How I Found Scrivener.

Like most people who write anything, I started by using a pencil and paper. It’s untrue that I began with a chalk board or chiselling letters on a stone tablet! Then, at school, I used pen and ink. Those pens made terrific darts and still managed to write okay afterwards.

Later came the portable typewriter with gallons of correction fluid and waste paper baskets filled with spoiled sheets of type. I can still feel the heavy clatter of keys and hear the dull thud of metal levers hitting the drum, padded with blue Xerox paper so I could have a second copy of my efforts.

Technology advanced and I purchased a stand alone word processor, a marvellous innovation which allowed me to change words right there on the single line of green text. It also allowed me to save my work on to floppy discs which could be annotated with the name of the project for future reference.  This was a great innovation and once I had completed the work I could print it as many times as I required. Fantastic,

Suddenly computers were all the rage and writing software was developed that could be used with the new technology. Initially, it was supplied on floppy disc, as downloads were slow and rare.  The different software could be added or removed from the computer as required. The further advances of computer and internet use meant a rapid acceleration of affordability. In the early 1990’s I bought a Gateway computer with a 36mb hard drive (Yes, mb). This was my first foray into Microsoft Windows and Word. I thought it was marvellous and in many ways, it still is, though not for writing long texts. Using Word with a word count in the thousands is no fun, and soon becomes problematic and unmanageable. Although I’m certain there are thousands of books written using Word and, by the same token, millions of books written using pen and paper, it’s not my preferred medium.

The advent of CD-ROM and DVD meant that software development increased and improved. Suddenly there was almost anything you needed for your computer and companies were producing excellent writing software, easily obtained by mail order.

The increase in download speeds via broadband replaced the old dial-up speeds. Almost overnight it was possible to buy a software package, download it, and have installed on your home computer in minutes. Gone was the mail order, waiting for the package to drop through the letterbox. Life had become instant.

During that time I tried many writing packages; they were still not yet called apps. Too many to name here, but they all had something but not everything I required. In late 2012, I read an online article which extolled the virtues of a piece of incredible software called Scrivener. Developed, in the UK for the Mac, it had recently become available on the Windows platform. So I downloaded the trial offer and tried it out. Wow, it blew me away with its simplicity and power. It was exactly what I needed. Some of the features of the Mac version were unavailable on Windows and there was always the question, in the forums, ‘When will it catch up?’ Well, I never found out the answer as I bought a MacBook and purchased the version for that. They even kindly discounted it as I’d already, previously, bought the Windows version.

Then came the iOS version, and although it was a long time coming it was well worth the wait. I was involved in the Beta testing and as soon as I downloaded it I was hooked. Like many, I had a few problems with synchronising with Dropbox but that was soon sorted and was more down to my inexperience than the program itself.

Scrivener 3 is due to be released later this year and although that promises to be a paid-for update, I’m happy to do it. I’ve had five years of use of this superb piece of kit so I can’t complain about making a contribution to help fund the great work that goes on behind the scenes.

Oh, and just to add, I’ve even used the free Linux version of Scrivener successfully.

Ulysses v Scrivener

Anyone who’s read any of my blog posts will know that I use writing software to keep my work on track, organised and to generally make life a bit easier. I primarily use Scrivener for lengthy work but, some time ago, an author I follow recommended Ulysses. Unlike Scrivener, it had no try-before-you-buy period, at that time. So on the author’s recommendation, last August, I purchased it and I’ve used it extensively for the past year but mainly just for short stories and I have to admit that it’s cross platform functionality is second to none, thanks to iCloud link. (It’s only available on Apple products.)

For me, however, I just don’t like it as much as I love Scrivener. It’s a simple choice. I have two paid-for writing apps but one, Ulysses, I only use for writing short stories and Scrivener, which I use for my much longer pieces. So no problems there, you would think.

Then, I now discover that the product I bought and paid for a year ago is moving to subscription only. Which means I will have to pay $40 a year to use the software I’ve already purchased? I’m sure that there are many positives for the development and for improving the app but as I don’t really use it to its full potential, why would I bother to subscribe? Particularly as I love using Scrivener anyway. I know that Scrivener 3 is on the way and that I’ll have to pay to upgrade to that. I’ll do that happily, as I’ve already purchased Scrivener for Windows, Mac and iOS.

