Author Topic: So here's a weird question...  (Read 4938 times)

Max e^{i pi}

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on: January 19, 2015, 12:02:18 PM
What do you look for in a website/program/phone app to help you with your writing?
Or to put it differently: given the opportunity to determine the specifications for a digital tool to aid writers, on whatever platform, what are the "must haves" for you?
Do you want help designing and remembering character bios? Plots? Random story ideas? Outlines? Scenes? Settings?
How would you use it?
What tools (if any) do you use today? What do you like about them? What do you hate about them?

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SpareInch

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Reply #1 on: January 19, 2015, 03:30:59 PM
It took me two goes just to understand that question, Max. :D

I can't really say I ever thought about it, but since you ask, whenever I'm editing a piece these days, I keep an RTF open in another window, and any time I excise more than a couple of words, I send them there for safe keeping. It makes the decision to cut easier to make and it's surprising how often I go rootling back through the clippings to find a paragraph I chopped out from one part of the story so I can put it back in somewhere else. If only I could get Apple Pages, (My word processor of choice) to send stuff to a clippings file automatically, so I could just highlight the text and do one quick keystroke and it's done. :)

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #2 on: January 19, 2015, 04:36:04 PM
Sorry about being difficult to understand.
The reason I ask is because I have some time on my hands, and I want a good coding project. I'm in the process of teaching myself how to make Android apps, and I thought that maybe this would be a good project to get me going. (In the past I discovered that just learning a new programing language without a project to keep it interesting and to make sure that I really grok it doesn't work. For example, I theoretically know Python and PHP, but since I've never done anything more complex than a few simple scripts I don't fully grok those languages. On the other hand, I can do just about anything in C, C++, C#, Java, Javascript or Lisp).
So, what I'm saying is, that since I'm teaching myself Android and I want a good project that will challenge me and force me to really learn all the ins and outs, I thought that I'd look to see if there wasn't already a good writing app. Or if there was a bad writing app with a few good features. Or a good writing app with a few bad features. Or in general if anybody thinks that there should be a good writing app, and if so, what it should do.
Is that more clear?

An idea that I thought of was a sort of specialized note taking app. You can jot down (or speak) any interesting idea that comes to you wherever you are or whatever you are doing. You can organize these notes into "stories". A "story" is just an envelope (folder) that will hold notes that belong together. You can have as many stories as you like, with as many notes in each as you like. You can create specialized notes that are plot points, outlines, character sheets, settings or just about anything. These smaller elements can be in any number of stories (so you can easily track recurring characters and places).
Maybe be able to export this data to spreadsheets and documents.
Maybe a companion desktop app that will help you while you write.

I dunno. I'm just throwing ideas around to see if there's any interest.

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Varda

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Reply #3 on: January 19, 2015, 04:50:16 PM
I don't use it myself, but from what other authors I know have said, Scrivener is the gold standard for writer's tools. I think novelists in particular love it, but I hear it's pretty nice for short stories too.

As for me, my main tool is Google Docs. I've got all my current open drafts organized in one folder, and other folders for finished drafts on submission, sold stories, and one where I keep drafts specially formatted for Year's Best anthology submissions, after they sell. And I have a folder for trunked stories, that occasionally get resurrected or cannibalized.

I also have an all-purpose archive folder for when I back up a draft before major revisions. To date, I've never ever pulled anything out of that archive, but it settles down the itchy part of my brain that's afraid I'm gonna botch a revision and somehow make it worse than the first draft.

I like Google Docs for a couple reasons: it has all the basic functionality of Word, easily allows me to export in different formats (.rtf, .docx, etc), and (perhaps most importantly!) it auto-saves as I type. I also like that I can access it from any device/computer with internet, so it's not all tied to one physical terminal.

One feature I personally wish Google Docs had was an easy way for a not-programmer like myself to convert between formats quickly. Some markets want me to change all italics to underlines, or to _underscores_, and so forth. There's really only a handful of variations, but they're annoying to do by hand, especially if you're me and you write a lot of stories. So in my wildest dreams, there would be a way to set up several basic formats, and just download/email a draft in the one needed.

