Tag Archives: organization

There! E-Books done.

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At least all the non-fiction I can find. Total: a few dozen over 2000. I’m allowing for finding and eliminating a few more duplicates in the database.

That does include a few fiction items, including those that are research. (Some just fell in accidentally, and in SKU you don’t worry about it.) A novel written about a war, while it’s going on, can tell you a good deal about attitudes, if not reality. A novel of a quiet period can give you a hundred details of everyday life, especially when you have several to compare. You need to figure out if someone’s behavior is kind of universally expected, or outré, or simply the author commenting on character. I always hark back to Bulwer-Lytton inadvertently preserving for us the fact that people used to feed their canaries lump sugar as a treat, or Jane Austen the list of Gothic novels not suitable for young ladies.

I am still facing organizing the e-books for Early Dreamers, and that looks like another 300 or so is all. (whimper)

But for now, there’s champagne chilling, corned beef and potatoes in the foodbot, and a Krispy Kreme cake to bake. Celebrate the little victories along the way, or you’ll never keep your hand in at popping corks if you only wait for big ones.

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That School of Holy Map-Making

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A boffer would have been handy the other day to hit myself in the head with. (Why do we punish ourselves for having just solved the problem?)

One of my big projects had been hanging fire because I had to make a continental-scale map to lay out the states and climate and the military campaigns.

Now, let me say that if your story is about a couple of wandering rogues, you can lay out a map in half an hour — I’ve done it on lined paper during a lecture class. As soon as you bring in military campaigns, you are looking at days of work because you have to either decide on the terrain and make the war fit it, or you have to work out the strategy in detail and make the map suit.

But, whoa, there — why are we laying out maps in any case?

Because someone told us we had to.

Because someone said that without one we will have the city north of the river in this story or chapter and south of it in another.

No, we won’t. Read the rest of this entry

The Revision Project

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Heaven knows it was useful to me to update my page that gathers all the blogs for the Revision Project. Just a few holes here and there! And maybe someday I’ll get that counting thing straight …

For those of you following that, it may help you catch some you missed, and also explained some apparent non sequiturs.

 

DIY Writer’s Organization Program, Pt. 6

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Here we go, the most challenging left for last, because there really isn’t an automatic way to word-count without a frame program.

But is that really so important? Everyone has to take breaks. It’s never more than a couple of keystrokes to get wordage — unless you’re in something simple-minded like TextEdit or MS Wordpad for WindowsCE. That’s what I have on Rosy, and it flat won’t do word-counts. I spent days looking for it before abandoning hope. But then, it wouldn’t run a fancy binder program, either!

So you really do need something more sophisticated than that. No word-count, no good.

One-piece manuscript, no problem: you word-count when you break and just Highlight and Copy. Then you Paste the total in your work log, a word-processor file.

In the days of small files, I worked out how to keep a total in multi-files.

At the head of each chapter/segment/scene, you put:
Chiller
3E
xxxx words.

That’s four words that don’t really count.

Now, you set up a spreadsheet of 4 columns labelled —
Segment     Raw count     Real count     Synopsis

Make it at least 30 rows.
A: The first column has the segment marker, 3E in this case.
B: The second has the word-count you got for that file, “Raw Count.”
C: “Real Count” has a little formula that takes B(the column)x(the row number) and takes away the waste words: Bx-4.
D: This is just so you remember what things are in 12 words or less.
At the bottom of column B, put in the word TOTAL.
At the bottom of column C, put in the formula that adds up C2 (C1 is the title of the column, remember) through the last segment.

When you plug in a change in Raw Count, hit Sum or Total or whatever your program likes, and it will update the totals.

Okay, so you’re doing it by hand instead of the program doing it. You’re also saving the cost of the program if you have a newish machine, and getting the function at all if you have a legacy machine.

You can even fake the brainstorming programs. Use your graphics program. Make a huge canvas, and each note gets its own layer so you can move it around. Use the Text tool to write it, in whatever colours you can distinguish. Use any font you have on board. (Great place for fonts you can use free if non-commercially for your own use: http://www.blambot.com/) Just make it like 12-point. It means you have to zoom way in to read it, but you  can then make the canvas a meter square and squiggle ideas all over the place. Me, I don’t think like that. Never did. Rather than shapes in space, I see it as patterns through time.

So that’s your guide to doing about everything the “spare brain” programs do, for cheap or free, and doing it today.

Now go write wonderful things with this.

Start over with Part 1.

DIY Writer’s Organization Program, Pt. 5

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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.

