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Messages - Brevoort

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Chromebook?
« on: December 30, 2016, 05:24:03 pm »
Any recommendations concerning build quality, keyboard and screen?

The mid to upper level CB's generally have better build qualities. I have an Acer 14" which has a nice brushed aluminum case that really looks and feels tough. Although I have never seen one, many people swear that the build quality of the Dell Chromebook 13 is outstanding.

I recommend going for a 1080 IPS screen, particularly if photo editing or video viewing will be needed. The quality of the entry level CB's can be a little too entry level.

The Dell I mentioned, as well as my Acer and Asus have very good and responsive keyboards.

There is a particular problem with some Chromebooks sold in Canada. In order to accommodate extra characters when writing in French the keyboards have been modified in a way that I do not like. Specifically, the left hand shift key has been reduced by half its length. This can often mean the inadvertent hitting of the character key next to it instead of the shift. Similarly, the Enter key has been reduced in size and that can result in a mis hit. I understand that all Lenovo's have the standard keyboard layout and there may be other manufacturers as well, but it is a problem on others.

I write in both languages and appreciate the extra keys, but the implementation means problems in both languages.

There is a very active Reddit sub ( r/chromeos ) that contains a great amount of information about Chromebook and their current models.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Chromebook?
« on: December 30, 2016, 09:50:11 am »
There are many virtues associated with Chromebooks but the top ones for me are;

  • very low weight,
  • insane battery life (9-12 hrs),
  • low cost - so low that they can be considered throw-away or stealable commodities.
That last point is important to me because I travel to world travel spots a lot and until my first Chromebook I had to spend an inordinate amount of time guarding the whereabouts of my laptops (high end Windows and Mac machines). The thought of having a 3K$ machine, and all of its data, stolen, lost, or broken was an endless bit of stress that I didn't need in those kind of places.

A Chromebook keeps most everything in the cloud and is secured with your Google account details. With two-factor authentication there is no way that a thief can get at your cloud data and no way to use the machine in anything but guest mode. (yes, there are always ways but for practical purposes the machine is secure)

If I lose the CB I only loose 250-400 $ worth of machinery. And unlike any other laptop there is no endless setup and tweaking when restoring to a new machine. Sign on to your Google account and within moments all of your cloud access, all of your addon applications, all of your customizations are ready in the new machine.

You cannot run writing software such as Scrivener on them but there are good writing apps in the Chrome store for no money and the inherent Google Docs access is just fine for most stuff and works well offline.

If you are concerned about the possibility of losing data in the Cloud, or before you can get within range of an internet connection to synchronize, you can just pop in a usb stick or SD card, if the machine has a slot, and copy everything over.

I am not a Chromebook evangelist and it would be wrong to say that they are better or worse than other system. I use Apple, Windows and Chromebook machines daily, Psion/epoc and even an old Kaypro II on at least a weekly basis. Oh yes, and of course an Alphasmart. None lead the pack but all pull their weight in their own way and my chromebooks pull hard.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Does anyone here record their own books for ACX?
« on: October 22, 2016, 08:18:30 am »
In addition to Simon Whistler's book might I also recommend The Stressed Out Writer's Guide to Recording Your Own Audiobook by Kirk Hanley.

Mr Hanley has a track record in the business and is a trained actor. He's also one clear and direct writer. The book is packed with to the point instructions for how to go about setting up your own studio, what software and equipment to use, how to set everything up, and how to navigate ACX/Audible.

One of the most valuable aspects of the book is the section on how to use voice, breath control, projection, and rhythm in the read itself. That section will alone convince the untrained to look for a pro. Acting is not just accents and booming declamations; it is the precise and perfectly controlled use of the human voice to convey emotion and narrative. It takes a lot of training to get right.

Hanley's book is also available in audiobook as read by him.


Writers' Cafe / Re: Dictation!! Yay or Nay? Who's to say?
« on: October 17, 2016, 02:17:22 pm »
A considerable number of people use Dragon, and some of the built in speech engines in PC's and Mac's, to dictate directly or with a portable voice recorder for transcription.

As mentioned earlier, check out this rather enormous thread which contains just about everything you might want to know.

Check out

For a more organized and thorough guide to using Dragon, buy Scott Baker's superb "The Writer's Guide to Training Your Dragon: Using Speech Recognition Software to Dictate Your Book and Supercharge Your Writing Workflow (Dictation Mastery for PC and Mac) Kindle".

Highly recommended.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Scrivener iOS - Feedback, Issues, Tips and Tricks?
« on: August 02, 2016, 12:58:11 pm »

Yesterday I specifically went out to an Apple Store (for the first time) and bought an iPad Mini 2 just so I could start using Scrivener IOS.

