DIY Tricks for Writers

My blog post, 5 Pet Tricks with Spreadsheets, suggests some tricks for project tracking for tech-comms professionals. For balance, here are some pet tricks for fiction writers:

“Author as Publisher” Task Lists

Author as Publisher: Planning Tasks [MS Word]
Author as Publisher: Market Planning Tasks [MS Word]

Book Scheme in a Spreadsheet
dramatic arc

Whether part of an initial plan or in the middle of an attempt to untangle spaghetti 2/3s through the draft, you can use a spreadsheet to map the plot points, action, character development, time scale, and so on.

Here’s an example of how I analyzed plot and pacing problems during an early draft of Artemis in the Desert (if you haven’t read the book, this example doesn’t contain spoilers). The top row maps chapters against traditional beat sheet goals for plot and pacing. Continue reading

Ebook and Print Production from Word

ProductionGuide-Cover_811All that advice to “just use Word”? Then the results leave something to be desired?

Here’s a step-by-step guide for converting a Microsoft Word file to a cleanly formatted, easily updated MOBI file and a POD-ready PDF.

Get a FREE PDF download:
Ebook and Print Production from Word Production Guide 

Download related files here: Sample Files – OPF, NCX, CSS
POD-template for Word
See also FAQ for Production from Word Guide

In this step-by-step guide:
– Word-to-POD-ready Print File
– Word-to-MOBI Production
– Managing Styles in Microsoft Word

For creating print-on-demand (POD) PDF files:

  • How to get headers, page numbers, front matter, and back matter to look professional, quickly.
  • How to get justified text that doesn’t look like it was done by a space alien who’s heard of “rules of written language” but doesn’t realy grok what it means.

For creating ebook files:

  • How to quickly convert from Word and get the results you intend.
  • Make chapter breaks, the Table of Contents, and navigation controls work right, quickly.
  • Control art, chapter and page decorations, and internal hyperlinks.
  • Avoid wonky line spacing and bad indents.

These notes assume that your working environment is Windows and Microsoft Word. The ebook production steps focus on creating a MOBI file (Amazon format). You can find other guides and tools for creating an ePub for other eBook retailers, using the same source files as described in this guide.

You Get What You Measure: Fiction Edition

In grade school, I was the youngest and smallest in the class and always chosen last for any team sports. The boys groaned when the even-odd count resulted in me on their team.
You Get What You Measure, Fiction Writers!On the other hand, for the 7,583 times we were forced to play prison ball in the guise of physical education, I was the last person standing on my team more than fifty percent of the time. I was nimble, so the bell rang before anyone managed to cream me with the ball.

How did I achieve this? The boys’ goal was to win the game by smashing the ball into people as hard as they could. Most often they picked off the girls first, but forgot about me till the end. My goal? Never touch the ball and never let it touch me. I had no other concept of “winning.”

When I worked as a technical writer on product software, we had specific measures for productivity and quality, plus an external schedule, milestones, and job-related incentives for innovation and creativity. It’s a world in which it’s relatively easy to track success as a writer.

Now that I work full-time as a fiction writer and publisher of non-fiction, I need different markers for success in my writing. For me, daily word count is not an adequate measure of productivity.  However, I was also formerly a manager known for creative definition of realistic measures for productivity and success. So I’ve been thinking about how to understand my own productivity as a fiction writer without focusing only on word count and number of publications per quarter. I’m sharing some of those ideas here for other fiction writers, especially those who don’t write fiction full time as their principal income.

Continue reading

Preplanning? Si! Procrastinating? No!

My post for tech-communications professionals is up today at Steyer Associates web site: Procrastinating … or Preplanning?

I propose in that piece that for professional communicators, most “procrastination” is your brain begging for more preplanning time… though that begs the question:

How is “preplanning” different from regular old planning?

If You Want to WriteIt’s a question of being ready to commit.
I’ve long posited that for any tech-writing project, there’s probably 25 solutions, and you want to concentrate only on the best 3 — then pick one and commit to action.

However, that’s not always so straightforward, whether for tech-writing, fiction, or other projects. Brenda Ueland, in If You Want to Write, presents critical ideas in her chapter, “The Imagination Works Slowly and Quietly.”

Following the “slow imagination” concept, preplanning is: Continue reading

#nanowrimo prep: Wringing a Novel from Word

Whether or not you choose to commit to #nanowrimo, you might want to:
– Write faster!
– Find your notes and ideas when you need them!

Wringing a Novel from WordSeveral writer friends have asked me to show (not just tell) my tricks for writing long manuscripts. Wringing a Novel from Word is now available as a download here, with detailed tips for getting more out of your tools.

These tips work for any word processing software that has Outline and Style functionality. I show details for Msft Word, because it’s been my writing tool since Word for DOS 1.0.

These tips show:

  • How to manage your planning and character notes within your novel’s main file.
  • How to use Word’s Outline levels to track plot points, date/time details, clues, and more — instead of using expensive software.
  • How to manage scenes and structure elements in outline view—for rising conflict, pacing action vs. narrative, point of view, …
  • There’s a template you can download to get started. However, if you prefer to do it yourself, Wringing a Novel from Word shows how to build custom Outline styles into your existing file, to help track your ideas and manage scenes and structure.

Take a peek [pdf format]

I can’t provide 1:1 support for using Word, but please add comments or questions here. My tips might spark ideas for how you can use Word to better map your thinking into productive, fluent fiction writing.

Creative Commons License
Wringing a Novel from Microsoft Word by Annie Pearson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License — share with your friends!

Back to the 1992 Future

I wrote the Windows 3.1 Resource Kit using my own WYSIWYG Word template, being the first to deliver Msft Press a camera-ready manuscript using only Msft tools. Then I became one of the first adopters of the infamous Msft MAE templates. Until I began creating Web pages—and even after—I did most of my writing in ready-for-print Word files.

Continue reading

Your connection Don McQuinn has end

LinkedIn keeps giving me a heart attack.
I use my cellphone to wake myself up in the morning. And to enrich time while waiting in line, waiting for a friend, etc. Also, as part of my goal to write 3000 words (that matter) every day, I turn off wireless on my PC to block the Internet. Then I use my cellphone to sneak an illicit peek at email.
In these usage cases, LinkedIn keeps presenting dire messages in my cell-delivered email:

| Your connection [name_here] has end |

What?! It’s over between us? My dear [connection] has broken the link?
Or worse? My connection’s pull-by shelf date has expired? Continue reading

Life as an Indie Publisher: Go-Live Task List

I pushed a new Jugum Press title live last week. Today I described the related tasks over lunch with my former Web-master, with whom I collaborated to publish several thousand major content pieces during our work life. She had a look of horror.

Here’s my hideous-tedious task list as Jugum Press managing editor to bring one title live in two formats.
QA for Indie Publishers

Continue reading

Learning Not-So-New Technologies

I’m working on new tasks related to electronic publishing. If you follow any discussions on line, experienced users complain about the tools; new users blame themselves for their own confusion — just like the PC world.

The tools are new incarnations to support project and publication tasks that I’ve been doing for several decades. Here’s what I’ve learned about the new tools and processes I’m mastering:

Lots of important websites suck.
Lots of websites with wizard-like processes also blow.

Continue reading