DIY Writer’s Organization Program, Pt. 4

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Now that you have been happily house-cleaning with folders, it’s time to organize the top level inside Chiller.

The first thing, of course, is your manuscript.

There are two approaches to a manuscript. One, the whole thing is one file and you have markers, whether chapter names or ****, to find your way around inside 140,000 words. Two, you keep it as a bunch of separate files, chapters or scenes, and label them that way. If you hate one and the other makes you happy, I would never suggest changing. Having done both (old computers couldn’t handle a file larger than a chapter or two), I will say you need to be very organized about your labelling so that you can find the chapter among many that you want. If doing one big file, if you’re a railroader, no problem. If you’re a grasshopper, you need to mark the gaps and remember distinctive phrases to find particular scenes.

Discarded or superceded versions get a “z” in front of their name in the file label, and get put in Old Versions, so you don’t write on them any more. The first discard starts “zZ”, the second “zY” and so on — we hope no farther than zT.

I always label the one-piece manuscript in progress as “00 Chiller ms” so it will be at the top of the list of files when I go to open something in my word-processor. “00 Chiller plot” will sit nicely under it, for those of you addicted to plotting in advance. “00 Chiller synopsis” works, too. Then there’s “01 Tally Chiller” where I keep my word count, or “01 Char Chiller” where I keep my compact list of characters by name. That keeps me from having Fred, Franny, Frank, and Fern in one book. In main characters, you want to spread out those initials.

Actual character details are best kept in a database. Then you can sort them by prominence (A for main characters, down to E for extras), personal name, family name, height, or any number of things. However, the big character bio probably won’t fit in the notes allowed in a database: back to the word-processor or to HTML for individual bio sheets. Both bios and database are best kept in a subfolder “Characters.” You do need a short list that’s fast access just so you don’t keep renaming the messenger.

If you keep separate word-processor files for each segment or chapter, you want to have almost nothing else at this top level, or else put the chapters in a subfolder “00 Chiller ms.” I know what it’s like chasing down thirty of the things. Therefore, I will share with you my labelling system.

If you’re a plotter, you lay out your scenes in a list. If you’re a pantser like me, you will do this on the fly. No problem, because you change this whenever you feel like it.

Most novels are five-act structure:
I. opening and set-up,
II. complication and information,
III. false climax or lesser climax,
IV. descent and ascent,
V. climax and denouement

though a few, shorter and more simple-minded, are three-act. Westerns and category romances spring to mind for three-act.
I. opening and set-up,
II. complication and information,
III. climax and denouement

The main point being that you can look at a scene or chapter and roughly assign it to one of the areas, and use this number, 1 to 5, as the start of its file name. In your list of scenes, you ought to be able to figure at what point to change from 2 to 3.

No one ever sees this but you, so there is no right or wrong assignment, except to get the scenes in order of presentation. It’s just a tool. You don’t have to split hairs about which belongs where. Just do it.

The opening scene is “1AChiller.” The climax may be “5MChiller” and “5NChiller,” with the coda kick in “5OChiller” and the denouement in “5PChiller.” The letters are whatever feels right. You don’t have to have all the letters: I sometimes found nothing between G and something “middlish” that I had called M, and that’s fine.

If you find 5MChiller is running too long, and you already have a 5NChiller, don’t try to reletter all your files. Instead, you split it into 5M1Chiller and 5M2Chiller. Later, you may want to put the party scene into Act 3, rather than Act 2, which you can do with a few key strokes. All you do is change the name of the file as a file in the file window. When 2C and 2D turn out to be the beginning and end of one chapter, you put them together and call the new file 2CD so you don’t think you lost a file somewhere. See how flexible this is, while still keeping everything lined up?

If you’re a plotter with a scene list, you can put the scene description at the top of the file so when you open it you know what you have to write about in here.

Look at any other files you have at the top level inside “Chiller.” Certain ones you do want immediately available all the time. With the one-piece manuscript, the rest can be allowed to have alphabet names so they fall below the numbered ones. Even so, look to see if any might be grouped in a subfolder, like everything on the economics of the diner and what they cook. Every book has its own peculiarities: picklists of names, lists of battles and sieges, details on just what a dermatologist does with her days.

Now you can find things quickly, and not have to go through long lists of files.

Part 5

Start over at Part 1.

DIY Writer’s Organization Program, Pt. 3

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FOLDERS!

If you can’t organize your work without a hand-holding program, I have to think that somewhere along the line your training missed the creation and use of folders and sub-folders.

