Writer Wednesday: Three Searches

Our Writer Wednesday assignment this month is “Show us your last three searches.” I’m afraid if I WW Augusttook that literally, you’d be reading about searches for TV show cast lists (What is that actor’s name? Where have I seen her before?) or lactose intolerance in cats. After finishing the first draft of my latest work-in-progress, I took a little break, so I haven’t been researching for a writing project, either, or searching for anything that might draw the attention of law enforcement. (If Facebook knows I’ve been shopping on line for a new bedspread, heaven only knows what the government knows about me.)

The little “Get Windows 10” icon continues to hover on my computer, and recently the HP help system chimed in, offering to help me install the new operating system. So I’ve searched various aspects of Windows 10. Results: I haven’t made the jump yet. My computer is about five and a half years old, probably strong enough to handle the new system, but I’m happy enough with Windows 7 for now. There was a time when I jumped on new releases the moment they were available, but these days I’m on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” team.

Yesterday my dentist, who has known me for more than thirty years, asked me to recommend authors a fan of Christine Feehan might like. No, he’s not a fan of dark paranormal romance himself, but his wife, whose health problems keep her at home, is, and being as good a husband as he is a dentist, he shops for her. Dr. B. was installing a new crown in my mouth at the time, so I was neither quick thinking nor articulate. But when I got home I searched “if you like Christine Feehan, you might like . . .” Results: a list of eight or ten names I sent to his Facebook page.

I’ve been doing some proofreading lately, combing through the files of some twenty-five year old Regency romances which have been scanned in preparation for a digital rebirth. I’m good with spelling and punctuation, not so much with Regency slang. Fortunately I have copies of the original books, tiny of print and a bit yellowed, to check against. I’ve found a few typos the original proofreader missed, so when I hit the word nuncheon and found it in the paperback as well, I thought I might have found another. But, hey, those Regency folks spoke their own language, so I searched. Results: yes, my dears, nuncheon is a word, meaning (according to Meriam Webster on line) “a light midmorning or midafternoon snack consisting typically of bread, cheese, and beer.” I have a feeling the characters in the story were not guzzling beer, but they were definitely enjoying their nuncheon.

For more stories of Internet searches, visit the other Writer Wednesday bloggers: Historical romance writers –    Wendy LaCapra  |  Sweet and Inspirational writers –    Kristen Ethridge  |  Novels with Romantic Elements –  Jean Willett  –  Natalie Meg Evans  |  Romantic Suspense –  Carol Post  –  Sharon Wray  |  Paranormal writers  –  Pamela Kopfler  |  Contemporary romance writers –    Kat Cantrell   –  Priscilla Kissinger 

And don’t miss this month’s new release from Kristin Ethridge: The Doctor’s Unexpected Family.

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Scrivener & HTML

I’ve finally downloaded the latest upgrade to Scrivener for Windows, after putting it off for several weeks. Normally I download Scrivener’s upgrades as soon as they are available, always on the lookout for the frequent small improvements the programmers at Literature & Latte send out.

This time, however, the first item on the change list was the announcement that Scrivener would no longer include HTML coding on clipboard output.

To be honest, I had no idea that copy-and-paste from Scrivener included HTML, but I had noticed that as soon as I began writing my blog posts in Scrivener and copy/pasting them into WordPress, my WordPress posts appeared in 14 point rather than 12 point type. I habitually write in 14 point Times Roman in both Scrivener and Word, much easier on my eyes, but trying the same copy/paste from Word only produced 12 point type in WordPress.

So when the Scrivener upgrade said it would no longer put HTML on the clipboard, I realized what was happening. Sure enough, when I looked at one of my WordPress postings in the “text” view (rather than the “visual” view which I use to finalize posts) it was loaded with HTML coding, way more than I would ever have the patience (or knowledge) to do by hand.

I was pretty sure I had seen something in Scrivener that would allow me to export individual documents in a variety of formats (rather than go through the rather complicated Compile feature), and after searching through most of the menus I finally found it (in the most obvious place): File/Export/Files (or Ctrl+Shift+X, for the keyboard-oriented).

Unfortunately, that didn’t work. It produced a file that opened with Internet Explorer, but when I copy/pasted it to WordPress, none of the HTML coding came along.

So I went to the Literature & Latte web site forum section and hunted around until I found a post from someone dealing with the same question, where I learned that there is a “copy special” item on the Scrivener edit menu that allows copying several different formats to the clipboard. After several attempts I have discovered that Edit/Copy Special/Copy as HTML will get me most of what I want, if I paste it into the WordPress “text” editor rather than the “visual” editor. Then it took a trip to the WordPress forums (via Google) to learn that it takes “Shift+Enter” to add a blank line in the visual editor.

