Tech Support Writing

Scrivener: Truth is counter-intuitive, software shouldn’t be

Yeah, that title sounds like a snark, but I’m sure a lot of the problem is me. I’m playing with Scrivener mostly because it will make life easier next time I do a collaboration with Skyler. I’m going to keep track of how things go as I learn this thing, and add to this post as I do so. I’m used to the Unix world in general and emacs in particular, and for me, what I loved was how intuitive everything was. The first time I created my first emacs file, back in the Dawn of Time, I was doing useful work within five minutes, and looking up what I needed to know as I went; in general, I’ve found that true of Unix stuff and DEC software, and almost nowhere else. Obviously, this may say more about me than about any particular software package.

The first annoyance I came across is author name–it appears at the top of every compiled page, just like it should.  The name of the author is $surname.  As some of you know, that isn’t actually my name. If I were to publish as $surname, many of my fans wouldn’t find the book. I would think there has to be a way to set scrivener so that when I start a new project it automagically plugs my name in. It has to exist. Why am I having so much trouble finding it?

As those of you who read the Vlad novels know, I write with a lot of dialog, a lot of italics, and a lot of lines with both.  “I know what you mean, Boss.” “Shut up.” One thing I can do in emacs (thank you, DDB!) is that I can just hit a button that defines Start Italics Here and Stop Italics Here and puts the cursor in the middle. Sweet. I’d actually be okay with a Start Italics button and a Stop Italics button. So far, however, the only way I’ve found to do italics is to write the passage, then select the text, then click on the italicize button. This slows me down and makes me think about things other than the next sentence, and that is exactly what I don’t want to be doing.

On the other hand, Scrivener gets serious props for a neat little switch that goes, “convert italics to underlining.”

Also, there’s the word count issue. My version (Windows) permits me to count characters or words. The thing is, I was taught that what editors actually want is the One True Word Count, which has the same relationship to actual number of words that a New York Times article has to an international news event: some, but never as much as you’d like. There might be a way to fake this thing into giving me the One True Word Count, or at least information to make it easier to calculate, but so far I haven’t seen it.

Anyway, gonna keep playing with it.

Incrementalists Tech Support

WTF Open Office?

I write my books in emacs, then convert them (thanks to a macro by the lovely Anne) to .rtf format and do the final editing in OpenOffice. With my current project (Incrementalists #2) things were a bit more complex, because of working with a collaborator.  I now have the book on my Windows box instead of the Linux machine.  There is a reason I reserve Windows for things that don’t really matter.

But anyway, here I am.  Every time I close the file and open it again, formatting changes have been lost.  To wit: line spacing, paragraph indenting, centering, underlining.  This didn’t happen on the OO version for linux, but, as I said, here I am.

Does anyone who knows Open Office have any suggestions?  I tried OpenOffice help, but I’m having trouble phrasing the question in such a way that their automated help knows what I’m talking about.

Replies that take the form, “You should be using X application or Y operating system” will not be appreciated even a little.

ETA: Attempting to duplicate the problem with another file led to another symptom: I am able to use the “Format–> paragraph”, but not “Format–> Paragraph Style.”  The latter is not grayed out, but it won’t come up when I click it (in both cases, after selecting the entire document).