beginnings of a discernible structure—faint, but definite.

And I’d like to give some credit to Brandon Sanderson. Not that I’ve had the privilege of meeting the man, nor have I read his “How to Write a Good Book” tome—because he hasn’t written one. No, I’ve been slogging though the videos of his novel writing course at BYU.

Anyone who knows me face-to-face knows how much I loathe trying to learn from videos. It’s worse than having to sit through lectures. No lecture has ever gone fast enough for me, not even at MIT. No more does any video. My attitude is, “Just write it down, dude, and print your #$%^# lecture notes.” But I’ve gotten enough gems from the seven (of twelve) Sanderson lectures I’ve listened to so far that I (almost) don’t mind having to sit still for an hour and (try to) listen. At least I can rewind if (when) my ADHD kicks in. Problem is, it doesn’t go any faster on the second hearing…

But still. The most valuable stuff I’ve gotten from Sanderson’s lectures are a) what are the strong points v. the drawbacks of outlining, b) what are the strong points v. the drawbacks of “discovery writing” (AKA “pantsing”), and c) specific strategies to compensate for discovery writing weaknesses.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I am such a hard-core discovery writer that for formal technical writing I discovery-wrote and created the outline after. It’s part of the ADHD thing, I suspect, and attempts to force outlining upon my workflow have not worked to date. The dead bodies of numerous “How to Outline for Hard-Core Pantser” books litter my e-reader app, and various portions of outline anatomy likewise litter my Scrivener projects. (This is not to put down those outlining book authors. I’m sure it works for them, and seems to work for others.) Really, it doesn’t take much outline at all for my brain to start saying, “Wow, this is boring. I already wrote this story/technical paper/blog article; why do I have to write it again?”

But thanks to Sanderson’s lectures, I’m not saying that about “Fire Prevention.” I highly recommend them.

February Blues Update #amwriting

The February blues are getting better, slowly.

Sunrise image courtesy of Teerapun at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yes, I am getting better. I’m even getting work done. Getting outside really helps with the seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and days when I don’t—well, it hits me the next day, really. I find myself trying to hibernate—sitting on the couch, falling asleep with or without television, and eating far too much high-carbohydrate food. Gotta store up that fat against winter! Jeez.

But I’m trying not to blame myself, and Just Get Out the next day.

I’ve started a new short story that I would like to submit to an anthology—submission deadline is March 23. I’ll keep you posted.

Scrivener v. Ulysses for Novel Writing #amwriting @scrivenerapp

I’ve had a few inquiries about Ulysses v. Scrivener. One reader wanted to know if I’m switching over to Ulysses for novel writing (I’m not!)

Scrivener and Ulysses: Tools with Different Strengths

Here’s the thing: De gustibus non est disputandem. Or, there’s no accounting for taste. And I have strong preferences for my writing tools.

Ulysses is… stark, with very little overlap among its different features. I like Ulysses for blog writing. I can see my recent blog posts’ titles and opening sentences, and get a good idea of what I’ve been covering lately. I can search for my prior posts on a single subject. And of course I have all my blog posts in a single place that isn’t on WordPress.com, thus secure from any WordPress corporate decisions or WordPress server disaster. Also, should I decide to go with a non-Wordpress website framework, I’m ready.

With the exception of starkness, all of the above are virtues that Scrivener also possesses. But Ulysses is based on a dialect of Markdown, and displays its text based on Markdown. I can publish from Ulysses directly to my blog. These are virtues that Scrivener lacks, and which its developer has no present intention of providing.

On the other hand, Scrivener is baroque. It has many different ways to accomplish the same result. I like Scrivener for long form writing. I can write formal outlines and synopses of chapters, separately from the text itself. I can have keywords, other metadata such as dates, colour-coding labels… in fact, Scrivener provides a plethora of different ways to organise and examine my writing. I can keep research documents in Scrivener with my text if I so choose. And if I think of another way that I’d like to structure that massive pile of words that I hope will be a novel, I can probably do that with Scrivener too.

Scrivener, as a rich-text application, has a great deal more flexibility of formatting than Ulysses, which is limited to Markdown. I can change how I use Scrivener based on the needs of my differing projects. Scrivener’s Compile feature is adequate in itself for formatting “simple” long works, such as novels without illustrations, while Ulysses will require post-processing to get a decent format for, say, a CreateSpace PDF interior.

Of course, your experience may differ, and I don’t mean to disagree with anyone who uses Ulysses to write novels, and Scrivener to write their blog! I truly believe that it’s a matter of taste—but if I’m writing about Scrivener, I’m using it for novelling and if I’m writing about Ulysses, I’m using it for blogging.

Happy writing!

Thursdays in Santa Clarita, Or the Importance of Technology #amwriting

Today, like every Thursday, I’m spending the day in Santa Clarita, California. It’s not the most exciting place in the world, and it’s thirty miles from my home in the San Fernando Valley. But my husband works here, and every Thursday evening we have a date here. So I usually come up early.

I spend most of my time in one of the older sections of the community, Newhall. The Old Town Newhall library is lovely and a good place to do some writing. But until I had my February Blues SAD wake–up call, I ignored William S. Hart Park.

The highest tech movie star’s home in 1920s Los Angeles County—the William S. Hart ranch.