I am deeply impressed by the work the developer has put into recreating the Scrivener experience for IOS. Using a bluetooth keyboard, and with the Mini in portrait orientation, I had no trouble seeing, navigating, or of course writing.

I have about a dozen Scrivener projects underway from Windows and Mac; the IOS version was able to sync those very quickly and easily.

Now, truth be known, I really didn't need an iPad or Scrivener for it. I have been happily using the Sync External Folders feature of the Windows and Mac versions to allow me to work on stuff on my Android phone and tablets and send it back through Dropbox. But of course, that feature only deals with the raw txt and contains none of the other bells and whistles built into Scrivener. So,
having a full on feature set is just amazing.

I could easily see myself producing a complex writing project of some tens of thousands of words using the IOS version but I doubt that it could be edited as easily. The iPad does not seem to support Bluetooth keyboards with trackpads and quite frankly, finger screen tapping and dragging is just way too tedious. Doable, but not worth my effort.

But Scrivener for IOS on an iPad Mini 2 with a decent folding BT keyboard is a very nice piece of kit.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Shout Out to Wayne Stinnett
« on: July 06, 2016, 06:20:26 pm »
Just about finished it and I am impressed. An intensely practical, no b.s., guide to getting stuff sold.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Dragon - Horrible accuracy
« on: June 09, 2016, 08:57:54 am »

Scott Baker has a great book about all the nitty gritty stuff - microphones, training etc.

I agree, a very good book about using Dragon -- perhaps the best guide out there.

I thought a knew a great deal about using Dragon on the PC and using using it with a handheld recorder. I had been getting what I thought were excellent results, but Scott's book pointed out some things I had not been aware of and suddenly things got even better.

In addition he saved me a tonne of money by cogently describing why buying the Mac version of Dragon might not be a good idea at all.

He also provides a great deal of after book sale support through a news letter and additional resources.

Buy his book

Writers' Cafe / Re: What is your go-to writing hardware?
« on: June 09, 2016, 08:39:27 am »

Chromebooks apparently outsold Macs this last quarter with a rising trend since they are easy to use, long battery life, and inexpensive that you can practically buy ten Chromebooks to a Mac.

I am a recent and enthusiastic convert to Chromebooks. I travel internationally to a lot of world trouble spots and the worry and stress of losing my MacBook Pro, or any other expensive bit of kit, was really too much.

But now I use an Asus Chromebook C300 which is throw away cheap compared to a conventional laptop. It runs for a full 8 or 9 hours on battery and it is light.

I write in Google Docs with it, either on or off-line depending on where I am. I back everything up on a micro SD card as well as Dropbox when connected. There are a tonne of writer apps for it in the chrome store but for my purposes Google Docs does just fine.

One of the reasons I held off in getting a Chromebook, apart from ignorance, was the complete lack of any decent photo handling software. But recently, an app called Polarr came out that is very similar to, but not as powerful, Adobe Lightroom. It also handles raw files for those who know what those are.

So, while it is not quite ideal it does allow me to deal with the photographic side of my non-fiction work, journalistic and client.

I also write on my phone with a bluetooth keyboard when out and about.

At home base my preference is for the MacBook Pro /w Scrivener but I am happy using PC equipment. I also use Word for client work and I loathe it but that's the way the world works.

Oh, and for fast draft blasting, my weapon of choice is a Neo Alphasmart; a brilliant bit of kit that deserved wider exposure.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Author Earnings May 2016 is out
« on: June 03, 2016, 05:04:33 pm »
Scroll down further in the report to the black and white pie charts, and you'll see that the "small pool" you're referring to is actually 884,344 author names.  In other words, 1.1% of author names are making at least $10,000 a year on

I was incredulous when I saw those numbers. Were I a journalist doing a piece about the report the lede would be something like "Only a little more than 1% of authors on have any chance of making more than $10,000 a year."

Even if you take the report authors suggestion of doubling the income to account for all other revenues you are still talking about a small village of people making not much money at all.

Or have I misread and misinterpreted all this? I hope so because those figures in the aggregate are disheartening.

Writers' Cafe / Re: I've failed.
« on: June 02, 2016, 12:05:22 pm »
Ken, you haven't failed so much as succeeded. Succeeded in discovering a core truth about your craft.

This dichotomy is not limited to the writing world. I have seen exactly the same division of artistic creation among journalists, film makers, painters, and sculptors. I have also heard that poets and song writers are split similarly.

