Monthly Archives: November 2012

Cover Art – W00T!

I just approved an awesome cover art for my very first (erotic) romance release.

It’s awesome … perfect … love it (what more can I say?).

[I’ll wait until it shows up on the publisher’s website before I embed a picture here, but I just needed to do very public W00T!]

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Writing Software – Storyist

Disclaimer 1 – No, I don’t work for them. I just happened to shell out 50 bucks for their software.

Disclaimer 2 – Listed gripes/requests could be due to user ignorance (i.e. I can’t figure out how to do xyz, as opposed to the program being unable to do xyz).

Review:

Let me preface this by saying that I stumbled upon Storyist after having a bad experience with StoryMill. For reasons that could not be explained, the 80K novel I wrote using StoryMill got corrupted during the export process, and suddenly random sections got jumbled all over the place. I had a back-up copy, so it was no biggie, but the experience freaked me out, causing me to terminate my heretofore pleasant relationship with that program (I still miss aspects of it, more on that later). It was a purely emotional decision based on a one-time occurrence, but that novel happened to be my very first baby.

The reason I chose Storyist was because, at the time, I was about to ship away my iMac and thought I would be left with my husband’s iPad for the foreseeable future. I was therefore looking for writing software that had a companion iPad app, and Storyist fit the bill. My husband saw fit to surprise me with a laptop (perhaps because he wanted his iPad back), so the reason I chose Storyist to begin with became moot. However, it leads me to the first and probably the most important unexpected perk to having this software–how easily it is to access the same file from both an iPad and a Mac.

I save all my writing on Dropbox (because I’m paranoid), and both the iPad Storyist and the Mac Storyist have the capability to sync with Dropbox. For my previous novella, all I had to do to get the almost final draft to my beta reader (aka husband) was to turn on the Storyist iPad app and sync it with Dropbox. It saved a new copy automatically (which is good), and he was able to start reading/editing right away. It saved me a lot of time and headache. Given, it would have been nice to have a track changes option, but for the purposes of that short-fuse novella, the software did what I needed it to do.

Once my submissions process started, I was faced with the realization that most ePublishing houses have their own quirky requirements about how they want the manuscript. This is another area where Storyist shined (and StoryMill did not). Because this .rtf editor is style-based, it was extremely easy to change all the chapter headings to a different font/format with a few clicks, and ditto with the body text etc. The find and replace function worked without fuss (StoryMill had a tendency of missing stuff…I don’t know why), so I was easily able to search for all the double spaces after the periods and replace it with a single space (and vice-versa).

When you export the file, you are guided through a workflow that lets you specify things like changing straight quotes to smart quotes, — to m-dashes, … to ellipses, which is extremely useful because not all publishers what smart quotes, m-dashes, and ellipses. Therefore, Storyist allows you to have a single file that you can easily convert to fit the requirements of your publisher.

(Request 1: It would be nice if this functionality could be expanded to fonts – some publishers want Ariel, others want Times New Roman.  An option to “convert all text to x font” would be very much appreciated.)

My exported .rtf files came out clean and without errors, which is the most important part. Authors have trust issues, and once a program scrambles up the exported file once, we are forced by our own neuroticism to re-read the exported files for the forseeable future. This wastes a lot of time. However, after multiple clean .rtf(s), I think I am beginning to start trusting the software.

Now to the (very minor) things I miss from StoryMill:

1. Being able to name “sections” without it showing in the text. From my experience with Storyist (and it could just be user error), if I name the section, it shows up in the manuscript. Since I use Sections for outlining purposes, it annoys me that I can’t fiddle with it such that the section names stay invisible (my current WIP just has a ton of “untiltled” sections.

2. Word Count in Full Screen. (I think this was a developer’s choice – full screen is meant for you to just type away unhindered. However, since I try to make myself write a certain number words per session, I miss the Word Count at the bottom of the screen.)

3. Being able to do a word count on the entire chapter without selecting the text. Yes, I know it’s just a few clicks away, but I try to balance my chapter length, so I want to just click on the chapter and have the word count show up on the bottom.

4. Easily getting out of Full Screen. It’s currently Ctrl + Command + F to get in and out of Full Screen. I get the in part, but what’s wrong with the Esc key for getting out?

As I said, the gripes are very minor. I don’t think that I’d be as productive a writer without Storyist, so I’m very thankful for the people who created it. It does exactly what it needs to do, and I almost did not have to purchase MS Word :P.

(see Post on Ms Word and Track Changes).

 

 

Lull and the WIP

So for some reason, all the frantic activity for this month happened in the past two weeks and I’m officially experiencing a lull. Now that Halloween madness is over and Thanksgiving isn’t until next Thursday, my day-job is a few steps away from being out-right boring. I actually finished my newsletter a few days early, have lined up all the things that need to happen over the next few days, and am struggling not to yawn as I type away on my computer.

On the writing end, while I was informed that I have been assigned a line-editor, I haven’t gotten the edits yet so there’s not much to do but wait. I’ve been sent the rough draft of the cover art and replied with my impressions (to be honest, I was too busy gleefully giggling over the fact that I have cover art at all, so I don’t know how constructive my email was).  In other words, it seems like the ball is rolling on my novella with relatively little assistance needed from lil’ ol’ me (yay!).

This brings me to my WIP (work-in-progress), which I’m feeling iffy about. The first draft is done, so I’m letting it sit for a while before going over it (will do that later today).  It’s the shortest I’ve ever written, just under 30,000 words, which makes me feel a little weird. I can’t find anything that needs to be dragged out or added, but I don’t know how the length will go over when it comes time to send it out into the world (the submissions process gives me the creepy crawlies).

