Books

Scrivener Revisited

Posted Friday, February 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Comments Off on Scrivener Revisited |

Nearly a year ago I caught word in my social media circles that Scrivener download codes were on sale for only $20 at Amazon. For those not in the know, Scrivener is writing software. For years it had the reputation of being the go-to software for serious writers, but was only available for the Mac. Later that excuse was demolished with a Windows version but then the $40 price tag kept me from taking the plunge. After all, I’d been writing just fine with Word for many years. In fact, I found the “track changes” tool absolutely invaluable in my writing collaborations with Ed, Jerry, and the rest of my partners at 12 to Midnight and I was afraid that I’d feel its absence.

But $20; that was a different story. For one thing, 12 to Midnight collaborations had pretty much dried up. Not that there wasn’t occasional work to be done, but by last Spring we had already entered a new phase in writing. To use a musical analogy, the band was still technically together but we were mostly working on solo projects. I wanted to focus more on fiction and Scrivener has a reputation for being a great tool.

And hey, $20.

Scrivener is sold via digital download, so I paid my money, got a download from Amazon, found out that it was just the program that validates my code and initiate the download from Scrivener’s site, and finally got it installed.

My first impression: boy is it different than Word.

My second impression: the tutorial is TWO HOURS?

I’d already bought the thing though, so I sat in bed with the laptop and soldiered through 45 minutes of lessons before deciding that I’d had enough of that and it was time for some hands-0n. I added info on my characters, messed around with organization, and basically poked and prodded. Then I gave up.

The thing was (and is), my writing time is very valuable to me because it’s in such short supply. After having invested a couple nights of my precious writing time trying to learn how to use the software, I was done. I could either keep trying to overcome the learning curve for new software to do what I was already doing in Word, or I could write.

Also important, at the time I didn’t have a regular writing routine so I was using whichever computer was surrounded by the least distraction at the time. One day I might use the laptop another the desktop. I vaguely recall that the license allowed me to install on two machines (but I may be totally wrong about that), but even so I didn’t look forward to passing files back and forth. Maybe if I’d paid the full $40 I would have been more invested in trying to make it work, but the same price point that made it worth the risk for me to try made it easy to walk away.

Fast forward to February 2014. Scrivener came up in a friend’s conversation in Facebook and I related a significantly shorter version of what I’ve explained here. It got me thinking, though. In the story I’m revising I’ve had to cut whole scenes, some of which has really great dialog that I hope to recycle. I didn’t want to delete the text but I didn’t want it cluttering up my Word document either. I recalled that Scrivener was designed with that sort of scenario in mind. Also, I’m three months into a new writing routine in which I write during my lunch break at work. All my writing takes place on my ancient (6-7 year old) laptop, so no need to worry about Scrivener licenses or passing files back and forth. Maybe it was worth another try.

So yesterday for the first time in months I opened the program. My first job was letting it update to a never version, which was easily done. Next, I went online looking for video tutorials. I found the video below, which did a better job of explaining Scrivener basics in 10 minutes than the tutorial I used last time. I wish that I’d had the patience to watch this video last year because I think it would have gone a long way toward reducing the friction I felt during the learning process.

If you’ve been thinking about trying Scrivener, I highly recommend watching this video. It’s worth your 10 minutes.

Now I’ve important my short story into Scrivener using the “short fiction” template and moved all my cut scenes out of the main story but still accessible at the click of a button. I then began work on the next scene, which I’d already outlined and added as a note card. Scrivener, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Current Events

Fighting Fraud

Posted Friday, January 3, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Comments Off on Fighting Fraud |

Medicare drug fraud is big business, milking millions of dollars from the system. If an independent news outlet can examine the data and identify suspicious prescribers, why can’t the government? Why doesn’t the government act?

‘Let the Crime Spree Begin’: How Fraud Flourishes in Medicare’s Drug Plan

Current Events

A Dizzying Spin

Posted Thursday, January 2, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Comments Off on A Dizzying Spin |

I keep FactCheck.org in my RSS feed as a reality check when it comes to political spin. They recently posted a “year in review” of the whoppers from both sides of the aisle. As you enter 2014, it might be worth a few minutes to look over the past year and remind yourself to take everything a politician says with a grain of salt.

http://www.factcheck.org/2013/12/whoppers-of-2013/

Current Events

Inside Cuba

Posted Friday, December 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Comments Off on Inside Cuba |

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/michael-j-totten/welcome-cuba

When Michael Totten reports, he doesn’t just describe the scene like narrating a photo. He makes you understand the culture and history driving current events. His recent undercover excursion to Cuba is a fine example, and definitely worth a read.

Current Events, Miscellaneous

Understanding Middle Eastern Politics

Posted Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Comments Off on Understanding Middle Eastern Politics |

If you don’t understand the religious allegiances in the Middle East you can’t hope to understand the forces driving regional politics. In this long New Yorker article, we get a look at Iran’s aspirations. Using underground fighters, Iran– a Shiite state–kept Shiites in charge of Syria, who in turn fought over Lebanon.

The early months of 2013, around the time of Shateri’s death, marked a low point for the Iranian intervention in Syria. Assad was steadily losing ground to the rebels, who are dominated by Sunnis, Iran’s rivals. If Assad fell, the Iranian regime would lose its link to Hezbollah, its forward base against Israel. In a speech, one Iranian cleric said, “If we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran.”

If Iran becomes a nuclear power, I’d say chances are high that it will use such a weapon on a Sunni rival to bring the entire region to heel. At that point only Israel will have the nuclear deterrence to stand up to Iran. I think at that point we’ll see even scarier brinkmanship, with Iran using proxy fighters like Hezbollah on brazen attacks that can’t be directly pinned on them. Would Israel risk prompting a nuclear exchange by rolling out conventional attacks like they’ve done most recently in Lebanon? Would Iran risk nuking Jerusalem? The best course of action is keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands so that we don’t have to find out.

via Dexter Filkins: Qassem Suleimani, the Middle East’s Most Powerful Operative : The New Yorker.

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