I don’t know why the clipboard output in Scrivener has been changed. From the description in the change list, I’m guessing it must have been causing a problem for people copy/pasting to Word or other word processing programs. I’ve spent way too much time finding a work around this morning—but then, time spent learning something new is never wasted.

Fun with Technology

I seem to be having all sorts of wrestling matches with my computers and related technology lately.  I got a new computer at work in September, with a scanning program that reads documents fed through the fax machine and turns them into pdf files.  It worked without a problem until a couple of weeks ago when it suddenly decided there wasn’t enough memory (somewhere–the program wasn’t specific about exactly where) to scan at 1200 dpi.  Fortunately the two or three documents I scan each week work perfectly well at 600 dpi.  This week the program started randomly producing blank pdf files; now I have to scan some papers twice and check the files before I send them on.  I have no idea what’s going on there.

Then there was the Excel file that suddenly sprouted large, unexplained, and unnumbered gaps the other day.  Fortunately I had the good sense to close it before I saved any of the anomalies.  When I reopened the file it was perfectly well behaved.  Sometimes frequent saves are not the answer.

Meanwhile, the (admittedly old) printer sometimes refuses to print from the sheet feeder (which we use to print checks and labels) and the (also aging) copy machine suffers from paper jams in the morning.  We’re doing our best to work around these problems, because we’re planning to reorganize the office and replace the printer, copier, and fax machine in the foreseeable future.

My computer puzzles at home have been solvable, for which I am grateful.  This morning I found my computer rebooted and waiting patiently for my password, and when I logged in I discovered that Internet Explorer 11 had been downloaded during the night.  It looks exactly like IE 10, but apparently it works on touch screen computers.  I don’t have a touch screen computer.  It didn’t change any of my settings, so no harm, no foul.

I’ve been resurrecting an old manuscript to enter in the RWA Golden Heart contest (it’s an addiction).  My work in progress stood no chance of being finished in time, so I pulled out one that I’ve always liked but haven’t really looked at in some time.  It did well in contests some years ago, so I decided to give it another shot.  And some editing.

I went through the whole manuscript, making generally small edits, and liking what I read.  It had been long enough that I’d forgotten many of the details, and I actually enjoyed reading it, as though it was a novel I’d read (rather than written!) years ago.  But it needed some work, and after sending the first three chapters to a couple of writer friends, I did some more editing, and decided I needed to combine some scenes, split some others, and move some chapter breaks.

It would have been so much easier to do in Scrivener, but the contest deadline is looming, and I didn’t have time to move the manuscript from Word to Scrivener and back.  Fortunately there was relatively little full-scale rewriting to do (for now, at least–if an editor ever says, “I’ll buy this, but you need to turn the time line inside out,” I’m there), and I did it on paper and in the Word file.

But I still had those pesky chapter breaks to shift around, and that’s where my large computer monitor proved its worth (not for the first time).  I discovered that Word could show me at least eight pages at a time at a resolution clear enough to read, which made judging the length and breaking points of chapters surprisingly easy, and perhaps even more visual than Scrivener.

Chapters

Believe me, I’m really not complaining about any of these little hassles.  I’ve kept records in ledger books rather than Excel, made copies on mimeograph machines after typing the masters without a ribbon, and typed whole novels on a typewriter, so I appreciate everything I do on a computer.  But there are times when I have no idea what’s going on–it might as well be magic.

New Toys for my Computer

A few weeks ago I started having problems with my email program running away with me.  I was sending empty emails, and duplicates, and I had no idea why.  And the problems spread to the web site I usually use to look up the TV schedule.  I’d click on a program description, and the box would snap open and shut too fast for me to read it.  Same thing with Twitter–it took several attempts to open a picture (Twitter was invented to disseminate pictures of cats, right?).

In due time I realized that the problem had to be related to my mouse.  I went to the control panel and tried adjusting the click speed, but that had absolutely no effect.  I tried googling terms like “hair trigger mouse,” and found nothing.  Then last weekend, I finally figured out what was actually going on–the mouse was randomly sending out double clicks when I was sending out single clicks.  Not every time, but often enough to be really annoying.  By then it was even affecting my attempts to select text.

When I googled “mouse sends double clicks,” I found plenty of folks who’ve had the same problem with aging mice (and mine was coming up on four years of steady service).  It makes sense–even optical mice must have some sort of physical mechanism for transmitting clicks.  I found instructions on taking a mouse apart to fix it.  Yeah, right.  Back in the day, I had no trouble removing the ball from the underside of a mechanical mouse to clean it, but that day is long gone.  The obvious solution to this problem, and the most common advice, was “buy a new mouse.”

