“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.

The Bottom Line: Writing Output Improved

Screenshot 2016-01-26 15.33.55My last few posts have all related to productivity in various aspects of my life — quantifying it and improving it. How’s that working for me?

So far, in January, I’ve written 21,465 words. That’s as opposed to my total word count for NaNoWriMo in November, which was 18,771 words. On the 25th of November, I had only written 14,327 words. That’s a 31% increase. I’m doing something right.

One thing I’ve found, is that when I have material consequences, such as having to pay Beeminder, I’m more motivated to find some way to continue writing even when I’ve “hit a wall.” I’ll find some other portion of the story to work on, or write on another story, or even stop and do some story structure work and then go back to typing out words.

Not that I’ve transformed into a writing machine! No, you can see that I derailed on January 19, and I’ve had a tough couple of days. I may not make my 30K in January goal. But — not only will I have written more in a month than I have in a long time, but I will also have learned a lot about what I need in order to be productive.

Days when I’m in pain from arthritis — well, it’s hard to want to sit at a keyboard when my neck and shoulders feel like they’re being squeezed in a vise. It’s a steady dull ache that gets worse until I’m in tears. The same applies to my knees. Days when the pain is out of control — they lead to derailment.

Equally devastating are days when I have too many other things to do scheduled, and put them as a priority over writing. If I don’t get out of the house to write before about four in the afternoon, my word count for the day is probably zero.

So. Keeping my pain in control, means keeping my food and exercise in control. It’s no accident that my derailment on the 19th happened when it did. I had a re-injury of an old knee problem on about the 12th. I stayed in denial until I was in agony. I admitted my problem on the 16th, got some mercy from the good folks at Beeminder on a goal (Misfit points) that had become unrealistic, but the knee responded to rest slowly for a while. I note that I had a superbly bad sleep week between the 12th and the 19th. Small wonder; it’s hard to sleep with that kind of pain. I’m pleased to see that I didn’t overeat or make poor food choices that week — it would have been easy to use the pain as an excuse.

I don’t yet have this kind of insight into why I don’t get out the door to go writing, other than if I haven’t gotten to bed at a decent hour, why then I don’t wake up until later, and by the time I’m ready to depart — it’s easy to use the excuse that the schoolkids will have mobbed Starbucks, it will be loud and I won’t be able to find a comfortable chair, so why bother?

Not a good enough excuse. I’ll have to see what improvements I can make here.

Scrivener v. Storyist – Why I’m Hanging On

It’s a good question: why am I hanging on to Scrivener when I do much of my writing on my iPad? Literature and Latte hope to have an iOS Scrivener version released . . . well, Real Soon Now. In the meantime, I develop ingenious workarounds and leave any number of Scrivener features on the table because I can’t access them from iOS. Storyist, on the other hand, is positioned as an alternative long-form writing program, and it works on the iPad right now. Over in the Scrivener forums, defectors, while not exactly legion, regularly post their disappointment and intention to use Storyist in the future.

I went ahead and downloaded the Mac demo version of Storyist yesterday. I can’t say I’ve given it an exhaustive test, but I have looked at the features that I use the most. Here are my impressions:

  • The overall impression I have of Storyist: It was designed to look like Scrivener when you first open it, by someone who dislikes Scrivener’s complexity, and who really misses WYSIWYG. As shipped, it’s very much aimed at the fiction writer or screenwriter who is submitting to editors or similar gatekeepers. If you want to self-publish, if you want to do non-fiction (Yeah, I did a convention program booklet in Scrivener because I really didn’t want to deal with Word…) you’re going to have to struggle a lot more. There’s no way to do footnotes, for one thing… By getting rid of Scrivener’s complexity designed to support all sorts of long-form writing besides traditional fiction/script submittals, a lot of Scrivener’s flexibility has been excised, as well.
  • I imported a couple of my dormant Scrivener projects into Storyist. I also exported a sample Storyist project to Scrivener. While it works OK, in that all of your body text will arrive at the destination, very little metadata (labels, statuses, keywords, etc.) arrives at either destination. After I got into Storyist a bit, it looks like about two days to massage a NaNoWriMo 50K draft from Scrivener into a form that’s really usable in Storyist, even without a lot of metadata. In short, not something I’m interested in doing unless I’ve committed to switching over.
  • Once there, I found there was no corresponding function to Scrivener’s “Scrivenings” view. If you’re not familiar with the software, this lets you look at any subset of your Scrivener project’s component files as if they were one document, and edit them as such. This is a lot of what I do on the Mac before I head out with my iOS devices – look at a Scrivenings view of what I did yesterday, spot stuff I want to fix (minor stuff – a misspelling here, poor grammar there), and decide where I’m going with it today. I find the lack of a Scrivenings-style view strange in view of the fact that…
  • … a Storyist project is just One Big File. In contrast, a Scrivener project is a folder full of little files. Storyist pretends that there are a lot of little files, each with its synopsis index card, but at the end of the day if you save a “version” before doing some changes, the whole dang Storyist project is saved (oh yes, it uses OS X versioning so as to save space, but still.) With Scrivener, you can save a “snapshot” of a single file. It may seem more confusing, but really, it’s simpler. If you’re only going to play with Scene A, you save a snapshot of Scene A. If you later also add Scene B, and then decide you like the older version of Scene A, with Scrivener you’re good – you can revert Scene A without affecting Scene B. With Storyist, you’re going to have to do some fancy stepping to save out Scene B before reverting Scene A if you’re not to lose Scene B. Blah.
  • Another difference: The Storyist manuscript is conceptually one file within the project, with your chapters and scenes as outline subtopics within. Scrivener has real little files for each scene and chapter. Even though it looks the same in the sidebar, it’s not. Storyist displays the entire manuscript when you click on a scene, with the cursor at the start of the scene you just clicked on. Scrivener opens ONLY the file you click on (or only the files you select – that’s what “Scrivenings” is about.)
  • WYSIWYG v. Compilation. Storyist is WYSIWYG – you’ll have to reformat your entire project if you want to output for print v. epub v. mobi v. Smashwords. By way of contrast, in Scrivener you format each document in the way that works best for you while you’re writing it, then compile to output each format with its little quirks. I think this is one of the “personal preference” features, but the Scrivener output is way more flexible.
  • For a big project, Storyist is noticeably slower than Scrivener.
  • (Further examples exist.)

