Glorious Dulles International Airport

20130717-123559.jpgPermit me to take a paragraph to grouse:

My brother-in-law’s funeral was yesterday. Today I am sitting in Dulles International Airport, Washington DC. Our return flight to Los Angeles having been delayed due to weather, we have re-routed, and will not arrive at LAX until 9:30 PM. I am emotionally fatigued, physically stressed, and my word count is anemic. This is NOT what I had planned for July!!!

Thank you for listening. I feel a little better now. On the plus side:

  • I am not so far behind that I can’t yet finish on time.
  • I am in MUCH better shape as far as organization of my writing is concerned than I was in November.
  • I will have some time here in the terminal, as well as flight time, to get some words in a row.

Regarding software systems issues: Scrivener (Mac) to/from Index Card (iPad) synchronization is far from automatic, but is the only method to get my entire work in progress over to IOS in one lump for intensive production. Using the Markdown syntax for italics and bold, rather than using them directly in Scrivener, makes the plain text editing in Index Card acceptable (if that’s the only fancy formatting you do.) It was easy to make that global change in Scrivener. If I want my daily word count to correctly update in Scrivener, it helps to create several blank text documents in my Scrivener project, sync them to Index Card, and be sure I use those rather than creating new cards in Index Card.

I am still struggling with Aeon Timeline. Great tool, but not designed for my workflow (Write first, organize second.) As for Index Card IOS, the best I can do to work with AT is to record time/date and character list in my Scrivener synopsis (which shows up in Index Card), and remember to update them while working in Index Card. Getting the data into Timeline once I’ve synced my work back to Scrivener is still a mostly manual process — copy and paste dates into Scrivener’s AT metadata fields, sync to AT, then hand-enter character connections.

Camp NaNoWriMo, Day 12

I did get a few words done on my novel today, but basically I’ve just broken down. The brother-in-law passing, the trip from California to Virginia for the funeral, the need to both pack and come up with a systems strategy to keep writing even though I’ve depended heavily on my desktop Mac– my brain is spinning out. I just now sat down and cried because I dropped a bottle of Tylenol.

So Hubby quietly got me the Tylenol and some water (I love that man!), helped me figure out what to pack, and now I’m looking at how to physically keep writing. I don’t have a laptop — I’ve been using a remote desktop app, LogMeIn, on my iPad to use the Scrivener app on my desktop Mac for all my writing.

That ain’t going to work on an airplane from Los Angeles to Richmond.

Solving this is critical to my peace of mind — a software developer for decades, if my writing system isn’t serving its purpose, I can’t just ignore it and write longhand for a few days. My brain will peck away at the systems problem and refuse to think about getting my heroine and her swain into jeopardy and out. I will be fretting about getting to Frys for that needed doohickey, or searching the App Store for the perfect tool, and I won’t be either paying attention to my grieving relations or getting my word count plumped up.

So, yeah, I’ve put in some work on the systems problem today, and I think I have a solution hammered out. It involves the Index Card app for iPad, Scrivener, and one of Scrivener’s capabilities I’ve hitherto ignored, to wit, its ability to use MarkDown codes. I’ll be testing my solution at two different LA write-ins tomorrow, to the tune of 5,000 words (I hope.) I’ll keep you posted.

Camp NaNoWriMo, Day 8

I logged a little over 1900 words today, enough to enable me to finish on time if I can keep it up. While I’d like to be getting back to “par”, where I’d only have to churn out 1613 words per day, I’ll settle for not getting further behind.

I’ve been using Aeon Timeline to record the structure of what I’m writing. It can be a bit frustrating at times, because the app doesn’t always work the way I think, but the result is that I have a growing list of characters with notes on each. I also have scenes and chapters with durations neatly recorded and displayed in graphic fashion. It syncs with Scrivener, so that each new chapter and scene gets its own event automatically, and I get to fill in details of who and when. If I get that sophisticated, it can help me keep track of subplots.

At least this time when the month ends, I won’t be wrestling with a sticky, amorphous mass of 50,000 words, trying to find structure and revise for publication at the same time. I’m sure there was a pony in there somewhere, but digging it out was far harder than it should have been.

Camp NaNoWriMo, Day 7

I logged 600+ words today, but my writing session was more productive than the raw word count shows. Most importantly, I got to know my protagonist a lot better. As well, I started developing a timeline… I know, I know. This is something that all the writing teachers I’ve had have suggested having in advance– an outline, a timeline, a list of characters…

But how could I have developed a timeline when I only met Leticia seven days ago? She of the Hispanic accent and the limitless attitude, the military and prison background, the semi-voluntary Mars colonist? Honest, when I sat down last Monday to a blank Scrivener project, she walked in and said, “Eh, chica, this book going to be about me.”

