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!

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.

I’m Not Giving Up—But I Am Backing Off #amwriting

Time to advance to the rear (Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Time to advance to the rear (Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


Well, I’ve injured my foot.

That makes it rather tough to keep up with my exercise goals—which in turn impact my other health goals. My health goals, in turn, impact my ability to focus, which means that my entire Beeminder-driven writing goal structure is in jeopardy.

Bummer.

For a change, I’ve decided to do something sane—I have taken every single health goal I have in Beeminder and added a week of flat spot. This means that while I don’t NEED to make progress to avoid a Beeminder payment, I do need to not slip backwards. And I haven’t given myself any slack on my writing or business goals.

With any good fortune, I’ll be back chugging on my step and weight goals in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I have no excuse to stop chugging ahead on my book.

And April Camp Nanowrimo is just around the corner. I think I’ll have a continuation/editing goal rather than a new project this time.

“Distraction-Free” Writing Software v. ADHD #AmWriting #CampNaNoWriMo2016

Figure 1.Top: Scrivener Composition Mode Bottom: Ulysses Full Screen ModeIn these minimalist environments, I'm more likely to wander away or become hyperfocused.

Figure 1.
Top: Scrivener Composition Mode
Bottom: Ulysses Full Screen Mode
In these minimalist environments, I’m more likely to wander away or become hyperfocused.

I am ADHD. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean simply that I am noticeably more distraction-prone than most people — although that is certainly true.

What it means is that I can’t control my level of focus.

Think about that for a moment. It means that I can’t control whether my mind flits like a butterfly from — Oh, look! A squirrel! — subject to subject. Nor can I control whether I become “hyperfocused” and unable to break my focus on an activity. (Please note that hyperfocus is not the creative “flow” state that people talk about. I wish.)

There is no “medium-focus” state wherein I can choose what to focus on. This means that trying to protect myself from distraction is like a pig trying to sing. It wastes my time, and only results in me getting depressed when I compare my results to expected results.

Take a look at the Figure 1 above. Scrivener has its “distraction-free” Composition mode. Ulysses is ALL distraction-free mode. The theory of such a display is that all the “displacement” activities the author uses to avoid writing disappear and she has no other choice except to write.

I’ve tried it. My results:

  1. My brain throws a distraction. With no bright colors or flashing lights to hold me, I wander away and do something else. (90% probability.)
  2. I hyperfocus on my text so that I forget where I am, whether I need to go to the bathroom, and how this text is supposed to fit into my novel. (10% probability.)

Just looking at either screen induces panic. I’ll forget what I’m supposed to be doing, one way or the other — I know this as surely as I know the sun rises in the east. Hyperfocus is as deadly to my productivity as lack of focus.

Figure 2.With both my timeline and my project detail displayed, I have a better chance of staying in the neighborhood of my task.

Figure 2.
With both my timeline and my project detail displayed, I have a better chance of staying in the neighborhood of my task.

What I do is surround myself with distractions — positive distractions. A timer goes off to remind me — not to take a break, but to reassess what I’m doing — every twenty-five to thirty minutes. I surround myself with as much temptingly cluttered screen real estate as possible that’s related to my work in progress, so that when (not if) my brain throws a distraction, I am at least likely to be drawn to something writing-related. (See Figure 2.) I think of this not as distraction-filled but as target-rich. Then when the timer goes off, I can get back to writing. I never, never hide clocks or battery indicators — if I’m lucky I might notice them when I’m hyperfocused and they’ll bring me out of my trance.

Not that the timer always works. When I become hyperfocused sound seems to slide off my brain. If that happens, my only hope is that I notice that I need to go to the bathroom before my chair gets soggy…

Camp Nano Won. Steer Roasting. Life is Good. #CampNaNoWinner2016 #amwriting

The Editing Is Done

The Editing Is Done

The Fire Is Lit

The Fire Is Lit

Fifty-plus hours of editing in April — I did it.

I am in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at my alma mater, MIT. Technology is still a Mother. If you didn’t attend as an undergrad, you probably don’t know about The Senior House (or Haus, as it is now called.) From the late sixties on (so far as we can tell from the alumni verbal histories) it has been the home of nonconformists on campus.

