Create Custom News Streams Based on Your Specific Sources and Filters

News defined by you.


If you’re a nonfiction writer (or even a fiction writer who addresses real-world topics), you need to keep up with the latest news in your field of expertise. @Robin Goodtells us about Defcomb, a new curation tool that finds material on the web relevant to your oh-so-specific needs. I look forward to trying it.

See on Scoop.itBuild Your Author Platform: New Rules

Scrivener: A Pretty Cool Writing Tool

Scrivener (software)
Scrivener (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For years I’d heard of Scrivener, a piece of software touted as the “ultimate writer’s tool.” Not just a word processor, more than a plain text editor; Scrivener helped you organize all the stuff you wrote, all your research and goodness knows what else. Only problem was the durn thing only ran on Macintosh — the only PC operating system I didn’t know!

That detail changed some years ago, as Scrivener for Windows joined the party. It also runs on Linux via Wine, but that’s for another post. But there was still a small barrier: the $40 price tag. Frugal guy that I am, I wondered what Scrivener could give me that I didn’t get from the free LibreOffice suite.

Then a few months ago, the tech deal site, AppSumo, sweetened the pot for me; they cut the price to $20. I snapped this deal up, and now I’m a fan.

What makes Scrivener so cool?

Now I’m not typically crazy about proprietary, closed-source software. I do make room for a few exceptions, though. Scrivener is one of them.

Here’s what Scrivener looks like on Windows.

Scrivener for Windows
Scrivener: More than a text editor

The main window is the editor, and by default looks just like a typical text editor, but with some basic word processing features; that is you can bold, underline and italicize text if you’re so inclined. Soon you find a Heading style and other word processing features. But that’s the boring part. Where you discover Scrivener’s power is in each of those sidebars.

On the left side is the project binder, where you can collect multiple files: scenes, chapters, journal/diary items — pretty much anything you want to include in a writing project.When the time comes to publish your book, choose what files to include from your binder and export to any of a bunch of file formats:

  • Word (rich text, DOC and DOCX)
  • Open Document (OpenOffice/LibreOffice)
  • PDF or raw PostScript
  • Web pages (HTML or XHTML)
  • Final Draft (for scripts)

The binder also holds a Research file, where you can store links to other files, web pages, or just notes to oneself (though you can also use Comments to include reminders).

Decide something is completely not working, and want to cast it aside? Throw the file into the Trash folder in Scrivener. Decide later that you want to salvage it? No problem; just restore it — Trash is just another folder, not the system’s trashcan.

On the right side of the editor, you have your Synopsis file, where you can quickly define what this file is about (a help when you’re organizing your outline, or writing your novel “out-of-order”). The General Meta-Data section is where you can give a file a label, and define its editorial status (what draft you’re on).

A lot of this stuff is customizable, and you really can control so much of your experience and your content while you write.

This is just a description of the editing screen. I haven’t even gotten into the outlining features in the Scrivener Corkboard.

Learn Scrivener Fast

Such a powerful piece of software typically means a learning curve, and the makers of Scrivener (Literature and Latte) offer a tutorial session the first time you launch the application. They also give you access to some free video tutorials in the Help menu too, along with a pretty good PDF manual.

But if you spend any time with Scrivener (or post about it in social media), you’ll also keep hearing about the Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael, who runs an e-learning video site at His program is a series of short videos that share his experience with the Scrivener learning curve, and tries to climb that ladder in just a few hours. Let me tell you: he succeeds.

AppSumo also offers a discount on LearnScrivenerFast that appears periodically. You can get lifetime access to his courses for $39. If you’re serious about your writing, and find that Scrivener can make you a more productive writer, Joe can help.

Friday’s Deal

The good news is the folks at AppSumo are offering the same deals that I got for one day only: Black Friday, November 28 (I absolutely hate this term, but whatcha gonna do?). If you’re reading this on that day, you can get Scrivener the software for just US$20, and the Learn Scrivener Fast course for $39 (ordinarily nearly $200). But just for 24 hours, from 12:01 am US Central time Friday to midnight US Central time.