… where the hell did she come from? Honestly, I know no more than you. But a friend today was wise enough to say to me, “You made room for her.”

I suppose I did. I’ve given up on revising the November novel I wrote. The truth is, I never liked my protagonist much. Lazy dude, he just wouldn’t get up off the page and be three-dimensional no matter what I did. Don’t want to hang out with him any more; I’d rather chill with Leticia.

Writers’ Tools

I may be a writer and actor by choice, but I was a techno geek for far too long for me to ignore the tools I use for writing.

20121212-131426.jpgIt’s been nearly a year since I gave up on the dear old DataChugger LD and asked for an iPad for Christmas. In the two years since I posted about the LifeDrive, the Internet (in particular electronic publishing) had been moving on, and the LifeDrive had stayed put. Software was no longer being updated. I couldn’t buy new books from my favorite authors to read on it any more.

My first thought was to get an iPod Touch (the monthly bills for an iPhone being in the “You gotta be kidding!” range), but the iPad won my heart in the Apple Store with its amazingly light weight and comparatively large screen area. Hubby generously gifted me with an iPad 2 for Christmas 2011.

I have not regretted my choice. My old books from the LifeDrive have moved over to Nook, new ones have been acquired on Kindle, both of which have iPad apps. The mobile hotspot I’d gotten to feed Internet to the LifeDrive works just as well with the WiFi-only iPad.

But then, in May 2012, I decided to take another whack at writing with Camp NaNoWriMo in June. I’d also replaced my ancient Mac with a new Mac Mini two years ago– which meant that I had NO tools to write with, as my Microsoft Word was too ancient to run on the newer Mac.

This resulted a great deal of flailing around, and acquisition of free and cheap software for the Mac and the iPad. (How happy is she? As happy as a geek on a software buying spree.) Here’s my current suite of tools.

Hardware:

  • Mac Mini with max memory available in 2010
  • 32Gb iPad 2 WiFi only
  • ZAGGkeys SOLO Bluetooth keyboard. (Can’t do serious writing without a keyboard. Sorry, Apple.)
  • Novatel 4260L mobile 4G LTE hotspot.

Software:

  • Scrivener. This Mac program is amazing. All the frustration of trying to build a REALLY LARGE document in Word, or any other word processor is gone. It even claims to remove distractions with its “composition mode.” (Ha. Might work for you. My brain creates its own distractions.)
  • Textilus. This IOS app (iPad side) lets me write on the iPad and sync with Scrivener without chewing up my data allowance. It is not the polished tool that Scrivener is, but it does what it does reasonably well.

Network services:

  • Dropbox. Without this free cloud service, using my iPad to write would be hard; iCloud isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All my files are on their server AND on my Mac, AND available to my iPad. This is the substructure that enables Scrivener and Textilus to be in sync.
  • LogMeIn.This is a free (for what I want to do, at least) remote desktop service. If what I want to do absolutely cannot be done on the iPad, I fire up LogMeIn, connect the iPad client to the server installed on my Mac, and do it from my Mac. Wherever. (Note: it only works well if a 4G connection is available. It will work over 3G, but is ssslllooowww, and drops a lot.) While I can write without this on the iPad (and had to, while I was in the Sierras), it makes life easier. In fact, with this and a bluetooth keyboard, why bother with a laptop? Your tablet or smartphone will happily pretend it’s your desktop computer for those things that a tablet/smartphone can’t do. Yet. The only drawback: it tends to use a lot of data on my data plan.

Things I tried that didn’t really work for me:

  • Open Office. This free Mac Microsloth Office replacement is awkward, and even slower than the original. It is usable for small projects. I use it for spreadsheets, mostly.
  • QuickOffice Pro HD. Nothing wrong with it, as MS Office tools for the iPad go, and I use it for spreadsheets, letters, etc. But– it won’t edit files from Scrivener without losing formatting.
  • Index Card. This iPad app syncs with Scrivener and allows you to structure (outline) stuff in much the same way as Scrivener, but while the ordering part of the structure is transferred to and from Scrivener, the hierarchy is not. Also, no formatting available for main text you write in IndexCard, and it loses formatting from Scrivener. I spent too much time duplicating effort.

That’s the lot. Oh, there are all the usual wonderful widgets on my iPad, and on my Mac Mini, but these are the ones I use for writing. Other writers: What do you use?