Aw, heck. I am a self-admitted techno-geek, and if I’ve used a tool for more than six months, I’ve customized that puppy beyond recognition. My Scrivener setups are as personal as my toothbrush. Despite my restricted use of research, keywords, custom metadata, et-freaking-cetera, I use enough of the Scrivener-only stuff to make contemplating a move to Storyist painful. I’m scrubbing Storyist off my Mac, and going back to the Scrivener for iOS cheering section (“Write That Code! Write That Code! Yay SCRIVENER!”)

NaNoWriMo’een (A Halloween Horror Story)

Image courtesy of bandrat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bandrat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow.

I know.

You haven’t done any prep work.

Welcome to my world. I’ve done NaNoWriMo seven times, including this year, and haven’t prepped once.

You have time before your shift this evening! Get your lazy butt out of bed!

Okay. Do I get to skip making breakfast, doing dishes, blog posting, accounting, working out, email responses, and the six gajillion other things on my to-do list over on Habit RPG?

Of course not! You must do all you’ve committed to, and more!

I think I’ll go back to sleep.

NaNoWriMo Murder, She Thought

mage courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re more than halfway through October. If I were organized, I’d have an outline for my November NaNoWriMo novel underway, character sheets sketched out, Scrivener project begun.

But I’m not organized.

Instead, I have drama in my life. This I do not need — drama needs to happen on the page in November. Drama is happening, though, with the leader of my local NaNo write-in.

A bit of background — for nearly a year I have been associate host of a year-round NaNo write-in. I took on that role for a very simple reason: I wanted to have someplace each week to write, with others who wanted to write as well. I wanted to keep the door open, through the summer doldrums and the September “oh, we’re too busy starting [fill in the blank] to write”. There’s never a problem finding a NaNo group in November, or even October. But I’ve gone to lots of “year-round” write-ins in my local region where no one was there — no organizer, no participants — except me.

If I was going to do that anyway, I might as well be official about it.

I spoke to a “year-round” host in my local area, and was quickly put on as a Meetup.com co-host. The time was changed to one less convenient for me, and the venue changed to one where I can’t eat the food. Fine. I buy a coffee each week. I put out a NaNoWriMo write-in table tent.

From my point of view, it’s been a rousing success. At least one other person has been there to write every single week. Occasionally I give in, eat the food, and get mildly sick for a day.

But the primary host has Ambitions. He has a new spouse, a demanding job, and two very time-consuming positions in another writers’ group. He added a critique group to the NaNo write-in — thankfully that has been moved to another day and taken over by another group member more interested in it. He also has taken on the job of running NaNoWriMo prep sessions in October, extra write-in sessions in November, and has become webmaster for a regional NaNo Meetup group. I offered to help with some duplication of paper materials for the prep sessions, as that didn’t commit me to attend anything.

He slammed me. With no prior request, I woke up Tuesday to find an email informing me that he’d graciously made me an Event Organizer in the regional NaNo meetup group, so that I could send emails and make event changes when he was too busy. I also found six emails informing me that I’d RSVP’d “yes” for events I couldn’t attend.

And I can’t find him to pick up or drop off paper materials.

I am livid. I can’t even speak Californian — I am so angry that my accent has devolved to Gulf Coast Texan.

I’ve taken myself out of all leadership in that regional NaNo meetup, sent him a curt email telling him that he need not count on my support past that which I have already promised — and by the way, where and when does he want to to transfer paper materials? — here’s MY schedule.

I am within a hair of withdrawing from any Meetup.com group he’s part of, and starting my own damn year-round write-in. But I won’t get the satisfaction of telling him off to his face — he’s too damned busy.

Maybe I do have a plot for my November novel, after all.