They have a number of other deals during that period, but I can vouch for and recommend both of these. FULL DISCLOSURE: I don’t get any financial benefit from either AppSumo, Literature and Latte, or the Scrivener Coach for these recommendations. As they say, “just a happy customer.”

I would be interested in learning more about other people’s experiences with Scrivener, AppSumo and video e-learning. Drop a comment below if there’s something to share.

Hitting the Wall: The Challenge of a Challenge

I’m typing this at 9:30PM on November 13, and I don’t know what to write about. I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I don’t (yet) have enough to say in a blog post about a topic that I haven’t already written about this month. Instead of being completely boring and writing again about the (sideways but still exciting) Philae lander, or another Net Neutrality post , I’m typing a little bit stream-of-consciousness, partly in the hope that something more brilliant will come out of my fingers.

Note: I want to share some resources/links on both net neutrality and Philae, but I’m running out of time. Perhaps over the weekend.

filedesc (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Writing Tip: The Daily Dump

Maybe I’ll turn this post into something about writing. I know something about that. Rochelle Melander wrote a really good book in 2011 about surviving a challenge like NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo called Write-A-Thon: Write your book in 26 days (and live to tell about it). She calls exercises like this one “The Daily Dump.” It’s good practice to just get into the daily writing habit and clear your mind in the process. I’ve done this on my laptop since August, and it does help all the above. I type into Scrivener, a great piece of software that many writers love dearly. I’m working up to love, but I’m definitely at the Like stage.


National Blog Post Month

Anyway, since I’m almost halfway through posting every day in November, perhaps this is not unlike what marathon runners talk about: “hitting the wall.” Suddenly you don’t think you’ve got the energy to go on, but you fight your way through it. That’s what I’m doing now. What I’m really doing is following through on a commitment I made to myself – and indirectly to you readers. I am offering up my thoughts on a variety of topics, in 300+ word chunks, for 30 straight days. In the coming days, I will recover my strength and feel the support of the people along the course with water, energy drinks, and cheering!

If you’re on this journey with me as a reader, I hope you find this post a little entertaining. Feel free to cheer in the comments. If you’re not entertained, or enlightened, you can tell me that too.

More importantly, if you’re a writer on this journey, I’m telling you: DON’T GIVE UP! The fun part is still ahead. When we all get to hit the tape on November 30 and celebrate the writing we’ve done. And the next project we’re going to do.

Go for it, gang!

Why Net Neutrality Matters to Writers

Net Neutrality supporters at FCC Meeting, May 15, 2014

Wednesday, September 10 is Internet Slowdown Day, when this site and a whole bunch of others gave you a taste of what the World Wide Web might look like if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approves new rules governing how you can participate and contribute to the Internet for public discussion. These rules, commonly referred to as “net neutrality,” require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like phone and cable companies to treat every bit that travels through their networks to be treated equally.

Need some basic understanding of what’s at stake here? Have some links:

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now, at Free Press

A pair of pieces from Mashable

What I want to focus on is why this is important to writers and other content creators.

Let me start with this lovely tweet from @EdPlocher:

The Internet allows for an unmediated relationship between creators and audiences. Ending ends that.

Let me also offer some other reasons why net neutrality matters:

Writers need web space they can control

One of the central themes Carole Jelen and I stress in Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules is now important it is for writers to have your own website, what we call “home central.” It’s the place where all your social activities point to.

If the fast-lane is implemented, how long does $100/yr web hosting for small businesses and lone creatives last? How long do the new free blogging tools like Medium and the like exist as free? ,  Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter are wonderful places to visit, but I  don’t want to live in any of them. Corporate sites just don’t do enough for us to communicate with readers.

Too many websites don’t pay their “content creators” already.

If the telephone and cable companies get to be first in line to demand money from websites that offer content, guess who moves further down the queue? Too many writers get ripped off already by content mills like Demand Studios, and sites that offer “exposure” instead of cash. As much as I’d like to throttle  the content mills’ bandwidth, that is not how this would work in practice. If anything, the mills would pay the toll and suggest to writers they were the only game in town!

