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April 1, 2011
Posted at 8:10 pm

I'm Writing Again

Yup, I'm still, still alive! Not only that, but I'm back writing again. No, not on any of my previously started stories, for whatever reason I'm stalled on them. Then again, since I don't post until they are complete nothing has been abandoned. (my pet peeve here.)

Actually, there are two stories that I'm working on. One is semi-stalled while I figure out the end. The beginning is done, but I have to figure out the/which ending before I can fill in the middle.

Yes, that's how I normally work. Start with either the beginning or ending, figure out the opposite end and then fill in the middle to make it happen.

A great example of this is Last Patrol. When the F16s screamed low overhead on Veterans Day, my reaction was to dive under my desk at the office. That gave me the seed of the story... the SCREEEE of the fighters on afterburners. So I had my opening. Then I decided on the end... the recycle so to speak and from there filled in the middle.

Of course, sometimes stories take on a life of their own. Characters refuse to behave as they should and they end up dragging me off into a plot line that I'd never considered. Then... just when I've committed to the new direction, they go mute, silently staring at me and expecting me to take it from there. Hence the number of stories sitting on my hard drive.

Don't expect the new ones anytime soon though. Work (day job) still takes precedence as well as fixing up the house and property. (We suffered like many from the economy and had to move into an old family rental (a decrepit but huge and nice mobile home on a half acre) and even after a year, still is still a lot of work to do to make it nice. This weekend, I'm trimming trees.

Both stories appear to want/need to be novel length, not short stories. One involves a lot of recent (20th Century) history so requires a lot of research. The other requires less research but is the one where I have to figure out the ending.

I'm also playing with new tools. Like many authors, I started out writing using a word processor. Then, thanks to a writer friend, I switched to RoughDraft, a great little Windows program (FREE too). Sadly, the author is too busy writing to work on the program but it is still free, still available and works under all the newer versions of Windows as well as on Mac and Linux using WINE.

When I got my first Mac notebook, I bought Z-Write which is even more advanced than RoughDraft. However, Mark hasn't done any work on it in years either. He keeps releasing the same beta version but with new expiration dates.

So I tried CeltX, a free and open source project, but found that it just didn't seem to work the way I wished. The beauty of CeltX besides being free-of-charge, is that it runs on Mac, Windows and Linux. I use all three. (BTW, the latest version of CeltX is REALLY nice.)

Then I bought StoryMill from Mariner software. It is in some ways similar to CeltX, an advanced version of Z-Write and has a beautiful user interface and works well. So I was happy.

Somewhere along the line I also bought Writer's Dream Kit 4.0 from Dramatica. It was unusual in that it uses established novels, plays, TV show and film scripts to help you with your plot points. Even better, the $60 price gave me both Mac and Windows versions. However, I haven't seen the CDs in years though I still have the box.

Then my boss started to rave about Scrivener, another Mac program for writers. So I installed the trial version.

At first I didn't see anything that made me want to buy yet another writing tool. However... in the past week, I've found four reasons to switch:

1. It syncs with SimpleNote which means that using, simplenote app for IOS (my iPod Touch or my wife's iPad) or Flicknote (one of the Simplenote compatible apps for my Android phone), I can write while away from my computer (either new text or editing existing text) and everything is synced up.

2. I can import an audio recording and using an edit window, transcribe my recording. I've been playing with two Android apps for dictation. When I get home, I import those audio files into Scrivener and start transcribing.

3. It is cross-platform. The main version is for Mac only, but another developer in Australia has joined up and has the Windows and Linux versions in public beta. They aren't feature equal... the Mac version is ahead, but eventually they may catch up. This means that they'll charge less for the Windows and Linux.

4. The support. I had a problem with their templates (as in they wouldn't work) and couldn't figure out why. In desperation, I finally asked for help in the Technical Support area of their forum. The moderator got back to me within an hour or so and over next twelve hours or so, found the problem on my system so I could fix it. (The system unzip program had vanished from my notebook.) All of this from a guy in England, 8 hours ahead of me in timezones.

So I'll be spending ~US$100 or a little bit more to buy and register Scrivener for all three platforms.

That said, a big writing manager isn't for every author. Many just want to write words.

A writing manager is designed to let you collect lots of information, organize it, use timelines, story arcs, character sheets and more. Honestly they are of the most use in novel length works. Sometimes they include nice tools like the plot helper in Writer's Dreamkit or the name generator in Scrivener.

Then there's the plus side... they got me writing again.