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Posts tagged ‘Scrivener’

Road to Publication – Creation and Conversion Programs

Last week, several of you asked about what programs I use to during the writing and converting process. So today, I’m going to list some of the programs I’ve used (or that writers I know have used). This is by no means an exhaustive list. Nor does it cover programs for cover creation, photo editing, etc.

Let me start out by saying that I mainly write and convert on a MacBook Air. Part of the reason for that is to keep work separate from gaming. When the MacBook Air comes out, it is time for business. It doesn’t matter if I am sitting in my office, in the family room or the local coffee shop. Because of that, I am more familiar with the Mac versions of certain programs. Read more

Reviews, software and the season of the trolls

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!

New project and new programs.

It would be so easy to do another Hugogate post this morning but I won’t. However, here is fair warning to all those out there trying to do their best to paint some people I respect a great deal with the brush of evil: Stop. You really don’t want to keep going after Larry Corriea and Brad Torgersen with misquotes, out of context comments and flat out lies. Your tactics will come back to bite you in the butt. Not that I expect any of those doing it to understand. Yes, something happened this morning to bring me to the boiling point. No, I won’t give the person the benefit of any publicity by naming who or linking to the comment. Let’s just say that someone who found themselves on the other side of the GHH crowd after signing the petition a few months ago now has the audacity to talk about how inclusive science fiction — and by implication because of what this person was commenting about — SFWA are.

Anyway, I am not going to let my blood pressure go off the charts and put up another rant today. Instead, I’m going to give a bit of a review on how my experience with Draft2Digital has gone so far as well as my serious attempt to use Scrivener for the sequel to Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty) .

Let’s start with Draft2Digital. For those not familiar with it, D2D is an aggregator that you can use to put your book into Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Yes, all three outlets allow you to post your work yourself. All three have their own challenges. Apple requires you to upload with a Mac of a certain OS flavor. B&N has frankly gone odd in how they convert your files, even if you upload ePUB files. Kobo, well, Kobo can put you into review hell and never tell you why. So, when I decided to bring out Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty)  on my own, I knew I needed to find a way to get into those three stores without wanting to slit my wrists in the process (and, if you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you know I came to that decision a little late).

Long story short, D2D was simple and quick to set up. It took less than 24 hours for Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty)  to appear at BN. Better yet, I received an e-mail from D2D telling me when the book went live. A couple of days later, I received notification that it had gone live at Kobo and, less than a week after upload, it was live at Apple. So, check off the very satisfied with speed of going live in the third party stores. Better yet, it didn’t take as long as it has with Smashwords and D2D provided links to the product pages for each vendor.

Something else I like with D2D is being able to see my sales in what is pretty close to real time. While it would be nice to see them broken down by store, I will go with what they have so far. I have a feeling when I get my monthly accounting, my guess on breakdown will come pretty close.

Now, I haven’t given up on Smashwords completely. However, I have severely limited my use of it. I’ve limited it so much that the only thing I did was upload an ePUB version of Vengeance and it is for sale only on Smashwords. Now, to give Smashwords its due, uploading the ePUB version did take away a lot of the pain of the meatgrinder and, because I’m not using the expanded catalog, I didn’t have to put together a completely different file with the Smashwords legal language and odd formatting requirements. Smashwords also notifies me each time there is a sale or review posted. Both are things I appreciate. I just don’t have the time nor the inclination to deal with the meatgrinder and its additional requirements.

So, pending my first payout from D2D, I am giving it a cautious thumbs up.

Now on to Scrivener.

If you gather half a dozen writers in a room and ask them what program they use to write with, you very likely will get six different answers. I’ve always written in Word. Yes, there are issues with it but it still has the best review function and, frankly, it is industry norm if you are trying to publish traditionally. Besides, since I work on both Mac and PC, I needed a program I could use for both. However, as I’ve written my last couple of books, I’ve had an ongoing problem. I write series. I never meant to. I certainly didn’t mean to suddenly have three series going on at the same time. To say it gets confusing is an understatement.

So, as I started figuring out the basic plot for Duty from Ashes, the sequel to Vengeance from Ashes, I thought I’d finally put Scrivener to the test.

Confession time. I’ve had Scrivener for some time. Like several years. But every time I opened it, my eyes glazed and it just didn’t compute. There were too many bells and whistles. Then there was the fact that the tutorial we too detailed. There was simply too much information.

But Scrivener had one thing I liked. It had a corkboard feature that I knew could be helpful — if I could just get past that initial glazed eye reaction to the program.

So, when I decided to put it to the test with Duty from Ashes, I took to the internet and googled the program. There really are times when Youtube is my friend and this was one of them. I found a fifteen minute video that gave me all the information I needed to use Scrivener and not feel like someone had just tossed me into the deep water before first teaching me how to swim. So, off to the program I went.

So far, it’s been pretty easy and, once the early hurdles cleared, pretty intuitive. The corkboard is fantastic as a plotting tool. You can be as minimalistic or as detailed as you want — and you don’t have to use the corkboard. But to have a basic outline of the novel, initial chapter and scene breakdown is great. I can also note where I want to make sure certain threads are played back into the storyline. Making it all the more helpful, the screen can be set to display the appropriate notecard and comments to the right of the working window.

But what I really like is that there is a character sketch section to each project that you can utilize and, when you are working with a series, that is invaluable. Or at least it is to me. When I was doing my edits for Vengeance, I made notes on every character that might reappear or be referred to in the later books. When I finished, I couldn’t believe how many characters that turned out to be. Having a list of them, with a breakdown of information about each of them, just a click away and not having to open another file, is great. So is the way I can organize them.

Better yet, even though Scrivener includes a template for character sketches, you don’t have to use it. You can make your own. Or, like me, you can simply have basic information, just enough to jog your memory.

And that is the joy of Scrivener. It is highly customizable. Or it has been so far.

So, as with D2D, I’m giving Scrivener a cautious thumbs up. We’ll see how it goes as I finish writing the book. But, for now, I see only positives ahead, including the fact Scrivener will convert to ePUB for me.

Fingers crossed on both.