Anything you put on your desktop is actually going on your main drive. If you only have one, nothing to talk about. I frequently run three drives, one just for my mp3 music library.

In modern systems, opening the drive then requires you to open Users, and open your file, then open something like Documents before you get near an actual document. If so many steps annoy you, then just make a folder on your desktop for your project.

If you are using thumb drives, make a folder in there at the top level.

“Making a Folder” usually involves going to the top of the no-programs screen, the desktop or Finder, and tapping “File.” In it, you should see “New Folder.” On Windows, you go down to the Start menu and open it up.

Label the folder with a simple but distinct name. “Book” may be a bit generic. Really, a book deserves a title of some kind, or it looks unloved. The name of the main character, the main antagonist, or an important place will do. Maybe this, your top folder, will be “NaNoWriMo2013” in honour of when you start it.

While you’re at it, make a top-level folder called “Writing Office.” This is where you accumulate all the files pertinant to getting your work out to an audience in some fashion. I really hope you’ll need it.

Right here, you have the means to implement Feature C, “Finding everything in one place.” Absolutely everything to do with this project, that we will call “Chiller,” gets put in this folder. If your program won’t co-operate, just save to the desktop and drag-and-drop it into the folder later.

Open this folder by double-clicking on it. This should open a whole window full of nothing. In this window, create, using “New Folder,” a few sub-folders, like —
•    Old Versions
•    Graphics
•    Notes
•    HTML

Keep old versions: you may decide you want that scene or subplot back three versions on. “Graphics,” of course, is where you keep pictorial reference, from maps to scenic views to “This is what my lead character looks like.” “Notes,” of course, is all the stuff you compile from various research sources. I often find it pays to have one honkin’ big word-processing file, “Notes,” to hold all the notes. If I want to look up, say, “calling cards,” I use Search to find each mention. Even so, I may wind up with bits and pieces in the Notes folder, besides the Notes file, including plotting work done back and forth in emails with a pal.

HTML is where I keep the web-pages I build to organize information, especially for detailed historical settings. If I build a page for a character, I can link to the pages of its friends and enemies, and the pages of places it hangs out.

Having a more advanced program than you get in a browser or word-processor, if I have to reconstruct London in 1803, I can make a clickable map where I go closer to see neighborhoods until, in some cases, I click on individual street addresses to see the frontage and read about what’s inside, and include inside views if I have them. This is an extreme example of using HTML, but it let me see where places were in reference to each other. (The ability to manipulate graphics into hot-spots without strain is one reason I won’t tolerate an ops system that won’t let me use Page Mill.)

In a similar fashion, I organized way too many views of Los Angeles in the 1930s, from many sources, so in some cases I could virtually stand in one place and turn around to get the view in all directions from a certain intersection.

So for many of the functions where the fancy programs are calling information or jumping between bits, you can use HTML. It’s what hyper-text stacks are for, and I suspect the fancy programs are basically doing this.

You may or may not have a subfolder labelled “PDFs.” Some people don’t use them or haven’t accessed them as an information source. There are, of course, a zillion public domain books at Internet Archive (http://archive.org) in PDF. If you have historical settings, or semi-historical like steampunk or dieselpunk, you may want to collect all your books here.

If there is anything you go look up at Wikipedia, and you decide you want to keep it, if you have an account and you sign in, you can build a PDF for your project. Look down the left-hand boxes until you see —

Print/export
Create a book
Download as PDF
Printable version

Click on “Create a book.” Follow their instructions, mess around with it, make mistakes and figure it out. Nothing gets lost. Basically, it lets you collect all the articles you can find on, say, butterflies and invertebrate biology and aeronautics and time-travel theories and hand-to-hand weapons — all important for Chiller — and turn them into a multi-page ebook. You can print this out and put the pages into sheet protectors in a binder, or leave them loose in an expandable file folder, or just Search it in a PDF reader (my preferred).

So collecting PDFs isn’t just about hundred-year-old cookbooks and Renaissance etiquette.

So let’s drag and drop all the visual reference you have to Graphics. You can leave it all in a heap there, or you can make another layer of subfolders like —
•    Butterflies
•    Weapons
•    Venice
•    Tucson

— just to keep things sorted but together.

Notice the basis of organization: grouping like things. You click more, but you lose much less. You can find things when you want them, because if you can’t find them, you don’t really have them.

Even my very limited netbook, Rosy, can do this much. If your computer lacks even these capabilities, yeah, you really do need to move up to the 1990s.

So now that you have a place for everything Chiller, drag all your relevant files into it.

Part 4

Start over at Part 1.