National Novel Writing Month 2018: The Winnowing, Tool Edition

I’m still deciding on what to use for writing this year’s novel.

I’m leaning against Scrivener for a few reasons:

  • the 3.0 version for Windows seems very unlikely to go live before November 1st. The older version works fine, but is not directly  compatible with the current Mac version.
  • I am still not comfortable with how fragile it is with cloud storage. I get that it’s not that hard to just use Dropbox and remember to save, close and sync before returning to a project on a different system, but it’s 2018 and it just seems like this shouldn’t feel like a hack at this point. Plus my preferred storage solution of OneDrive is actively discouraged.
  • I am still not a big fan of the UI, though it is certainly better in 3.0.

That said, it has a lot still going for it, especially for a novel, so I haven’t absolutely ruled it out.

Speaking of Scrivener, the Scrivener-like Atomic Scribbler seems out of the running as its cloud-saving is even more fragile, and the author of the software offers dire warnings to those who would trust an online service in conjunction with it.

I’m also actually considering Microsoft Word. Since novels don’t use a lot of formatting, it wouldn’t get too bogged down and unlike Scrivener, cloud saving is easy-peasy across devices. But it’s still Word and despite having a billion features, it lacks a lot of things that are useful for novel-writing.

WriteMonkey 3.0 is still in beta, doesn’t (yet) support paragraph indents and is unlikely to even come out of beta this year, let alone before NaNoWriMo. Version 2.7 is still very capable and the text-only files it produces make cloud-saving simple and the files themselves very light and quick to load. This is probably still the leading candidate.

FocusWriter is like a stripped-down version of WriteMonkey that supports a lot of its core features and offers an easy-to-use interface. Since it can save in text format, it’s easy to switch between it and other editors that use text files without anything mucking up. I’m not entirely sure why I don’t consider it a stronger contender. It’s almost as if it may lack some feature I need but I can’t think of what it might be.

There are a billion other editors out there, but as I’ve recounted before, most have one or more features (or lack of the same) that make them unsuitable.

The three contenders above are also among the few that support both Windows and macOS, though the latter is less important since I’ve gotten a ThinkPad and seldom use my MacBook Pro now (every time I do I still want to start a rant about the keyboard). Scrivener and Word do offer the bonus of iOS versions, too, though in theory any iOS text editor could work if I stick to using the text-only format–though paragraph indents would likely remain a problem.

Unlike the story itself, I can pretty much put off making a decision about what tool to use until the last minute. And I just might!

Oh Siri, Volume 1 or Hell jars, howard yoyo 2017

Mocking Apple technology making mincemeat of spoken–or written–phrases is a tradition going back almost 25 years. This is from August 1993:

See this and other Newton strips on the official Doonesbury site

Today there are entire sites dedicated to how iMessage mangles text through auto-correct. Sure, some of the examples are probably manipulated for maximum comic effect (though it’s really not necessary, as the worst of autocorrect hardly needs a helping hand to look bad), but the fact that there are entire sections of the internet devoted to this stuff speaks to how ubiquitous it is. (Also the best examples are the ones where people keep futilely typing the same autocorrected word over and over. You can almost feel the despair coming though their attempted messages.)

And then there’s Siri. Siri is great when it works properly, which for me is most of the time. But when Siri decides not to work, it gets really stubborn in insisting that you are speaking different words.

Here are two to start, the first I’ve mentioned before.

Pyramid: I try to tell Siri to play the album Pyramid. It tries to play the imaginary album Pure Mind. I was never able to get Siri to play Pyramid. I had to physically interact with my phone to listen to it. How 2007.

Winner: Siri

Pasta: I try to send the message “The pasta will be ready in two minutes.” Siri says, “The pastor will be ready in two minutes.” I keep trying different pronunciations/inflections/accents for “pasta” and get these results:

pasta = pastor
pasta = pastor
pasta = pastor
pasta = pastor
pasta = pasta

I don’t know what finally made it work and I have no confidence it will ever work again. I’m just glad I wasn’t sending the message to a pastor.

Winner: Me

I don’t have a sassy wrap-up for this (it’s my first entry, cut me some slack) but I will note that I just spent half an hour at that stupid autocorrect site, laughing more than I’d like to admit.

A sign of the times

In this case, the times are of increasing illiteracy. Or maybe this is new lingo I’m unaware of. Spotted outside a restaurant last night on the north side of False Creek:

My other guess is that it was a reserved party for private perverts, though it wouldn’t seem especially private being in a public restaurant with large windows and outdoor seating. The little heart stands as compelling evidence, though! The privert people gathered all seemed happy enough.