Neither is right or wrong. Pick your side and march to that beat.

Others have mentioned Dean Wesley Smith's book (also available as blog posts) Writing Into the Dark, and I agree that it truly addresses your points and offers very good advice. But, he also has another series of posts, (also turned into a book) called, Writing a Novel in Seven Days.

Chapter Two of that series has a section called "Why Not Outline?". It is a succinct and pointed answer to many of your concerns.

The guy has a decades long proven track record of publishing and a work ethic that would shame a Sherpa.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Alphasmart
« on: May 22, 2016, 09:05:53 am »
Has anyone switched to an Alphasmart just so they could do Chris Fox-style writing sprints? If so, has it helped?

I'd been using my AlphaSmart for some time before trying out Chris' method and had come to the same conclusion as you that the limited screen greatly aided text generation because one cannot glance back more than a couple of lines easily and thereby fall into the typo fixing trap.

However, in explicitly trying out sprint sessions I was immediately struck how very well suited the AlphaSmart is to, blast straight ahead writing surges. Among other things, the keyboard has a lovely touch.

By the way, to respond to an earlier question by someone about battery life. I have just replaced the two AA's in mine after two and a half years of use although there was a fair bit of power left in them. I use the machine two or three times a week for one to two hours at time. Amazing battery life.

Insightful and clear. An excellent interview with concrete advice.


What do you guys think?

Your editor has talent, solid and creative talent. The finished production is very good.

But, may make a few suggestions from the perspective of someone who has worked in broadcast television at major networks, and as someone who commissions video productions on behalf of my consulting clients?

I personally, and it is just my idiosyncratic opinion, would start the video with the "From the Bestselling Author . . ." slide, bang into the Destroyer slide for a fleeting second, then into a much shortened and possibly quicker paced outline of the premise, then close on a lingering Destroyer and its siblings slide. This would bring it down to well below a minute.

As to costs.

An experienced editor, supplied with the images, and given a full editing script or very solid concept outline would be able to knock this off within an hour. Without a script and forced to come up with the overall concept themselves, and the project will balloon into days.

Most clients prefer to work on an upfront quoted cost. Equally, an editor who knows that the project can be knocked off in 45 minutes is not interested in quoting an hourly cost. This is why the video houses that I use quote a per-project fee with a hard delivery deadline. For a trailer like this where all of the images as well as the script are supplied I would expect to pay $500 to $1000 for a one day delivery.

If you haven't worked out the concept yourself, supply no sort of script, and leave all the image sourcing to the editing house, then the cost can be in the many thousands.

Video editing is the marrying of image, sound, and words; what the words are and how they relate to the images is the work of the script writer and that, in the case of book trailers, has to be the author themselves.

Given your editor's commitment to making a good product (the 100 or so hours) and the evident editing skill she displayed, I would say that you paid a fair and decent price. If she can gain some confidence and get her production times down then I predict she would have a thriving business charging in the range of $500 to $1000; more, much more, if she has to come up with the whole trailer concept, the images, and the script.

Excellent work.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Portable recorder settings for Dragon?
« on: April 25, 2016, 09:17:24 am »
I use a different Sony (MC-10) and a couple of different Olympus models. They are all set about the same.

I can't do better than quote what Scott Baker recommends in his excellent "The Writer's Guide to Training Your Dragon: Using Speech Recognition"

  • Audio quality HIGH, (192kbs or higher)
  • Microphone to MONO
  • Microphone sensitivity to LOW
  • If you have a Low Cut setting, switch it to ON
  • If you have a noise cut level set to MAX
  • Noise Cut to OFF -- unless outdoors or in a noisy environment, otherwise OFF
Seriously, buy Scott's ebook

Writers' Cafe / Re: Looking for a Harrier jet forum, etc.
« on: April 25, 2016, 08:45:43 am »
Do Harrier (AV-8Bs) jets have any kind of cockpit parallel, USB, serial, etc, port accessible in flight by the pilot?

Although I seriously doubt it, I suggest you contact Nall's Aviation and ask them. Art Nalls owns the only privately held and airworthy Sea Harrier in the world and flies it regularly at airshows.

Google for the website or do a Facebook search since they are on there as well. But on things like this I always find that the direct approach is not only the fastest, but also the most productive. Call them at (202) 213-2400 and tell them what you want to know and why. There is a good chance that you will pick up other bits of info about the Harrier that you can use.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Looking for a Harrier jet forum, etc.
« on: April 25, 2016, 08:26:24 am »
Shortly after the Falklands war, Popular Mechanics or a similar mag published a fabulous short article by a Harrier pilot describing operating his jet in combat.  One of the best pieces of nonfiction about flying I've ever read.  Published in 1982 or '83, I think.  Have searched but can't find it.

