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.
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.
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 LearnScrivenerFast.com. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?
Let the FCC know what you think! I hope you signed the petition that displayed here first.
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!
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
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!
UPDATE 12/11/2013: Linux Voice has reached its goal, and will be published! I’ve signed up for a digital sub, and all the other perks are still available at the Indiegogo site until December 23.
For some reason, print magazines continue to thrive in Great Britain. Aside from WIRED, practically all the print magazines my wife and I read fly across the Atlantic to my living room (either by mail or book/magazine shop): Doctor Who Magazine, Prog, Linux Pro (which is technically German, but printed in English).
Linux Format is another of those successful magazines based in the United Kingdom, at least until the recent departure of its core editorial staff. Monday, those guys announced their new magazine project, called Linux Voice.
They intend to give half their profits to worthy free software projects (selected by the magazine readers).
They will work with their writers to make all the magazine’s content (especially the how-to material) available online nine months after publication.
Those of us in the states have been modestly spoiled by the amount of useful free Linux content at LinuxJournal.com, and other online versions of print magazines. One look at the current Linux Format website, and aside from the TuxRadar podcast, you’re hard pressed to find any content at all!
It will target the same blend of content and level of difficulty, and it’ll be written mostly by the same team of writers. However, we won’t be hamstrung by a corporate system that puts squeezing out every drop of profit ahead of creating an awesome magazine and supporting the community. In short, Linux Voice will be like Linux Format done properly.
At Indiegogo, would-be print subscribers in the US can sign up for £90 for the first year ($143.14 according to Google). Digital subscribers get in for £35 ($55.66). Other levels are available, with the usual assortment of perks.
Larry the Free Software Guy also likes the project. Larry is something of a free-software purist (which is not to say he’s a bad person), so his support means something. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Linux Voice plans to feature Larry’s favorite distribution in its first issue.
I think this is a worthy endeavor, and hope to squeeze some cash out of my budget to support this.
Busy month ahead, with much to say and much to learn. This time of year is usually when I can go to professional conferences, but I seem much more involved with organizing them this year. In particular, I’m talking about (and at, truth be told) these two, separated by just two weeks!
Saturday, May 19: WriteCamp Milwaukee 4
This “traditional un-conference” (if there can be such a thing) is for everyone who writes: Fiction, nonfiction, with multiple books and/or bylines or just a blog or a novel cooking in the word processor that no one’s ever seen. No matter what sort of writing project you’re interested in doing, there’s a place for you at WriteCamp.
What’s traditional about this un-conference? Well, the biggest thing is that there’s no set schedule. You’ll come in to the Hide House in beautiful Bay View, in the southeast corner of Milwaukee and encounter a blank wall with time slots and rooms demarcated with tape. Want to lead a session about something? Take a Post-It note and slap the topic in one of the blank slots. You’re in! Of course, some of us have posted some ideas for sessions on the website already. You can add some there too. There are no guarantees that any of them will be presented–but if you post a comment on the ones you want to see, the people with the idea will be impressed (believe me!).
I have learned more than a little at previous WriteCamps, mostly about social media and freelance practices. I’ve led sessions on the future of journalism and held WordPress clinics. This year, I’m planning sessions on getting into technical communication and “WordPress for Writers.”
The other traditionally unconference-y thing that WriteCamp Milwaukee adheres to is that it is free to attend (though if you’re in Milwaukee tonight, April 26, check out the comedy benefit at Stonefly Brewery!), and you get lunch, a mid-day poetry slam demonstration, and a tote bag with assorted goodies besides the education.
We have a spectacular lineup of speakers for both the User track and the Developer track. These WordPress gurus are mostly from the Greater Milwaukee area and from that city of big shoulders a little south of here. You even get two authors of WordPress books: I’ll be the one standing in Lisa Sabin-Wilson‘s shadow.
What am I talking about? All about the amount of help any WordPress user can get just by kicking around the WordPress.com and WordPress.org sites.
There’s an un-conference track, where people will be running informal sessions on topics yet to be determined (and yes, you can get in on that too). And we’re working hard to staff the Happiness Bar for the full conference. This is where users and developers can get answers to their particular problems.
We’re working on some fun stuff too, but it’s not ready to unveil yet.
Unlike WriteCamp, WordCamp Milwaukee costs, though not much (just $20). Buy your ticket before May Day to guarantee your commemorative t-shirt.
All this activity is forcing me to miss the annual Technical Communication Summit sponsored by the Society for Technical Communication in Rosemont, Illinois. But you can follow news from the summit via my pals at TechWhirl.com.
We’re not especially into the hype and commercialism that often slips into the blogosphere. At Notes from the Metaverse, the goal is to empower ordinary folks to use technology to find their voice and get things done. I hope this blog helps you navigate the occasionally treacherous waters of open source technology, especially desktop Linux and WordPress. I firmly believe that good content is the most important SEO tool there is.
That said, if you happen to know someone who is thinking about starting a blog in 2012, or wants to take advantage of all WordPress has to offer, you could do a lot worse than picking up a copy of WordPress in Depth.
