The time has come for a parting of the content.
I mentioned this in the Facebook group the other day, so this may be a repeat for some of you. When I had my first publication back in March, I decided the time had come to make a presence for myself as a writer (vs the lurker I’ve always been). In a fit of excitement, I bought a new domain, cummingswrites.com, and then did…nothing.
I have decided it’s time for a change, and this wasn’t an easy decision. Datanode.net has been my sole blog for a long, long time. The last few years, though, it has begun to become mostly a place where I post about writing, to the exclusion of regular posts. I have decided to fix that disparity.
I am in the process of setting up cummingswrites.com to point to a new site I’ve setup over at Medium.com. I expect it will be at least a few more days before that url resolves to Medium (for now, it will just bring you back to datanode). Moving forward, Medium/cummingswrites is where you will find all of my posts on writing, writing news, etc.. Datanode will become more of a personal blog again, with shout outs to things posted on Medium (because sometimes, news will transcend being relevant to only one site). The verdict is still out on whether it is worth the effort to import my old posts for new readers, or just treat it as a clean slate.
So with that in mind – my first (ever) post on Medium just went up, “There’s a flaw in my characters, I just need to find it”
View story at Medium.com
Figured it being so long since I posted updates, I felt compelled to post a writing update.
The short of it is, writing continues. I’m currently working on query letters for agents for Chrysalis, as well as working on a new novel. I’d share more details on the new novel (it isn’t the second book of Niki’s story like I had meant to work on), but the story behind that is actually a little long and the subject of a much longer blog post in the future.
One of the things slowing me down, besides the day job, is my continued flailing around to find the right tool for the job. Ideally, anything I settle on needs to work on the Chromebook (at least for the near future), which means it has to be online in some way. I’ve tried a couple of different solutions, and kept falling back on Google Docs. Not because I like Docs particularly, but because of all its evils (chief being it begins to choke on large size documents, but also because I occasionally need to try moving scenes around, and Docs is just a monolithic editor in that scenario) I keep trying other things.
So this week I stumbled on Novelize. So far, I like it. It’s missing some of the aesthetic refinements that I can get with Google Docs, which IMHO is really a contender as an office document writer online, but then it makes up for it with some nice bonus features. Scenes and chapters are discrete units – and you can move them around. I haven’t tried exporting from it yet (will soon as a test), but all in all it has a nice set of management tools that let you track and work on your novel without getting trapped in a single document structure.
Now back to writing.
Since I bought the Chromebook, being able to write on my tiny netbook, both online and offline, has been a concern of mine. When I wrote the latest draft of Chrysalis, I did it all in Google Docs. Sound crazy? You bet! Here’s how I did it:
- Thanks to Ken McConnell, I got a hold of this great extension for Google Sheets that lets you listed a series of document ID, and then takes care of merging them for you. This let me write in chapter blocks in individual files (keeping the per file size down, which in turn meant google and my helper scripts didn’t choke on >50k text). It is a great extension, and I salute whoever first wrote it.
- All of my writing is in one folder. I kept things pretty simple – document name was TITLE – Chapter#. In my spreadsheet, I kept track of these numbers so I always knew how deep in I was.
- I can import existing docx files without any trouble. (or doc, rtf, etc.) Google docs has a pretty decent conversion process, and it’s quick.
Actually, that’s about all there is to it. There are one two things I never quite to work right, like changing the default font (had to do this manually each time), but all in all it was a good experience.
At the same time, the spreadsheet, awesome as it is, is a little kludgy. So I thought I’d give Novlr a try, as a counter example. In descriptions at least, they are the scrivener of the web. In practice, I’ve had a few problems.
- Importing existing documents is screwy. I’ve talked to the developers about it, and they’re looking into it, but if I take a document and import it as docx, I lose all formatting AND everything is bold. Weird. But more importantly (because I too am an expert at select all and un-bolding), I lose all formatting. I don’t use a lot, but I do favor my italics for thoughts/special words. Gone. Importing as an odt (open doc), I don’t have the bolding problem, but I also don’t have any formatting. Ouch. Not something I can’t live without, but ouch.
- There is no tab key. I didn’t realize how important this was to me until I tried taking some notes. I don’t typically work from an outline, but I do do a brain dump before I start a project. It’s therapeutic, helping me organize my original thoughts. Part of that is making a bulleted list with sub-bullets. Can’t do that with Novlr. Kind of a bummer.
- I knew there was no mobile app (yet), but I hoped to at least have some simple text input on the go. I didn’t use this a lot with Google Docs, but I do use it. I commute for 12+ hours a week, occasional text input is to be expected. But I also expected it to be a draining experience on Novlr with live saves, etc., even with their “offline mode” now working. Not so good on the Samsung S5. The weirdest part, once I could get it to take text, was that it kept moving my cursor to the start of the line and ERASING every thing I had just typed. What keystroke did this horrific thing? The space. Yeah. Not happy.
So why did I even want to try Novlr? Because their aim is at the writer, they understand you want to break your work up by chapter. Each book you work on has separate chapters, and you don’t have to dance around a spreadsheet to get it working. Unfortunately, the inability to work on the go easily is going to be a show stopper for me (again! This is my second trial with Novlr 🙁 I doubt their patience will last for a third trial in a few months).
I think Novlr is a great product that needs a little more maturation before it can be used. In the meantime, I think that means I will continue to use Google Docs. It’s not perfect, but it’s consistent in its flaws.