I didn't read the article back then but I tend to think it may have been written by the author of "Hostile Skies, My Falklands Air War" -- David Morgan. He was a Sea Harrier pilot who saw lots of action during the Falklands. It's on the .COM site in several formats.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How useful is blogging?
« on: April 22, 2016, 07:47:00 am »
If you went to Google right now and searched for "who writes the richard castle books", I'd probably come up in the top 5.

Number 1 result this morning after Google's featured answer (wikipedia)

Pretty cool literary analysis in that post btw.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Writing a Novel in Seven Days
« on: March 28, 2016, 09:30:52 am »
Dean is, of course, on a whole other level.

He certainly is and anyone else without his proven track record who claimed to be able to pull off some of the writing stunts he pulls would be laughed away. But, he truly is the real thing. Mind you, I think it helps that he has vampiric powers; a day job as CFO of a mid level publisher, overseeing and setting up retail stores, writing until the wee hours at a prodigious rate, and at the end of it all writing a detailed blog post about the entire day.

When I first read his goal about a novel in 7 days I immediately thought that meant 10K words a day for a 70K novel, but book length paradigms are fuzzy at best these days so I can accept his goal of 42K in 7 days. Yet, that is 6K a day if divided equally, which he is not doing.

Now, 6K is doable in a day in my experience but not for more than one or two days. I personally pay a terrific psychic cost if I do that and really set myself up for a bout of writer's block.

I don't doubt that Dean can do this, and do it well. While I could never try doing the same thing there are attitudes and techniques that he writes about that I can use.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Sick to death of editing? Try this trick!
« on: March 25, 2016, 08:46:43 am »
Make the manuscript *look* completely different. 

In the long past days when newspapers had proofreaders many of them had the ability to read text backwards, last word to the first, as quickly as they could read forward.  As a final pass it was said to be effective at picking up the slightest of typos.

More than one editor that I worked under in the days of typewriters could read text upside down which allowed them to copy-edit by standing in front of the writer and checking what came off the typewriter roll. Very useful when on a drop dead deadline.

I'm pretty sure that I have either misread the original post or failed to understand it properly so let me apologize right off.

But . . . it is dead simple to use Scrivener with all of your devices. Just set up External Folder Sync in Scrivener and all of your scriv files will be sync'd to a folder on Dropbox, iCloud and presumably other file sharing systems.

The scriv files are saved as either TXT or RTF so they can be opened on your phone, tablet etc with your word processor of choice. If you are out and about and want to create a whole new note that does not exist in Scrivener just do a Save As from your mobile device to the relevant sync'ng folder in Dropbox. The next time Scrivener opens on your desktop it will see the new addition.

When you are working in Scrivener you don't have to think about the external sync, the program will handle that automatically. Once set up (a menu choice and some tick boxes) it is fire and forget from then on.

(Added -- external folder sync does not affect where or how you currently save your scriv files. I save mine on Dropbox so I can switch between my PC and Mac machines without thinking about it but if you have them on your hard drive they can remain there. Changes that come through the external sync will be reflected in those master files of course but your customizations and preferences in the Scrivener project will not be affected.)

It's painless and oh so useful.

Sure, no corkboard, outline function, tagging, flagging, etc, but your core writing files will remain perfectly sync'd across all of your devices.

My physical setup is a BT keyboard about the size of a paperback when folded and a handy coffee mug to prop the phone at the right angle. I use this system to write hundreds of words of non-fiction daily and it all ends up in Scrivener.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Trouble With Sprints
« on: March 18, 2016, 11:16:12 am »
My question for the sprinters among us, did you have to go through a major adjustment period to get used to the process? Did it seem utterly impossible at first? How did you manage to get through that adjustment without punching your monitor and chewing on your keyboard?

You will find a huge amount of help in Chris Fox's book "Writing 5,000 Words Per Hour" but here are some things to have a look at in the meantime.

Your writing environment on the screen can become a major impediment to writing quickly, cleanly, and strong. If you are using a word processing system such as Word, Scrivener, or anything else that has more menus, options, dropdowns, and more bells than a cathedral then you are pretty much doomed. Unless you are already trained in focussed writing the temptation to dicker around with the words can become a real productivity killer.

As has been suggested, set aside a short time to practice sprint writing. Even something as short as 5 minutes will result in real improvement in just a few sessions or days.

