Friday, May 22, 2009

Dark side of the digital divide

I'll of course be over-obsessively researching these topics elsewhere--it's what I do--but I figure some of you smart folks might have some first-hand input for me.

I'm so close to finishing the rough draft of my latest long story that I'm finally starting to feel the wind in my hair on that last downhill slide. Don't get me wrong--it'll probably be a month or so before I can write "THE END." What's left is bound to be something of a slow slog, and I'm an exceptionally slow slogger, especially in the summer. Still, for once I pretty much know what's going to happen, overall. I just have to get it all down and fill in the details.

I really want to edit this one to completion. Which brings me to the two topics of the day.

1. Novel editing software
I've never used any. I've also never completely finished editing one of my novels. Inevitably, I end up frustrated with the word processor, because as soon as I start shuffling scenes around, I lose them and have to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll looking for where I left that one paragraph. I also waste all kinds of time trying to remember details like what time of year it was when X had a birthday or A and B first met, or what color eyes I gave to Minor Character D. Is there such a thing as software that will let you parcel a story out into scenes, keep track of a time line, and with a section for character sketches? Those are the main things I think would be most useful to me. Like I said, I'll do the research (and how), but I'd appreciate any input. I'm a PC user, if that makes a difference.

2. Them there new-fangled netbook thingies
One of the things I've learned over the past six months is that I'm far more productive if I get out of the house. I'm sure a part of that has been lack of internet access (I've been writing strictly by hand), but I think a good portion of it is just being in a different environment. I work better if I detatch from the rest of my life for an hour or so.

With that in mind, I've been wondering how I could continue with the morning coffee house run, but do transcribing and some in-depth editing instead of writing, and I've been pondering picking up one of these little guys. They appeal to me because:
a)they're cheap
b)they're very portable (I could stick one in my purse, even
and c)the newer ones get five hours or more of battery life, so I wouldn't have to carry any kind of power supply.

I went to Best Buy the other day to just see what they looked like in person. The 8.9" models were a little too toy-like, in my opinion. I could see using them for surfing, but not real extended use. But the 10.1" were surprisingly usable. I didn't have any trouble with the keyboards on most. My favorite, surprisingly to me, was the ASUS model with the chiclet keyboard. I expected the keys to feel like calculator buttons, but they were...just fine. I have big hands, but skinny fingers, and I could type without any real loss of accuracy. The screen is small, but I think would be fine for my purposes. And the specs are actually better than my primary home PC. Go figure. Has anyone used one of these extensively and have any input on the various brands / downsides that might not be obvious at first glance? Thoughts, suggestions, snarky remarks?

They seem like the perfected version of the Toshiba Libretto, which I lusted after mightily back in the day....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spirit of the Northwest

Coming from rural Vermont where coffee houses and espresso stands are all but unheard of, and where any coffee drink more involved than coffee with cream and sugar tends to be regarded with distrust and disgust, I'm often amused by Western Washington's juxtapositions. Gotta love it.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Regularly irregular musings are the typecasting journal entries coming along? I'm just about done with the final draft of the story I *may* be submitting. It's a short short, I think. The terminology for short stories is all new to me. This is uncharted territory: well out of my comfort zone.

I'm one of those people who's never had a serious problem finishing NaNoWriMo. No, it isn't easy, but if I force myself to sit down and put one word in front of another for a few hours every day, I can do it. I'm not one of those crazy people who can sit and pound out 4000 words in a sitting (had a roommate during one NaNo who was, and it annoyed the snot out of me, I admit) but I can write a decent number of words steadily day after day. And my stories usually start out much too wordy and then gets whittled down. If brevity is the soul of wit, my wit (such as it is) is some sort of soulless wraith.

As a result, this story has been an incredible challenge for me. It's the anti-NaNo: saying as much as possible in the fewest possible words; implying details and descriptions some of the time rather than sketching them out, leaving most of the color and scenery and background to the imagination of the reader. In a thousand words, you can't do much more than capture a single snapshot in your characters' lives, or the borders and boldest lines. I'm not good at it. It makes me cranky. Therefore, this is probably good for me.

And speaking of difficult-but-potentially-good-for-me activities, is anyone else semi-terrified by the concept of revealing a fictional work to even a small subset of the big wide world? I sure am. For one thing, I always worry that my stories are, as a high school English teacher once put it to me, too "bleeding heart." But it's more than that. Fiction is an entirely different animal than non-fiction. Why is that? (Rhetorical question.)

In one of my notebooks, I came across something I had written to the effect that nonfiction reveals one's thoughts and opinions; fiction one's heart and soul. I'm not sure I really believe that--I think I just liked the way it sounded when I wrote it down. But why *are* we more self-conscious about make-believe? Or am I the only one who feels this way?

On another subject, I read with interest the pocket briefcase vs pocket Moleskine throw-down Strikethru linked to here. My International Pocket Briefcase arrived a few days ago, courtesy of the Levenger outlet on eBay. It was cheaper than the Franklin Covey version I posted about here, once I factored in local tax (right about $16). Pretty cool.

Since it's larger than the shirt pocket briefcase listed in the review, it's not quite as direct a comparison--I'm using it as a wallet as well as a notepad. But the Moleskine has been my carry-everywhere writing surface up to now, so the comparison is there. Since I'm a gal and rarely have a pocket that would hold either one, the size differences aren't as crucial. It comes down to the format differences. On the one hand, the notebook means you carry everything you've written around with you, so you always have it. On the other hand, the cards let you carry just the important stuff, toss the grocery lists and memos, and organize into categories at home. It's more flexible, but less contained. It's my Circa vs composition book dilemma in miniature, and time will tell how I feel about it. I foresee still using the Moleskine for longer entries.

As for the wallet itself, it is marvelously soft but sturdy feeling leather--smells wonderful. There's a little more wiggle-room for the cards than there was in the cheaper one, which I'm very grateful for--makes it much easier to get them in and out, and the writing surface will hold about three or four cards in a stack without complaining. The wallet side where there's space for cash and receipts has a shallower little area for paper money, instead of just being a deep gaping pocket where narrower items get lost. All in all, a step up, and I think I can live with the fake initials....

Friday, May 01, 2009

We're just cool like that

Couple of days ago I was driving home from work, just minding my own business, when I was startled by someone laying on their horn right next to me. I looked over to see what was going on, and it was a guy in a Corolla just like mine, but green. He pointed exaggeratedly at my car a few times and gave me a huge grin and a big thumbs up. I was too startled to do much more than wave before he had zoomed on ahead.

Corolla guy, if you're out there, a big honk back. 'Cause we Corolla people, we're way cooler than people give us credit for.