DIY Writer’s Organization Program, Pt. 5


Let’s remember the features we’re going for:
a. Dark screen backgrounds. They look sophisticated.
b. Gorgeous graphics (that are atmospheric, not functional).
c. Finding everything in one place.
d. Being able to look at a bunch of different kinds of files and jump between them.
e. Being able to transfer information between different files.
f. Being able to track wordage automatically.
g. Being able to outline in various ways.

We’ve got C. If you have a word-processor, not just a text editor, it probably has an outline function somewhere in its menus, for G.

Let’s do the lace trim first: A and B.

B is easy. This is where you use your graphics program.

Check the Appearance function of your ops system. On this Mac, it’s up to the blue apple, go into System Preferences, and hit “Desktop and Screensaver.” I know I’ve done it on Thinky, because I have a colour shot of the Avalon Casino ballroom as my background there. But it’s been a while: I’d have to poke around a bit, so you can do that, too.

Find out what size a picture needs to be to be used as the desktop. Make a note of this, because custom desktops get to be an addiction.

You crawl the web, looking for artwork to die for. If it has something to do with your story, even better. You download a copy and take it into your graphics program. There are two ways to make it fit.

You reduce the size of the smaller dimension, whether height or width, to the limit of the desktop. Then you crop the other dimension to fit. Use the Canvas tool in Photoshop to get the perfect size.

If it just doesn’t suit, but you can’t crop it (it’s a portrait thing, or a short panorama and you want the stuff at both ends), make a new file the right size for the desktop. Place the picture on it. It doesn’t have to be centered. I tend to keep all my desktop files on the right hand side of the screen, so I put artwork to the left of the file. Then you fill in the blank canvas using the Paint Bucket tool. This is where you get your dark screen. Use black, or take a sample of a dark colour out of the art for the fill.

Put this in the Pictures folder built into the system, or in the Appearance Photos file, depending on your system.

If you want lots of art at once, make a montage. Just fit several of your pictures onto the desktop-sized canvas. You can also use the multimedia program to make a slide show of evocative art. When you’re sitting there trying to figure out how to do this next chapter, bring up the slide show. Use your theme music with it, and it will help keep you in the story better than playing a game does.

Often, you can even change the colour of the page you write on. I used to pick a theme colour for each project. You poke around your word-processor for a command to let you adjust the background colour of the page. Black on soft pastels is most readable with less eyestrain than a glaring white page. Remember, the white isn’t reflected light off paper: it’s lights shining in your eyes. I have only abandoned coloured backgrounds since moving files on and off Rosy, which is too simple to do this.

Writing light on dark is not good, no matter what some ad shows. It looks trick and “sophisticated.” There’s a reason we gave up glare on black or amber on black monitors: they make your eyes hurt because the letters look fuzzy. Sage letters on olive may look good in an ad, but it will give you eyestrain headaches pronto.

So we now have left to accomplish in our DIY writer program:

d. Being able to look at a bunch of different kinds of files and jump between them.
e. Being able to transfer information between different files.
f. Being able to track wordage automatically.

D and E are so easy I’m not going to break them out into part 6.

All you have to do in order to look at, say, a spreadsheet and a word-processor at the same time is either embed the spreadsheet in a word-processor file or just open both windows and adjust the sizes so you can see both at once.

Astonishingly, many people don’t know that all you do is grab the lower right corner of the frame, where there’s som diagonal lines filling it in, and drag the frame to the size you want. “You mean I don’t have to keep the size they give me?” (Really, and this was an akamai investment counselor.) I constantly use this to type in information from PDFs that don’t have the text available to copy, or else to correct that chewed-up OCR against the original. I juggle the size of the word-processor window so I can see the PDF behind it.

Spreadsheets in a word-processor file depends on your software. Many word-processors give you a small spreadsheet under the Table menu. Others can’t do mathematical equations, but some give you a full spreadsheet. I used to figure my budget in the Table in a WordPerfect document (my DH handles that now that I work outside and he doesn’t). Others will take a spreadsheet from outside and Insert it like a graphic, but can’t manipulate the data after that.

If you have two word-processor files to compare, look for a Tile command under View, or just adjust the sizes by hand.

I know, automatic would be handier. That’s why I won’t give up access to my Corel WordPerfect: it tiles, it sorts not just by the first item in a paragraph but the last, and has all sorts of other luxuries many “new and improved” programs don’t dream of. Really, software used to do more and was more flexible. Nowadays, like the retarded “smart searching” at so many sites, the software tries to tell us what we want and what to do how, because the software is so limited.

Often you can insert graphics in your word-processor files, especially if it’s not a word-processor but a desk-top publisher. The presence of HTML editing in most word-processors means they can Insert Images at will. Make them smaller and low-res, because they bloat the size of the file.

Part 6

Start over at Part 1.


One response »

  1. Pingback: DIY Writer’s Organization Program, Pt. 4 | hollyiblogs

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