So yesterday I stopped at the local Office Depot and found myself staring at a display of at least thirty different mice, about two thirds of which were wireless.  I wanted corded–this was for a desktop computer that never moves, and a corded mouse doesn’t require batteries.  I thought I might as well pick out something a bit higher up the scale than the simple mouse that came with my computer, so I settled on an ergonomic critter with some extra buttons and features (Logitech model M500).

The trickiest part of installing it was tracing the old mouse cord to the back of the computer to detach it.  I don’t know what I unplugged on the first try, but it wasn’t the mouse.  Once I had the new one plugged in, Windows took over and made it work.  There were a couple of features that needed the Logitech driver, so I downloaded that, but it wasn’t needed for the basic mouse functions.

The new mouse solved all the problems I had attributed to the old one, and even a few I hadn’t recognized.  It has a control that switches the wheel from free spinning (and very fast) action to line-by-line motion.  And it has two buttons on the side that function as back and forward clicks on web sites.  The Logitech driver lets you program various buttons to do all sorts of things.  Highly recommended for right-handers.  If there’s a leftie version I did not see it at Office Depot.

I have a new piece of software to play with, too.  The folks at Literature and Latte, the source of Scrivener, have released Scapple for Windows.  I’ve been envious since they released it for Mac, and this fall I downloaded the beta version of the Windows release.  The full release came out a few weeks ago for the princely sum of $14.95.  Scapple is a brainstorming, note-jotting, what-you-make-of-it program that turns your computer screen into an expanse where you can make notes, move them around, connect them, and generally play with them.  My first Scapple file is full of plot notes and ideas for the story I’m working on, thrown all over the screen.  A friend recently showed me the extremely neat plot outline she’d made with Scapple on her laptop.  You can pull Scapple files into a folder in your Scrivener project, too.  Here’s a sample:

Scapple sample

 

 

Scrivener Features: Auto-Complete

I stumbled across the Auto-Complete function the other day when I was doing a menu-crawl around Scrivener’s nooks and crannies.  It’s not the same as Auto-Correct, which I’ve had to turn off.  Either Auto-Correct is too imaginative or I am: when I had the feature turned on, Scrivener kept changing my characters’ names and “correcting” other words that I didn’t notice until I reread my pages.  Or worse, until I read them to my critique group.

Auto-Complete, on the other hand, only does what you’ve told it to do, offering up long or difficult-to-type words or phrases when you type the first letter.  For novelists, I imagine this would most often be character or place names.  In my collection of unpublished novels, I have a parallel worlds tale set partially along a Texas Coast dominated by the Aztec Empire.  Tenochtitlán popped up from time to time, and I was glad to have whatever word processor I was using at the time let me assign a short-cut key to it.  And the words Señor and Señora, with their tildes, were all over the manuscript.

AutoCompleteScrivener allows you to set up a separate Auto-Complete list for each project (under the Project menu, or with ctrl+shift+4).  When you type the first letter of one of the words or phrases on your list, up it pops in an unobtrusive little box.  If that’s what you want, hit enter.  If not, just keep typing, and chances are you won’t even notice the pop up.  Say you’re working on an essay on American history—just how many times do you want to spell out Articles of Confederation?

I didn’t find much on Auto-Complete in the Scrivener documentation, so it took a little experimentation to make it work.  You enter the words you want to escape retyping in the Auto-Complete list box (to get the accent on Tenochtitlán and the tilde on Señor I typed them in my text, using the Character Map located at the bottom of the Edit menu to find my special letters, and then copied and pasted them into the list box).  But you also have to go to the Corrections section of the Options box (under the Tools menu) and make sure that “suggest completions as you type” is checked.

OptionsCorrections

You may never have to look up that pesky accent or umlaut again.

Scrivener Features: Project Targets

Earlier this year, I was asked to give a talk on Scrivener to the May meeting of the Houston Bay Area RWA chapter.  When I finally got around to putting it together last weekend, I had done so little writing in the last couple of months that I found myself practically rediscovering the software.  The program more than proved its worth, if I had any doubts, when I used it to organize and write up my talk.

In the process I also discovered that it is very difficult to compress a piece of software as large and complex as Scrivener into a relatively brief presentation.  I probably confused my audience (which fortunately wasn’t large), but I got some laughs, and some questions, and two people in the group have told me they are trying Scrivener out, so I must have done something right.

