wordprocessing software

I’ve had a whole slew of intresting questions come my way, some in the comments and some by email. So I’ll be answering them one at a time, in no particular order.

Do you use a novel-writing software? (Or something like Final Draft, which has a novel-writing component.)

To start with a bit of trivia which still amuses me: I wrote my doctoral dissertation with WordPerfect 1.0. So I’ve been fooling around with word processing software since the beginning.

When WordPerfect gave up on the Mac platform, I had to switch to Word, which I did with a heavy heart. I use Word everyday for various things, and all of the novels were written with Word. On a Mac.

However. I have been trying to find a good alternate for novel writing. What I want, ideally, is a solid word processor, a way to organize notes into categories (and to overlap categories — a venn diagram kind of thing would be perfect), the ability to see multiple things at once (two different chapters with the relevant notes, images, lists, etc); the ability to see the document in an outline form and to drag elements from one spot to another. I also want some kind of user forum so I can get quick answers to things that mystify me, and there has to be reliable customer service.

I try just about everything that comes along, but mostly the programs I’ve tried have some big flaw, or just aren’t fine tuned enough. A partial list:

From the Mac people, the iWork package has a word processor called Pages. I had high hopes for Pages, but there are some seriously shortcomings. Like, no auto-save. I keep an eye on updates, but I think it will be a long time before Pages is a viable alternative to Word, for my purposes at least.

CopyWrite is another newer program that advertises itself as a project manager first and a word processor second. I tried it, I bought it, I found problems with the category setup that may have been my lack of insight, but there’s no forum and emails to the developers went unanswered. So, into the storage closet.

I own a (quite pricey) Tinderbox license, but I use that exclusively for mapping ideas and concepts. It’s something like a Venn diagram on steroids, but it doesn’t work for me as a word processor.

FinalDraft is really good for writing any kind of a script, and I have used it for that and liked it. The novel-writing part? Meh.

I’ve been using Scrivener for about a week and it’s very promising. It does pretty much everything I need. I’ll let you know how that works out. If Scrivener doesn’t pan out, I’ll be going back to Word, and watching the horizon for the perfect combination of features.

If you’re as much of a technogeek as I am, you might be interested in a list of all the software I use. Here’s the link to my page at iusethis.

a question for you

Here’s the thing. I’m getting a lot of comment spam lately. It’s depressing, because for a good four or five months, I had none at all. Those slee sneeky spammers have obviously found a way around the safeguards currently in place.

/aside/ This is the kind of thing I obsess about when I’m procrasting about writing. I tell you this is the spirit of full disclosure. /aside/

So I have been thinking about solutions.

The most drastic choice would be to dump Movable Type for software that has got the spam thing more under control. It would be tremendously time consuming to export everything here, learn the new software, set that up, and import things. Not to mention the long list of glitches that would almost certainly ensue.

The easiest thing would be to find a plugin for MT 3.2 that puts one of those funny little boxes on the comment page that you have to interpret so your comment will be posted. Except, no such plugin exists (or at least, I haven’t been able to find one that I can have even a hope of installing).

So an experiment. I set up a month long trial at Type Pad (which is really Movable Type for dummies — everything set up already, pretty easy to make changes to design and import everything from here). I imported everything. You want to see it? Here.

Good things: all the infelicities that have snuck into the guts of this weblog over three years are gone. Everything clean and tidy. They have one of those boxes on the comment page, which should take care of 95% of comment spam. I never have to worry about software upgrades again.

Bad things: Lots of my bells and whistles would have to go. Maybe some of them are retrievable if I want to invest the time in figuring out how to make “posted last year on this date” work over at Type Pad. Which right now, I don’t. The categories list is not nested, which bugs me. There’s no search function. It’s quite pricey. And worst of all, I’ll have to fiddle with domain mapping or change the url of the weblog, which always brings along a huge number of problems. Now, on that last point, I am probably going to have to change the url anyway, so that’s nosobad.

I’m sure I lost most of you three paragraphs ago, but if you’re still here and you have an opinion, would you share it?

Yours in procrastination
the management

NEW CONTEST: signed first edition of Fire Along the Sky


I’m moving the contest entry up front as there are only three days until the drawing on August 15, at which point I should have already received a few copies; if I haven’t, I’ll still hold the drawing and pick the winner, and the book will go into the mail as soon as I receive it.

If you’ve tried and failed to enter in the last week, it should work now.

The rules are simple: by entering a comment here, you have entered this contest and you acknowledge and agree to the following:

  • the author (me) is not responsible for technical difficulties arising from the software or hardware running this contest, and reserves the right to cancel without awarding the signed first edition if such difficulties make continuing impossible.
  • the author (me) reserves the right to delete entries that (a) are duplicates [though if you make a mistake by clicking twice, send an email and it will be fixed]; (b) contain objectionable material such as spam, advertising or anything else that the author (me) deems contrary to the spirit of the whole undertaking.
  • The winning entry will be drawn out of a hat, by the author (me), the one and only judge, and notified by email. If the winning party does not respond to email notification within one week, a second drawing will be held.
  • All of the author’s (mine) decisions regarding this contest are final.

No information provided will be sold or used in any way beyond required to carry out this contest, just so everybody’s clear on that. The signed first edition will be sent to the winner wherever he or she lives in the world, by airmail.

In your comment/contest entry you need to do the following:

1. State your first name and the first letter of your last name.

2. Provide a valid email address.

3. Reproduce this statement (you can copy and paste): I’ve read the rules for this contest and I agree to them.

4. You can add a comment if you like (for example, let me know what you would like me to discuss here on the blog, or what you like about the books). However, please be aware that while I really, really like comments, a particularly complimentary comment won’t help your chances at all one way or the other and conversely, no comment at all won’t hurt you, either.

One last thing: if you have difficulties with the contest or questions about it, please get those to me by email. The only comment you should post right here is your contest entry.
Good luck to all.

fictional genealogy

So the weekend was taken up with more seasonal insanity, including dinner with some neighbors (one of whom produced the X-Files, and tells wonderful stories about his many years in the business), and baking cookies (put two of my favorite recipes up on the forum) and otherwise running around. Except for Farscape, of course, and Angels in America (on HBO) I’ve had little sit-down time at all.

bonner family tree

But I wrote well on Friday and today I’ve already got some serious words down, including finishing a possible foreword for the new novel that recaps the first three. While I was putting it together I wished for some heavy duty concordance software that would just chug away and spit out all the details nicely formatted. Tell me, oh software, on what page in ITW do we first get a good look at Curiosity’s eyes?

As a part of the process I did a full family tree on my genealogy software (Reunion, which is excellent, by the way, but only for us sensible enough to be on a Mac). It produces nice graphics if you ask it politely, like this waterfall tree of the Bonner family genealogy. you can click on it to get a better look. WARNING! The chart contains spoilers... as Erin points out in a comment, below. Thanks, Erin.