It is well-written for people like me who know there way around a computer but don’t consider themselves too technical. –Michael Gallagher
This book WordPress in Depth, is easy to understand even when talking about the professional side of WordPress. –S. Nichols
Some manuals have the detail but not the clarity required to be user friendly. This one delivers the information in a clear manner and is well organized. It describes putting up a WordPress blog in a chronological manner that would allow the reader to sit down at the computer with the manual and just work their way through the process. –Lou Belcher
I was very happy to receive this book because I am interested in starting a blog and I have absolutely ZERO experience with WordPress and very limited experience with any kind of programming at all, but I am pretty good at following “recipes.” To push the analogy, WordPress In Depth (2nd Edition) not only gives you the recipes, but teaches you how the various ingredients chemically react to one another to produce a result. Some chefs want to know that stuff; others just want the cake to come out right. This book is for the former. –S. Rudge
Thanks to the inevitable lag in publishing schedules, the book doesn’t cover some of the newer embellishments in WordPress, but watch this space for help on that score soon. If there’s something in particular you want to know about, please leave a comment here.
You can find WordPress in Depth wherever you find quality computer books (and I know that’s harder than it used to be), be it in your town or at your computer. It comes in paper and electronic versions.
As the pitchman always says: If you liked either edition of WordPress in Depth, tell a friend. If not, tell me, in the Comments. Ideas for future editions are greatly appreciated too. What have you had trouble learning in WordPress? What features excite you most?
While you’re still in the book shopping mood, you might also want to check out these recent releases:
Bud Smith, my outstanding collaborator, never stops writing. He’s got Using iPad 2out now.
Rochelle Melander, the WriteNow Coach, inspires writers in Milwaukee and elsewhere with her blog and workshops. She’s also a friend of WriteCamp Milwaukee, which makes her a all-round terrific person. Her latest, Write-a-Thon, is something I’ve been meaning to get since before it came out, but I procrastinate.
And so concludes our marketing interlude. I’ll return to helpful content sooner than you think!
Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, I hope it’s a good one! And may 2012 be the best ever!
The word went out Friday: the 208th monthly edition of Linux Journal would be the last of its kind in print. Starting immediately, the magazine would no longer be printed and delivered to newsstands and subscribers. Instead, a plain PDF or enhanced PDF from a company called Texterity will be delivered to subscribers.
Doc Searls described the reasons for the switch thusly in the article linked above:
Just this month, ABC reported that newsstand magazine sales fell 9% in the first six months of this year. The Wall Street Journal reported a drop of 9.2% for consumer magazines, with double-digit drops for celebrity weeklies like People andStar. Women’s Wear Daily reported similar drops for all but one fashion magazine: Vogue, thanks to one Lady Gaga cover.
The big computer-industry trade magazines from the ’90s have either disappeared or gone digital. Of the big three publishers, only IDG is still intact, but relatively few of its old magazines are still in print.
We survived while others failed by getting lean and staying focused. But the costs of printing and distributing continue to go up. We could keep publishing in print if we could raise the number of advertiser pages, but we don’t see that happening.
So, after a fashion, you can see the writing on the wall. The backlash against the decision can be seen in the comment stream. These ranged from the likes of (not actual quotes) “Well, duh, this was inevitable. You gotta get used to it” to pleas for the ability to read the magazine while camping.
One of the more thoughtful critics wondered whether historians and archaeologists of the future might believe humans of our age lost the ability to write, given the lack of tangible artifacts. I suspect there’s a good sci-fi story in that idea; wish I had the imagination to write it.
Now I’ll admit that I lean more toward the side that says “isn’t a printed computer magazine something of an anachronism these days?” But I’ll also admit that I don’t really make time to read all the electronic publications I subscribe to. I find it a little hard to make time for the print publications I subscribe to as well.
I do think that we will eventually everyone will be going all-digital, and probably sooner rather than later. As some folks in the LJ comment thread noted, it’s important to do it right, though. I hope that as this transition proceeds, we can all find the right form(s) for our information.
As a writer, I also hope that LJ remains a paying market for the people who provide the content we all read. To that end, I intend to keep my subscription for as long as possible, and recommend you do that too. I’d give ’em a raise too, but that’s just me. Disclaimer: I sold a story to the website (not the print version) a few years ago, and hope to do so again one day.
Do you read Linux Journal? Other Linux-oriented print publications? Do you read electronic magazines of any kind? Are print magazines on the way out, and is that a good thing? Just a few of the many questions raised by this decision; feel free to comment here on any or all of them.
Spring is here and it’s time to get educated. Yes, I suspect that a lot of you reading this are still in school, and aching for the days when you won’t be sitting in a room being educated. Tragically, I have to tell you that once you get out in the Real World, you really begin to relish the few chances to get together with colleagues, perhaps in a strange city, and learn new things. That’s what I’m doing now.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be attending (or keeping watch on) these great events. For most of these, you’re more than welcome to join me:
This is the annual conference of my professional organization, and my employer is sending me so I can be a better tech writer. As a bonus, I get to see possibly the most famous technical communicator in the world. Tim O’Reilly is our keynoter Sunday night, and while you may know him as the god of technical publishing, I just learned from this interview at South By Southwest that the publishing business started during a slack time in his tech writing consultant business. There’s much more of interest in that hour-long podcast, but I’m really looking forward to hearing him.
This will be my second STC conference, and the last one was quite useful. I’m confident it’ll be another good experience.
This local gathering/unconference of writers of all genres is a great opportunity to break out of the isolation of the Writer’s Life, see what other people are doing, and learn something new. It’s the brainchild of my friend Boone Dryden.
I’ve proposed two WordPress-related sessions. I’ll give one or both, depending on interest.
One of a zillion WordCamps that happen every year, where people spend a weekend talking about WordPress. Someday we want to have one in Milwaukee, but this isn’t too far away. They’re pulling together a program as we speak, and nobody knows yet who will appear. I’m hoping it’ll be great!