No, you didn’t go to bed last night and enter a time warp. It really is Wednesday. Sarah asked me to fill in for her this morning because she had an o-dark thirty flight out to Libertycon last night and simply ran out of time. But never fear, she’ll be back next week with tales of the con and more. The only problem is I figured I’d be up early, as has been my habit recently. Instead, I overslept. So apologies for the late post.
A couple of things have come up over the last day or two that caught my eye. The first was a post by another author — one not associated with MGC as either a contributor or regular commenter — complaining about a review received for a short story. Before receiving the one-star review, he’d had three or four other reviews, all five-star. So, because this review was so dramatically different from the others and because the reviewer wasn’t a “verified purchaser”, the author instantly assumed it was a troll review. Then he went on a tirade on social media about it.
This is where things get a little hazy. Whether the reviewer saw the rant on social media or the author left a comment on Amazon about the review, it is clear word got back to the reviewer because he edited the original review to note that the author had problems with the review and claimed he hadn’t read the story. He had, according to the edits, because he’d “borrowed” a friend’s copy.
That brought another response from the author, this time as response on Amazon. Once more he attacked the reviewer and said there was no way this could have happened because the story wasn’t available for “lending”. Ergo, the reviewer is a liar.
Not necessarily. The reviewer could be like my mother and me, and any number of other families and close friends who actually loan their kindles back and forth. Or the original purchaser of the short story could have broken the DRM, if any was applied, and then given a copy to the reviewer. Or, yes, the reviewer could be lying.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. The author stepped into it by first blowing up on social media with enough detail that the reviewer knew who and what he was referring to. Heck, the author actually included a link to the product page so all his “friends” could go see the horrible review. Then, going to the review on Amazon and responding in a defensive — and derrisive — manner didn’t help him any either. It makes him look bad and, if he’s like me, it is a distraction from writing he doesn’t need.
Yes, it is hard to read those bad reviews. If you can’t put the brakes on the impulse to respond, then get someone else to read your reviews for you. But don’t waste your time trying to prove just how wrong that reviewer happens to be and certainly don’t lose your cool. It will backfire on you.
The second thing that caught my eye recently has been a discussion on Baen’s Bar about what software folks use to write. As you can imagine, the responses are varied. There are those who, like me, use Word. We might not like it and it does have a learning curve from Hell, but it is still the industry standard and it still has the best review and comment function of anything I’ve found. Others use open source software like LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Both are decent programs and have the benefit of being free. Others use older versions of WordPerfect — frankly, my favorite program before it started trying to be Word. Apple fanatics use Word or Pages. Then there are those who use text editors. A few use Scrivener.
Each program has its benefits and drawbacks. Word is chock-full of junk code and is expensive. Then there is the learning curve to be able to take advantage of all it offers. But it is the industry standard. Plus, it is easy to get rid of much of the junk code by simply running it through another program, such as Atlantis, if necessary. But even that isn’t necessary in most cases anymore because Amazon and the other sites that allow us to upload our work for sale have improved their conversion tools to the point that much of the junk code is removed during the conversion process. It’s not perfect and you do have to check each time you upload something, but it is much better than it used to be.
OpenOffice, and to a lesser extent LibreOffice, are notorious for not working well with Smashwords’ conversion tool, the meatgrinder. So that is something to keep in mind if you are going to be offering your work through that particular outlet.
Using a text editor is probably the best way to insure you have no junk code in your work. The problem is that you need at least a basic understanding of html coding if you are going this route and, frankly, most of us don’t want to take the time to make sure all the codes are closed out. Still, if you don’t have much special coding needed, this is the way to go if you don’t mind the way the text editor works and looks.
Scrivener is an excellent program but, for me, it offers too much. Yes, I know you can choose which parts of the program to use but it is distracting. I have a feeling that, for a true plotter, it is probably one of the best programs out there. But for pantsers or hybrids, it can be a bit daunting.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter what program you use for writing. The important thing is that you are writing. Where much of the conversion problems come from now is when a file goes through multiple programs during the editing process. Here’s what I mean. Wally the writer uses Word. When Wally finishes his first draft, he sends the DOC file to Annie the Alpha Reader. Annie reads and comments using Pages and then sends it back to Wally. Wally opens the file, looks it over and implements or disregards Annie’s suggestions. Then he sends it to Barney the Beta who uses LibreOffice. Rinse and repeat.
What happens is that each of these programs have underlying code that has now been written into the file. Some of that code may be at odds with other parts of the coding. That is what causes a lot of the problems you see during conversion. So, whether you upload exclusively to Amazon or to other sites as well, I recommend you add one more program. You need something that will let you edit the html code. You can do this by saving your file as an html file and using a text editor or you can convert it to epub and use a file like Sigil to edit the html. I like using Sigil or something similar to it because it allows you to not only edit the code but also the text of the file. You can build your meta data, compile your active table of contents, and much more. But, again, none of that matters if you aren’t writing and finding the program you are most comfortable with as a word processor is a must.
Finally, this is the season of the trolls. We’ve had a few here. Not many but a few. Sarah gets them fairly regularly at ATH. We see them in reviews and on social media. Even though a rousing game of whack-a-troll is often fun, it is a time consumer as well. Especially when, as with the one at ATH right now, he either doesn’t realize he’s being used as a chew toy or he enjoys it. Don’t let yourself get drawn into a prolonged encounter with them. Even if they do eventually go away, they’ve won because they’ve taken you away from what’s important — your writing.
And, one that note, I’m off to find more coffee and get back to work myself. Have a good one, guys!