More media consolidation

The central premise of fast lanes and a non-neutral net is easy to understand: Big corporations can pay to play, not so much you and I. What might be easily missed: there isn’t enough competition in the media industry now! In the future, good ideas and good web design won’t be enough for smaller publishers to compete on the web.

Harder for self-publishers/indie authors

More than a few people think self-publishing is the future for writers. Net neutrality is really key for that argument to hold. My guess: Amazon gets even bigger, and writers (eventually) lose!

What to do?

NaBloPoMo: What I’ve Learned So Far

NaBloPoMo (Photo credit: udge)

Hey folks, this is the 15th consecutive day of posting here on Notes from the Metaverse! I don’t know if I’ve ever managed to keep up such a pace, but thanks to a spontaneous (and quite rash) decision to take part in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) two weeks ago, here we are!

So my daily blogging experiment is halfway through the month, and I wanted to pause to consider what I’ve learned in this process, and share the results. If you’re also participating in NaBloPoMo, I’ll be curious to compare notes.

I wake up in the morning thinking of today’s topic

I have planned some posts, and if I do this again next year, I’ll plan more. At the same time, it’s exciting and energizing to look for something new to write about. That’s a really good thing!

People are interested in disasters

I’m not surprised that the three posts about Typhoon Haiyan attracted the most page views this month. Following the first lesson, I will say I am quite proud of the first of those posts, Tracking the Worst Storm Ever. I also want to call your attention to Karen Mardahl’s comment recruiting people to take part in the Open Street Map campaign.

I need (at least) an hour to write posts

Screenshot of WordPress interface (wordpress i...
Screenshot of WordPress editor interface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an important lesson: I have been a fast typist, but I’m not a fast writer. Making links takes time too. Have I mentioned that I do this at the end of the day, that I work full-time, and usually get to WordPress around 7PM? Even if I have a good idea, it takes time to get it down here.

Conferences are good for topic ideas

I have said here more than once that I love professional conferences. I would be in heaven if I could take a year off to just travel from Linux conference to WordCamps to technical communication conferences to gatherings of writers — with a speculative fiction con or three to fill the year up. Since I can’t do that yet, I’ll do my best to follow remotely and tell you what I find out. In addition to the openSUSE Summit this weekend, next week is the virtual Ubuntu Developers Summit, which I don’t have to travel to attend (neither do you)!

Fast isn’t necessarily good

It has been said that many novels are written during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but no good ones. Every written work needs review and editing. Humans write novels and blog posts, they make mistakes. While there’s nothing here that is really crappy, but in reaching to publish before the witching hour each night, I’m not always doing my best work.

Let me also say that I am not speaking for any other participant (as I haven’t read many other blogger’s posts this month, sad to say).

I haven’t experimented with post types

One thing I suggested I was going to do this month was choose some different post formats, like Links and Quotes. Have to admit that doing something short really feels like cheating. Thursday’s post about the openSUSE conferences may be as close to a short, link-filled post as you’re likely to see.

Nobody cares when I comment on Big Issues of Communication/Information

Even though I am a document/information architect by profession, it never surprises me that hardly anyone reads posts like The Value of Information or my older Doug Engelbart eulogy. Maybe “The Value of Information” is a clunker of a title. The post suffers a little bit from “fast vs good” syndrome. I’ll maintain it addresses important issues (transparency, the future of journalism, and the importance of an informed citizenry), and will occasionally produce more like it. Then again, I’ve read why serious journalism doesn’t always sell on the web.

This pace is unsustainable when I’m writing a book

Remember how I said I was nearly finished with a chapter on 11/2? It’s 13 days later, and I still am nearly finished with that chapter! Will fix that tomorrow, but here we are <sigh>.

So, those are a few things I’ve learned. I hope all is going well with you. I’m sure there will be more things to learn in the remaining half-month. But it’s 11:21pm and I still have to proofread and select an image. Cheers!