Make it much easier on yourself by getting a writing program that is built for distraction-free writing. Scrivener has a nice full screen clean writing field option with the added bonus of typewriter scrolling, or as Scrivener calls it, Focus Mode. Typewriter scrolling keeps your active writing line smack in the middle of the screen and not down at the bottom in the weeds.

You can go one better in that regard with a mac/ios/android app called iaWriter. It's a beauty of a stripped down writing tool. But its typewriter scrolling mode goes one better than anyone else. It only shows your previous two or three lines; all others are faded well down. This reduces the tendency to go back in your manuscript and start playing drill sergeant with your words.

Fast writing sprints force you to rely on your natural story telling or narrative description skills. All humans have them to one degree or other and that is why people can talk with one another and make sense -- for the most part.

Trust your ability to both get things out sensibly and to structure the overall shape of your project.

Journalists, well good ones anyway, are trained to mentally construct, write, and to perform at blazing speeds, under insane deadlines, and in the most difficult of surroundings. From personal experience I can say that anyone can be trained in such skills.

I have some physical tools that really help for the first draft. I often use an AlphaSmart Neo which only displays the last two or three lines on its tiny screen -- very reminiscent of a typewriter. While it is technically possible to go back and kick some sentences in the kneecaps it is just such a tedious chore that I don't do it. In the same vein, I often write on my phone using a folding bluetooth keyboard. Again, going back on such a small screen really discourages distracted writing. And, I often use a handheld voice recorder when out on hikes or walking the dog, etc. One can hit pretty surprising speeds using a voice recorder.

As I have said, trust your innate abilities. If after doing a bunch of sprints you then compare them as a whole to what you have produced while polishing the hell out of your prose and words, you will find very little, if any, difference in quality.

Go buy Chris' book.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Vellum: the official thread
« on: March 17, 2016, 05:32:32 pm »
While we don't have any direct experience with Joel's templates, we don't see why you wouldn't be able to import a Word file that uses them. Just take your Word file and drag it onto the Vellum icon to import it

Good to hear this. I have a couple of his non-fiction templates and had thought I might have to abandon them. I'll play around in Vellum and see what happens.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Scapple?
« on: March 06, 2016, 12:22:20 pm »

As far as I am concerned, Scapple is about as close as one can come on a computer to laying out a large piece of blank paper and then jotting random notes, ideas, thoughts, etc --- staring at it a while, and then connecting related items with lines and arrows.

Its simplicity is what makes it so effective compared to traditional mind-mapping software which forces an initial structure on your project. All the other programs insist that you start with one central idea or thought and then branch out from there in semi related fashion. Scapple doesn't care how or why you put something down, or in what form.

Scapple also has a very limited set of formatting tools which is a blessing. The others, many of which cost in the hundreds of dollars, have so many options and format tools that unless you are uniquely focused you can get lost in choosing colours, arrow shapes, font beautification etc.

And, while Scapple is made by the Scrivener folks it can be used on its own. (Scapple notes can also be dragged right into Scrivener, as well as exported in a variety of forms)

I'd say, download the trial and mess around with it. There is a pretty good description of it on the Literature & Latte web page.

I hope Chris doesn't mind me saying this,  but  Writometer on Android does word count tracking, sprints etc and gives you loads of data.

Thanks very much for this. I cannot run Chris' app because I don't use an iPhone and I couldn't find anything suitable on Google Play until your note.

However, the app is called Writeometer,  a fact I discovered after being unable to find Writometer and being greatly puzzled by the failure. All is good and thanks again for mentioning the app because I think it just might be what lI've been looking for.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Anyone buying the Freewrite?
« on: February 24, 2016, 10:15:41 am »

I wondered what had happened to this. It started life as a Kickstarter project two or three years ago and was known as the Hemingwrite.

I didn't like it then and I don't now. Personally, I find it quite ugly. It is also ridiculously expensive when you consider the alternatives. Just search on portable writing devices for alternatives.

I quite often use the old discontinued AlphaSmart Neo ll that I got on eBay for something like $30. I use it two or three times a week for a couple of hours a time. I am still on the same set of two AA batteries after almost two years. Sure, it has a three line screen but I started life on typewriters so three lines is just fine and I touch type so I don't have to stare at it. But, and this is big for me, I can read the screen in bright sunlight; the only machine I have, or ever did have, that allowed this.

Most days when I am out I get by with a folding bluetooth keyboard and my phone.

I'm sorry, but if I saw a Freewriter being used in a coffee shop, I'd develop the same inner sneer that I do when I see one of our local hipsters having a coffee while listening to his battery powered LP record player.

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