You can download Scrivener and use it free for thirty days from

https://www.literatureandlatte.com/

Give it a try, you have nothing to lose.

 

Ulysses Writing App

I have written before about the use of writing app’s as an aid to productivity so I won’t repeat myself here. I will however tell you about my experience with Ulysses, as writing tool from The Soul Men. It’s not exactly new but it’s new to me and, so far, I love its simplicity.

Since acquiring an iPad Air I have been looking for a writing app which is easy to use and fully functional on this device. I have waited for Scrivener to deliver their much promised iOS version which is now on the market and working fine. Anyone who uses Scrivener will know what a great tool this is particularly as it is now a true cross platform piece on Mac, iOS and Windows via the Dropbox cloud storage facility. But whilst I was waiting for the iOS Scrivener App to be developed I discovered this wonderful writing app called Ulysses and fell for it immediately.

It’s quite unlike anything I’ve used before. It is so simple and clean that it inspires the writing process. I am currently writing this post on my iPad and it is set in ‘Typewriter’ mode which means the line I type is always in the same place and so I look at a single line of text as I’m typing it on the page. This stops the distraction of looking back at what I’ve typed previously and so I’m not flitting back and forth, editing as I work. (This has always hampered my progress, as I constantly ‘fiddle’ with work I’ve written but I don’t wait until the draft is done)

There is full Mac version too and also an iPhone app and they all work in iCloud so there is an almost instant update on all these devices without the need to do anything but type. It removes the need for the writer to constantly save work as it is saved automatically in iCloud, if you have an Internet connection or updates immediately you go back online. I can’t remember how many pieces of work I’ve lost because I failed to save them properly. There is so much more to this great bit of software which I don’t,t intend to describe here but I would encourage you to have a look at it.

Look in the App Store for it, you won’t be disappointed. Sadly, there is no Windows version. Or check out the website http://ulyssesapp.com

Grammarly et al

I’ve fallen in love with Grammarly, an app extension of Google Chrome but also available in Windows. It seems to work really well and monitors your use of grammar and spelling, even on those websites which don’t normally spell check for you. (Something I have found to be essential in recent years). On initial set-up, you advise it to use either UK English or the USA English dictionary, alleviating a source of irritation that most spell checkers present to UK writers.

The added bonus is that it checks the grammar too, so the occasional incorrect word use is highlighted immediately. In effect, it’s doing a form of first line proofreading for you.

It’s available to use in its free version but enhanced features are added if you subscribe  to the Premium, where it monitors many more areas of your text including sentence structure and writing style issues.

Have a look at the website https://app.grammarly.com/

I think you may like it too (No I’m not on commission)

2016 Reading List

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

I’ve just signed up to the Goodreads book challenge 2016. It’s where you decide how many books you wish to read during the year. It’s not really a challenge, as such, but I’ve never actually counted how many I read on average. I had already decided that this year I would keep a tally but the challenge means I don’t have to bother. When I start a new book or end one I merely go onto the website and enter the details and they keep track  for me. It is also a good place to discover what other readers think about the next book you are considering. Others can rate and comment on any book they have read and likewise you can do the same once you either complete the book or give it up.

I just wondered how you choose what books you buy and read? Is it by author, genre, number of pages or perhaps even a bright book cover? Sometimes a thousand pages can be a little daunting and maybe even half that number can seem like an uphill struggle. Or perhaps there is the perfect novel hidden behind a plain and boring cover. I  tend to follow an author I’ve already read, although that can sometimes be disappointing, but more recently I’ve gone by recommendations. Sometimes those come from friends or from blog posts or suggestions via email. I have, for many years, subscribed to the Everyday Ebooks website. From here they send out a daily recommendation with a comment from a reader. I have discovered some great books on here, notably ‘Matterhorn’ by Karl Marlantes. Someone I’d never heard of before but it turned out to be one of the best and memorable stories of the Vietnam war I’ve ever read. Based on true events and real people it is not for the faint hearted but exciting and impossible to put down.