I don't really know about outlines and character sheets--once again, maybe for novelists? I'm not writing a novel right now, so hard for me to speak to that. :)

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SpareInch

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Reply #4 on: January 19, 2015, 05:02:17 PM
Max

That actually sounds similar to the way I have my files organised now, with a folder for each story and files in there for the original idea, rough outlines, each draft of the story, the aforementioned clippings files and even Bibliographies and webographies and any notes I might have jotted down.

Alas, I don't have an Android. But let me know if you decide to do an iOS version. LOL

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #5 on: January 19, 2015, 05:17:23 PM
Sorry SPareInch, an iOS version will probably never ever happen.
Besides the fact that Apple makes you PAY to be able to program for iOS (as in, you can't download the files you need to program without paying them a shitton of money), I have an allergy to iDevices. If I hold one for more than a few seconds my brain gets all itchy and money starts falling out of my wallet.

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #6 on: January 19, 2015, 05:20:24 PM
Varda, yeah. I figured that many people would use Google Docs (or Microsoft SkyDrive or Apple iCloud) for ease of writing and syncing.
I was thinking more along the lines of what happens before you write. I've had some pretty good ideas that eventually fell flat because it took me too long to jot down the specifics. Also, it happens to me a lot that I'm just randomly generating characters in my head and I have nowhere to put them. Maybe an app will help.
Maybe I'm just a weirdo.
Maybe both are true.
That's why I'm asking.

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kibitzer

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Reply #7 on: January 19, 2015, 09:42:47 PM
One feature I personally wish Google Docs had was an easy way for a not-programmer like myself to convert between formats quickly. Some markets want me to change all italics to underlines, or to _underscores_, and so forth. There's really only a handful of variations, but they're annoying to do by hand, especially if you're me and you write a lot of stories. So in my wildest dreams, there would be a way to set up several basic formats, and just download/email a draft in the one needed.

Hey that sounds like an interesting challenge. Any chance you could write up a few of the things that need changing and maybe I'll have a go at coding it? I've been looking for an excuse to code some GDocs stuff.  Feel free to email me if you're interested; I think you have my address?


Varda

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Reply #8 on: January 19, 2015, 10:03:29 PM
One feature I personally wish Google Docs had was an easy way for a not-programmer like myself to convert between formats quickly. Some markets want me to change all italics to underlines, or to _underscores_, and so forth. There's really only a handful of variations, but they're annoying to do by hand, especially if you're me and you write a lot of stories. So in my wildest dreams, there would be a way to set up several basic formats, and just download/email a draft in the one needed.

Hey that sounds like an interesting challenge. Any chance you could write up a few of the things that need changing and maybe I'll have a go at coding it? I've been looking for an excuse to code some GDocs stuff.  Feel free to email me if you're interested; I think you have my address?

Oooh, I'd love it if you wanted to take a swing at that! I can't think of any other GDocs things I want right this second, but something that would convert to different common formats? Hell yes!

Maybe the other writers around here can help me cover the common ones. The major ones that come to mind are:

1. Standard Manuscript Format (SMF):
- Courier New
- Double Spaced
- size 12 font
- use underlines where you'd usually use italics in print
- No Smart Quotes, Smart Apostrophes, or Smart Anything
- Right-justified header with author last name/story title/ page number (so: Varda / Storyname / 1)

2. "We're too good for SMF" SMF (for those markets that have a thing against old school typewriter look):
- Times New Roman
- Double Spaced
- Size 12 font
- use italics instead of underlines

3. Escape Artists & Drabblecast
- formatted to look good in an email, so pretty much all of the above is out the window
- underscores around words/phrases instead of italics
- double space between paragraphs

And of course, being a vaguely ritualistic writer, the format I *draft* my stories in shares none of these format features. :P So no matter which market I sub a story to first, there's always a lot of formatting involved up front.

Writer friends, did I miss any major ones?

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