See, at the time when I had reconciled myself to a rejection-doomed fate, it seemed like a good idea to create different products and see what sells. Thus far, I have written four works that fall in different romance genres (contemporary, paranormal, sci/fi, and pure fantasy). They are set in different worlds, are written in different styles, and are getting shorter as I go (90k, 60k, 35k, and 28k). The first two seem doomed to obscurity (I didn’t bother submitting the first, and the second has yielded a good number of form rejections), but the third is slowly but surely edging its way into existence. (It so happens that the first two were squarely in the mainstream romance heat level, whereas the third dips its toe into the erotic romance realm.)

I started writing the forth before the third got accepted, and it seemed only fair that I finish it. This story is darker, set completely in a fantasy world (as opposed to post-apocalyptic sci/fi), and well … its my attempt at actually trying to write erotic romance from the get-go (no. 3 was first written with much lower heat, and I ramped it up after the first two rejections). Embracing the fact that sex does sell, I went all-out on the erotic end of the romance on this one, and I’m now thinking that it might be too ‘hot’.

Still, I feel like it deserves to be truly finished (especially now that I’m so close), even if it ends up living the rest of its life on my hard drive. I guess I can always decide what to do with it later.

Edits are Done!

My forced relationship with MS Word is over for now.  (Content) Edits are done and a clean copy has been sent over to … not sure, continue the process, I guess.  Admittedly, my day-job has been clocking in quite a bit of overtime these past few weeks, so I haven’t had the spare energy to do much more than send back edits and doodle on my WIP.  I’m hoping this coming Veteran’s Day weekend will let me catch up on things (like carefully reading through the acceptance packet).

By the way, I had a lovely editor who taught me a great deal about concision and flow.  The only down-side to this step being over is that I’m going to really miss working with her.  I’ve actually done a read through of my WIP with her edits in mind and made copious changes.  It reads better already!

I have to say, the whole ePublishing process (at least as pertains to Liquid Silver Books) is very much a whirlwind experience.  Below is my personal timeline, in case people are curious.

Submission Date – October 14

Acceptance Email – October 21 (cue victory dance)

Contract & Acceptance Packet Received/Signed – October 23 (cue victory dance 2)

Feedback from Readers Received – October 24 (lots of rapid blinks followed by “huh, that problem never occured to me”)

Editor Assigned – October 27

Editor Sends First Round of Edits – October 30 (prompting a “wow, you work fast email”)

I Send Back Edits – November 4 (it’s sad when accepting changes takes longer than editing – my excuse is that my day-job required planning two massive Halloween parties, one of which ended at 1:30 AM, and my bi-weekly newsletter was due)

Editor Sends Back Second Round of Edits – November 6 (did I already mention she works fast?)

I Send Back Accepted Changes  – November 8 (I still marvel at the frequency with which I use the word “that” unnecessarily)

Clean Copy Approved by Both and Sent to Publisher – November 9 (i.e. 30 min ago – btw, I’m in a different time zone from the US)

The novella (I will eventually get more specific – first time author jitters is making me knock on wood each time I mention being published at all) … where was I?  Oh, the novella isn’t due to come out until mid-Jan, so I’m guessing there is lots more to do.

Customized Keyboard Shortcuts

Thank you Microsoft for having this feature – I sort of forgive you for all my woes yesterday.

One last once-over tomorrow with fresh eyes and I should be ready to send this puppy back for another round of edits.  I have to say, my confidence in my grammatical prowess is shaken–it’s humbling to see all the the things my editor noticed that I completely missed.  (For one, I use the word “that” way too much.)

I have to say, there are reasons to hesitate over self-publishing, laziness being the foremost on my mind. Even with all the help I’m getting from a wonderful e-publisher, I find this entire process so much less fun than writing.  I keep on glancing sadly down at the Storyist icon on my dock, wishing I were typing away rather than shaking my head at all the typos I made.

Microsoft Office

I’m usually not prone to upset, but I’ve arrived at a ‘need to vent’ moment.

Background

Because I once worked as an IT troubleshooter, I completely Mac’d out when it came to my personal computing needs.  It’s not that Microsoft makes bad products – it’s just that I had to deal with their products all day at work and didn’t want the reminder when I came home.  Even now that I’m in a non-IT related job, I still have to use Windows XP (my employer is slow with adoption) and MS Office 2007 every work day (where I’m more-or-less glued to a computer).

I am forced to use MS Publisher for my newsletter at work.  I hate it.  What Pages (or Pagemaker, or Claris Works, or even plain HTML) can do with a few clicks and drags becomes this extremely complicated layered affair that really cuts into my me-time.  I light aromatherapy oils on the day that my newsletter is due in preparation for the headache that I know will invariably come.

For three glorious years, I was able to shun the Microsoft products at home, especially for writing purposes.  I specifically bought Storyist (which, by the way, I would highly recommend for any outline-minded writer) and Pages, and I use Mail for correspondence  (which, admittedly, is not as feature-filled as Outlook).

Begin Rant

A few days ago, after coming off the high of an acceptance email, I was faced with the Achilles Heel of those who want to avoid MS Word – Track Changes.  Storyist works wonderfully when I’m writing, but it becomes useless when my story is going through the editing phase.  Since I was too busy doing a victory dance to really ponder the implications, I caved and bought MS Office Mac 2011 (on the recommendation of a friend, I was able to get this on the cheap through my employer’s Home Use program).

Soon after, the painful process of using a Microsoft product began.  First off, the program took forever to install, only to go through an unending update process (I expected this, so I was still calm).  However, in the past day, MS Word has crashed a total of 3 times (and by crash I mean – Force Quit, all changes lost).  I’ve now gotten into the habit of saving every 10 seconds, just because I’m paranoid.  Apparently, Word 2011 completely chokes when track-changes is used on an .rtf file – which, as it happens, is the only thing that I absolutely need it to do.

Seriously, Microsoft?  Seriously?