So how do you decide what book to read next?

A Map as Your Muse – Writing 101 – Day 18

atozleedsThe steady rhythm of the windscreen wipers trying to dissipate the water was deafening in the angry silence that followed their row. Danny drove on and Sarah glared at the crumpled page of the A to Zed in her hand, trying to decipher exactly where they were. The streets were deserted in the heavy rain and the yellow glow of the street lamps was shrouded in mist, making it impossible to read the names of the roads they were travelling along.

If you would’ve let me buy that Sat-Nav’, like I wanted to, we wouldn’t be in this mess” he said, his temper abating somewhat. Sarah ignored him and stared through the murk.

Everyone has them. Nobody bothers with stupid maps any more. We live in an electronic age now. It’s a paperless society”.

Shaking her head slowly, she glared at her husband as he searched for some clue to their whereabouts.

Goodwin Street” he shouted. “We’re on Goodwin Street; see if you can find it”?

She scanned the fine print of the index. “G-a, g-e, g-i, g-o” she went through her alphabet aloud. He found it annoying but stayed silent. Goodwin Street fell behind them as he crawled past the next junction with another unnamed road.

After several minutes a white van sped past them and narrowly missed the front of their car as the driver cut in too quickly.

Idiot” Danny shouted to the fast disappearing van. Sarah continued looking for Goodwin Street, without success.

Marshall Terrace” he called out excitedly and she, once again, began the process of following the index with her finger and calling out the letters of the alphabet as she passed them. The rainfall continued, turning the road into a river. They approached a small supermarket, it’s lights bright in the gloom and he stopped the car outside. Danny went inside and approached the counter where a disinterested young girl was sat looking at her phone. She ignored him.

Excuse me” said Danny but the girl still refused to lift her head from the phone. Just then the bell chimed as another customer entered the shop. The girl looked over and smiled at the boy who came in. He walked up to the counter and stepped in front of Danny.

Hey, I was first” said Danny but both youngsters totally ignored his protestations. The girl passed the youth twenty cigarettes which he pocketed and winked at her. He turned and headed for the door.

Be careful, it’s the anniversary of the crash.” She called. “The one with that couple, who drove into the river and drowned”.

He turned and laughed “Yes I remember, she was found holding an A to Zed. It wouldn’t happen today. Not with Sat-Nav’s everywhere.

Writing Software I use

I know, we all have our favourite writing tools but I thought I would talk about my current preference. I understand a lot of writers use Microsoft Word, and why not, we’ve all used it over the years. I don’t at the moment as I run Linux Mint instead of Windows as my operating system and Word won’t run on Linux. So my go-to software for basic writing is Libre Office, currently version five, which is fully compatible with documents written in Word. Big bonus here is that there is a Windows version and all versions are FREE. So if you can’t find the money to buy the latest Microsoft offering try it out here.

win-showcase-scrivener_header

The software I use for longer projects is Scrivener. I went through a phase of trying out specific writers software and I tried lots of them. I narrowed it down to YWriter and Scrivener, partly because both are designed by writers, not just code compilers. I like the way that any manuscript is broken down into individual parts which can simply be moved into any order you might want and I don’t have to scroll through pages and pages of text. I merely click on the part that I want to change or add to. It’s also available on Windows, Mac OS and Linux and one small fee guarantees life long updates. You can download it from their website  and use it, full featured for a month. Added to that there is currently an offer for those entering NaNoWriMo of 20% discount. (I’m not on commission, bye the way. I just like it)

For quick notes and memo’s I use Google Keep as it works cross platform and sync’s instantly across my laptop, phone and tablet. Again, it’s free and very quick and easy to use. I used to use Evernote and I still do use the Web Clipper part but Keep its much simpler

I recently added Journey, which again is semi-cross platform as currently it only seems to work with Google Chrome but apps for Android/IOS are available. It’s a diary/journal which is available in a free version but I paid the small fee for the full application. It automatically adds, weather, time, date and location to any entry you make.

I think they aid, without taking over the writing process. Give them a look