Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Writer's Tools

A little bit of nuts and bolts today, but since I've built an assembly line I might as well share it. Here are the tools I use to write, edit and publish from start to finish.

I always write my roughs in q10, because it lets me type quick. Sometimes I'm writing by hand in a notebook, but it always ends up in q10 first.

q10 is a full-screen minimal text editor with a word count and a target word-count tracker. It also makes typewriter sounds when you type. It outputs to .txt, so there'll be no formatting issues if you don't make too many hard returns.
As I'm writing a story I keep notes in PageFour (it's like Microsoft OneNote but minimal and speedy), and I put each day of writing into it for convenience. It outputs to .rtf, but I mostly just copy paste. This is also where I make my Critters critiques when I roll through 10 in a week for an MPC.

This is an online personal/business wiki site that I use (along with Gmail) for backing up and organizing all the drafts, manuscripts and images. It's behind a password, so it's not available to the world. It's a pretty nifty site, and you can authorize Readers if you want to get fancy, or you can collaborate if you have a multiple-author project.

Right, draft done, time to get to editing. First off, I record the piece into Audacity using the microphone on my laptop. It'll output as .aup (the original file) and I can export it to .mp3. Obviously I use this for the blog, too.

While I'm reading the piece aloud, I'm marking odd sentences in red. I listen to it a few times for flow, especially dialogue. I make complex Art sentences, so my test is if I can read them right the first time. If I can't rattle through it like Groucho Marx, simplify, simplify, simplify.

Microsoft Word 2007
Right, now it's time to pretty it up, and the #1 best way to do that is with Word. Obviously, I use Word to get into Standard Manuscript Format when I submit to magazines

As for publishing, don't bring your Open Source problems to me, I don't care. I need to get a clean .doc file that'll convert to a clean .pdf and a clean .html file, and Microsoft Word does it all. I had to buy it, of course, but it's not that expensive and I use Excel and PowerPoint. If you don't know how to use Microsoft Word for publishing, check out "Smashwords Style Guide" (Mark Coker). It's short and has some pretty good tips even for an experienced Office user like me. For instance, handy shortcuts and how to play around with styles more efficiently.

When I want to make a cover or an in-text image (or an ad or a blog image), I use GIMP. It's free and easy, and runs much faster on my netbook than Photoshop would.

Good Stuff


Tools of the Future - 
Need List

-Adobe InDesign
If I'm going to start POD publishing, I'll need to get proficient in this. I'll probably just shell out for the Creative Suite when I do get InDesign, then I'll have Photoshop and Acrobat Pro, too. At the moment, though, I'm reliant on my netbook, so there's no real point. I'll wait 'till I get back to a situation where I have my desktop again. I'm a publisher-at-large.

-A better microphone so I can make quality audiobooks.

Want List

-Upgrade website.
I mean, I like Blogger and all, but I'll have to move on sometime. Time to study up on html.

-Upgrade PBworks account.
Would provide more flexibility with permissions (for alpha readers) and better support, as well as more space to store stuff and better collaboration potential.

Wish List

-A real artist to do cover and interior art for a book and art for that upgraded website (and a graphic novel?)

-A collaboration project with other Creatives

250 words? Yes
Short Story "Cosmast Rhyt"
- - - -
Reading - ?



  1. Wow, that is a severely impressive suite of tools. But how do you get clean .html files out of Word? Whenever I try, the HTML is full of tons and tons of garbage that doesn't seem to do anything, as far as I can see.

  2. Save as "Web page, filtered".

    Note that this is only for the purposes of getting Amazon DTP to look acceptable, I haven't tried it for any other purpose.

  3. Thanks for the tip on HTML and Word. It just saved me a mild amount of trouble


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