Yet, when I walked into the courtyard after forty-one years away, I had come home. The Haus was the first home I ever knew in which I found unconditional acceptance, along with gentle instruction in socially acceptable behavior (not a very high bar, in the Haus.)

Yesterday, the Lighting of the Fire ritual (opening the two-day long Steer Roast party) was not so much an exercise in nostalgia as a connection to something that started before I arrived and will continue when I am no longer here to return. Students will still celebrate spring and the coming end of the semester. The Haus will still shelter the . . . different (but still nerdly) with its unique anarchy. The Suits in the Chancellor’s office Shall Not Pass (er, prevail.)

Long live the Haus!

Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2016 #amwriting

CNW_Participant_TwitterScreenshot 2016-04-05 14.05.56Yes, I’m doing a Camp NaNoWriMo project in April this year — though I usually wait until July. I’m doing an editing project — Camp suggests that an hour of editing translate to 1000 words. I’m therefore committing to 50 hours of active editing this month. So far, I’m not doing too badly, and I hope to be able to finish early. I credit Beeminder for this optimism — this is the first time I’ve tackled a NaNoWriMo while using this tool.

I’m still working on that strange beast that my November novel turned into — it’s hard to shoehorn into any genre, but I suppose you could call it a fantasy mystery. I’ve incorporated the changes my beta reader suggested — solid, all of them — but there are many more chapters to go…

OMG, I Might Actually Publish #amwriting

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For you Star Trek Original Series fans: Do you remember the scene where the Enterprise was fighting the Giant Cornucopia of Death, and Kirk says, “I distracted it! That’s good! . . . I think it’s good . . . Scotty, get me out of here . . .”

That’s how I felt yesterday when my wonderful Beta Reader, Cynthia, sent back her comments on my first chapter. She spotted typography errors, continuity errors, characterization errors… all of which I can fix, I’m sure. The scary thing was — the things she wanted to find out about, the questions she was left with after reading the chapter — those are exactly the things that I wanted readers to be wondering about and anticipating after the first chapter.

In other words, for a first draft, it rocks.

Damn. I haven’t felt like this since I won first division in the Tri-State Music Festival. There’s elation, sure — and there’s also terror. There’s a certain amount of grief — when it’s rolling, when the words are coming, when I look at my “Beeminder Writing Time” graph (that’s automatically generated from RescueTime) and see it curving upwards almost without volition on my part — why did I spend so many years doing anything else?

Then another wave of terror hits, and I know why.

This means audience. Big time, really putting my fiction out in front of strangers, asking them to pay for reading it, and accepting their praise, their disapproval, or their indifference, as the case may be. (If they pay for it, I think I will at least take their comments at face value instead of trying to find hidden negative meanings.)

This has really kicked the crap out of my writing time for the last few days, while I’ve alternately cowered and then fantasized about the Oprah Show. Neither of those gets words written, characterizations corrected, continuity errors fixed, or anything else. I will be dedicating April to editing in Camp NaNoWriMo. I need to get out of the house, today, though, and get some momentum going, before I need to pay the nice folks at Beeminder $5. Again.

Camp NaNoWriMo Fail

Bummer.

I have tons of excuses. There’s the “I was sick” excuse — good one, but I wasn’t that sick. More debilitating was the “OMG, I’ve got to go to London in a week (yeah, there’s a few blog posts…) and I can’t take donations for the charitable organization on whose behalf I’m going there!!” excuse. In less than a week, I put up a website with e-commerce capability, linking back to the parent organization, developed promotional material, (OK, a PowerPoint. Still.) and put together a paper flyer with donation form included.

If only I could put that kind of energy into my novel, I’d be done by now.

Well, about the London thing. Yes, Hubby and I are going there for charity. We sit in the departure lounge at LAX as I type. We’ll also be taking a two-week river cruise through Central Europe, thus blowing our vacation budget for the next four years. The nice thing about the cruise is, that while we will be taking a whirlwind tour of Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands, we won’t need to unpack — our “hotel” will move in the night from city to city. I intend to make the most of this — particularly as my afternoons will be free.

We’ll see if any writing gets done while I steam up the Danube. Have iPad, will travel.