The park offers light hiking, wildlife, and lots of sunshine. I’ve even taken the ranch house tour. I found myself identifying with the old actor—Mr. Hart really liked his tech. In the 1920’s, he spared no expense to electrify everything in his domain—a radio in every room. An electric record player. A projection room. An electric buzzer to summon the next course from the kitchen in his dining room. A for-Gosh-sake intercom. Yes, an electric refrigerator. They didn’t have electric food warmers, so he had a lower-tech food warmer installed in his dining room (a fireplace with a very small firebox underneath a huge stone slab, called a French food warmer.)

My, my. Now I don’t feel quite so bad with my MacBook Air, iPad, Fitbit, and iPhone. And our own home intercom. And our smart thermostat. And every other member of the family also having a laptop and iPhone, and tablet if desired. And our cable TV and internet and HD screen and Apple TV (Mind you, all this while the plumbing needs… oh, a lot of work. And my wardrobe is… challenged. Tech comes before shoes or more than one working shower. Seriously.)

Time to go back to writing fiction on my tech. And yes, I have been writing fiction. I haven’t reached the daily word counts I’d like to see, but something is better than nothing. Heigh-ho!

February Blues. Again. #amwriting

I’ve been porting my old blog posts to Ulysses, and I’ve noticed a disturbing pattern. Every February I post about how discouraged and hopeless I feel.

Every. Single. Freaking. February. For the last four years, at least.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not only that, but my productivity and mood pick up by April. Every year.

Well, 2018 is no different. Or at least, it wasn’t until last week. I felt like giving up. Again.

I look to blame someone or something when I feel down, usually me. I start thinking I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not focused enough, I’m ADHD so why should I bother trying…

But look at the pattern, Dragon. After November your productivity starts falling. You blame the holidays. Yet it continues to fall, and you become alarmed as the end of January passes and your words aren’t flowing. By mid-February, you’re crying and desperate. And you start yet another revision of your productivity system, you change something about your work situation, and by April things are turning around… again.

It’s not my attitude. It’s seasonal affective disorder. Again. And if it’s this bad in so-called Sunny Southern California, no wonder that I loathed the Massachusetts weather while I was at university, even as I was delighted with Boston culture. I always struggled during the spring semester, falling behind in February and playing catch-up for the rest of the term. Duh. And I was able to catch up usually by April or May. Also duh. Mumble years ago, the pattern was already there.

So this time, I’m doing something different, unrelated to ADHD or productivity. For the last week, I’ve gotten outdoors during daylight hours for at least half an hour a day, and it’s been helping. I no longer feel as angry with myself (or others.) I’m keeping up my family responsibilities. My writing productivity hasn’t quite turned around yet, but I’m no longer thinking, “What’s the use?” every time I look at my word count.

I’ve tried the light boxes and the light visors in the past, and they haven’t done a lot of good. So it’s about time I tried good old California sunshine. Every day. I’ll keep in touch.

A New Look for “A Study In Silver”

So, welcome to my renovated blog! I’ve chosen a simple theme, Twenty Sixteen. The color scheme is gray and silver, of course. I added a header with a silver dragon, partly hidden in mist. And of course, the blog still has two columns on wide screens (otherwise, how could I deal?) My fonts are still selected for legibility before beauty (but I think they’re quite attractive, nonetheless.) I’m pleased that this new theme underlines links—I always worried that links were hard to notice in my old theme, and manually set them in italics. No more need for that! And the adaptation to small (phone) screens is much more adaptive—no more one-letter columns of text beside the images.

Thanks for reading! I’ll continue to bring you writing productivity and writing technology information in my cool new web wrapper.

Time to Putter Around With My Blog Appearance

Foo.

The theme I use for my blog, Able, is now “retired” by WordPress.com. Grrr. That means, of course, that it won’t be kept up-to-date regarding new browsers, new mobile devices, et freaking cetera.

I’ve been putting off updating the blog appearance, but I suppose it’s time. If the blog disappears in the next week or so, don’t panic! I’ll be back online soon, and more legible than ever.

Okay, I Changed My Mind re: Setapp #amwriting

107 Mac apps for $9.99/month. A good value.

I’ve gone ahead and gotten a Setapp subscription. All it took to push me over the edge was two more apps.

I’m already paying a subscription for a password management app–and one is now included with Setapp. And then there’s the remote desktop app, for which I used to also pay a subscription. I’ve done without rather than keep paying for an app I seldom use–but as a remote desktop app is included in SetApp, well…

Bottom line, the Setapp subscription is now paid for with the subscriptions I formerly bought for Ulysses, password management (now covered by Setapp’s Secrets app), and remote desktop service (now covered by Setapp’s Jump Desktop.) Future paid upgrades for apps I already own (Aeon Timeline 2 and iThoughtsX) are gravy. And there are many special-purpose apps included that I no longer need to worry about. Project management? If I need it, I’m covered. SQL? Heaven forbid I should ever need it again, but if I do I’m covered.

And as for all those itty bitty utilities included in Setapp–there is a new one among them, Bartender, which provides a unique service. The Mac, of course, has exactly one menu bar, which starts getting cluttered with utilities rather quickly if you collect them at all. Bartender hides those menu bar utilities until you need them, so they’re no longer hidden behind the app menus in an app with tons of menus like Scrivener. I love using my iPad as a second monitor, and now I can both put Scrivener there and use all my menu bar utilities there. Woot!