If a tour of Scrivener is a stretch for an hour’s workshop, it’s certainly far too much for a blog post.  But one feature at a time, now that’s doable.  So let’s start with one of my favorites, Project Targets.  This little widget floats anywhere on your screen.  Project TargetsDepending on your point of view, and/or your progress on your manuscript, it will either inspire you or kick your butt (hopefully into gear).  Here’s an example lifted from my current work-in-progress; as you see, I haven’t been making much.

To use the Manuscript Target section, you simply fill in the number of words you’re shooting for in your manuscript, and the widget shows you how many words you have, and where you are on a scale of zero to completion.  The bar starts out red and gradually changes color as it fills in; it turns to yellow and then green as you approach your target.

The Session Target is for more immediate word counts.  If you have a personal target of x many words per day, or you need 5,000 words to meet your editor’s deadline, just fill in the number and Scrivener will tell you exactly where you are.

In the same section of Scrivener (the Project Menu), you will also find the usual word processing info.  Project Statistics gives you Words, Characters, Pages (Printed) and Pages (Paperback) for the complete project and for the document you’re working on.  The Options tab lets you adjust which documents are included in the project count, the word count per page, etc.  Text Statistics gives you Words, Characters, Paragraphs, and Word Frequency for the document you are working on.

Eyes lit up in the audience when I talked about Project Targets at our meeting the other night.  Clearly I’m not the only writer who needs a measure of her progress, and Scrivener makes it easy to see.

Now I just need to make some progress worth measuring!

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More Digital Distress

The more essential our technology becomes to our lives, the more frustrating it is when something doesn’t work.  And the more complex it becomes, the less of it we can fix ourselves, which adds another layer of frustration.

Thanks to all that technology, it took me only a minute or two to find the correct quote for what I had in mind, Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law:  Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

About a week ago, on a Friday night, I noticed that my computer was behaving oddly as I visited familiar sites on the Internet.  Pictures weren’t loading, site formatting was off.  It was late, and I didn’t think much of it.  But the next morning some of the sites I visit regularly refused to load at all.  I couldn’t reach my blog, or any other site with a wordpress.com address, although the Firebirds site on wordpress.org came right up to greet me.

Being the sort of person who worries at annoyances like a rat terrier, I spent a great deal of that Saturday exploring the depths of my computer.  I rebooted the computer.  I rebooted the modem.  I tried to blame my problems on a recent Windows update and restored the computer to an earlier point.  That didn’t help with the connection, but at least it gave me back my Internet Explorer settings–trust me, don’t restore IE to its default settings unless you want to spend quite a lot of time getting it back to the way you like it.  I ran Spybot and Malwarebytes, and couldn’t find anything wrong.  I ran every diagnostic I could find.  Nothing helped.

By Saturday evening I had learned a good bit about the inner workings of the computer, but I hadn’t solved my problem, or gotten much of anything else done (well, I did my grocery shoppping, washed my filthy car, and ran three loads of laundry), and I could feel my blood pressure, not a good thing.

On Sunday morning, not even the weather widget on my desktop worked.  I couldn’t get on line at all.  Oh, the horror:  no email!  I dug through my files for the Verizon user guide, resigning myself to a long and possibly indecipherable phone conversation with someone who probably knew the solution but might not be able to explain it in English.  But there in the list of things to try before calling for help, right after making sure the plug hadn’t fallen out of the wall, was a suggestion to turn the computer off and reboot the modem by unplugging it.

I do not understand enough physics to know why unplugging the modem would have a different effect than simply turning it off and on (which I had tried.  Several times), but I was willing to give it a shot.

And it worked!  Well, mostly.  I could get back on line, and reach most of the sites I wanted to visit.  My email worked, although I couldn’t get to my bank.  I could get to my blog, but I couldn’t open a widget to change it.  I could get by.

By then I had pretty much come to the conclusion that the problem was not in my computer, but somewhere in my modem or my DSL line, which likely meant dealing with Verizon.  At work on Monday morning I told my story to my friend Ha Tran, who can always figure out what’s going on when the computers at the Scorekeeper  don’t work.

Ha recognized the trouble.  Not the modem, he said, it’s not old enough to fail.  More likely the DSL line, but don’t call for a couple of days, because it will probably fix itself.

And he was right.  When I got home Monday evening, everything was working fine.  Email, TV schedule, social media, online banking, the things I truly need and the things I waste time on.  I was greatly relieved, and not a little concerned by how much I depend on this collection of boxes and wires sitting on my desk.  And I don’t even have a smart phone.  Or a tablet.  Yet.

Welcome to the Wired World.  Indistinguishable from Magic.

 

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