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Messages - Brevoort

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Writers' Cafe / Re: A Spreadsheet for Tracking Writing? A la Rachel Aaron
« on: November 14, 2014, 02:05:59 pm »
Okay, now you've challenged me.  ;D

What about this spreadsheet????

I hope this one works for you.

That is a very attractive and detailed writing spreadsheet. I would like to use it but I have little experience with Excel. How do I go about changing the start date to today, and having all the other date references (days left in year etc.) reflect the the update?

It is a terrific looking spreadsheet for sure.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What do people's numbers look like in Canada?
« on: November 09, 2014, 10:07:11 am »

Most Canadians use the .com site to download their books.

I don't believe so. Amazon forced a switch over for ebooks on .com to the .ca site several months ago. If you have a Canadian registered Amazon account (credit card/address) then you can only buy an ebook on the .ca site. I believe there are ways around this but I haven't tried any, and I doubt that any significant part of the Canadian Amazon buying public would have either. I generally shop on the .com site, then click on the "From Canada?" blurb and complete the purchase on .ca. Apart from currency fluctuations, the prices are the same.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Anyone dictate their stories?
« on: November 04, 2014, 09:25:46 am »
I dictate all sorts of stuff all day long. I do a lot of non-fiction, although the lure of fiction is encroaching, and I tend to dictate my impressions of places I am at for inclusion in a planned piece, outlines for blog posts, the contents of full emails, extended article outlines or fiction concepts, as well as extended monologues on the human condition meant for my daily journal and nowhere else.

I use either an Olympus hand held recorder or more and more, the Skyro Pro voice recorder app for Android. It has the most useful feature or being able to immediately send the recordings to Dropbox or Soundcloud, and possibly other Cloud services, which makes accessing the recordings quite convenient. The advantage of a phone app is that you can be babbling into it and no one will give you a second glance because it looks like you are having a phone conversation. But holding a voice recorder in front of your face attracts attention.

I import the files directly to Dragon NaturallySpeaking and it does a not too bad job of transcribing them. There are times when DNS does a wonderfully bizarre job of mangling words, syntax, and grammar but it is no trick for me to go through the raw output in Scrivener, or anything else, and do a quick edit. No matter how mangled, I can always reconstruct the text because or course, I said it in the first place.

As others have mentioned, it takes some practice to be able to think, record, and walk all at the same time. (Do not try this technique while driving -- it is very dangerous, very dangerous indeed)

But the practice does not take long and rather quickly you will find yourself being able to lay out quite extended and complex pieces of writing.

Some people have commented about the unnaturalness or having to speak punctuation. I know what you mean but in the beginning you can make life easier for yourself by using just one command, Newline whenever you hit a pause in your thinking and DNS will start the next sentence on a new line, or in a new paragraph. Add in the Period and Comma etc commands later after you are more used to the process. Normal manual editing will catch everything you forget so don't fret. You could just allow DNS to print everything in one long long sentence and you would still easily be able to fix it later.

Unless you have lots of experience you are never going to produce finished copy using this technique anyway so don't bother worrying about it.

The best proponent of using dictation to write is Kevin J Anderson, who if you are not familiar with, is one of the major science fiction writers of our time.

He goes for extended mountain hikes and dictates entire science fiction novels. He recently wrote up his technique for Kobo Writing Life

As I say, Dragon NaturallySpeaking does a credible job of importing and transcribing audio files once you have trained it to your voice. But it performs poorly when there is extraneous noise on the recording, such as car road noise (don't record and drive), wind, other people etc.

I personally would never bother using DNS to edit anything. My fingers and wrists are free of carpal tunnel and I can edit a hundred times faster manually than through DNS.

I also don't use it for drafting on my office machines, mainly because I cannot make the essential break between drafting and editing. There is something about DNS that makes me immediately want to correct something, or edit, before I have finished the first run through.

I was trained many years ago as a tight deadline reporter. My first editor (yes of course he was a cigar smoking drunk) was fond of saying, "Just give me the story kid. Vomit into the typewriter, we'll clean it up in edit." And I have carried on the same way since.

Just get the story out, polish the shiny bits later.

If you are thinking of buying Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I highly recommend that you have a look at the many one and two star reviews on Amazon. Not only does the company not bother fixing program bugs from previous versions (the Mac version, which I also have in addition to the Windows version, is particularly bad in this regard) but, the company's customer service appears to be shockingly poor. Your mileage may vary. Just be careful before spending the money.

Writers' Cafe / Re: When you think you've had a bad day, think of this...
« on: October 29, 2014, 02:38:02 pm »
Do you have automatic backups turned on in MSWord?

There may also be some other ways to recover all or part of the file. Check out this MSWord support article

Writers' Cafe / Re: How do I love Scrivener? Let me count the ways...
« on: October 27, 2014, 11:03:30 am »
Yes, I bought a $2,000 computer to run a $40 piece of software.

I did almost the same thing. I specifically spent 2K$ so I could run Scrivener, as well as Adobe Lightroom.

I keep the Scrivener project files on Dropbox so I can access them from the MBPro, my Windows Desktops, and with some kludging also on my Android phone + wireless keyboard.

I was probably at full efficiency on the MBPro within a day. And although I expected to be thrown by the differences in the two operating systems it never happened. I never get confused between the Mac and the Window machines.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Editing Software
« on: October 26, 2014, 10:53:21 am »
I want to try Serenity, but apparently I downloaded it in a previous life and never got around to trying it, thus my ten day trial expired sometime back around the Pliocene era.

I'd suggest contacting the program's author. I had a minor support issue that resulted in a long, detailed, and supportive response well beyond what I expected. Contact Serenity and explain the situation and ask politely if you could have another go at the Trial. Another thing to try is a complete uninstall and reinstall of the Trial version.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Editing Software
« on: October 26, 2014, 09:50:19 am »
I have tried a lot of the programs out there and for the most part I consider them to be junk.

The exception being, Serenity Editor. In my opinion it is a powerhouse of a style and grammar checker. It is available as a stand alone program or with an optional Word addin. I use the addin and it does a nice job of digging out writing absurdities.

But a caution; you need to read the manual.

It works differently, or in a different style, from all other Windows programs and until you understand what the manual is saying you will be perplexed. Serenity Editor is not available for the Mac and I haven't tried any Windows emulators to see if I can get it to run, but I work indiscriminately on both platforms so it doesn't matter to me.

Another tool that impresses me is another Word addin by the name of MyWriterTools. I bought it years ago and I don't know if it is still available but I use it every day. MyWriterTools is a collection of modules in Word that does such things as, convert UK usage to US and vice versa, check for cliches, find long sentences and words, hunt for adverbs, correct punctuation (end of sentence, quotes etc), and some other stuff.

Correction: I just googled MyWriterTools and discovered that there is a new version out that works on both platforms and among other things, supports Scrivener files.

Addendum Just noticed that the upgrade is for MyWordCount which has some of the features of MyWriterTools and which I also have and somehow confused with the latter.

I do not like Grammarly at all. In my opinion it is a dreadful piece of work. I have a current annual subscription which allows me to use the Word addin. But it just does not do a very good job. I detest above all, its insistence that every conjunction requires a comma. And there are other inaccuracies that make me wonder about the people who put it together. There is no Mac version. There is a limited web version that can be used.

Because I have a current subscription I keep it on my machines and only use it as a final check, but that generally is a waste of my time.

Personally I would say avoid.

As for why use a grammar/style checker? Well, all of my non-fiction is destined for media outlets that have editorial desks or through my contract editor to business clients. I would no more send a manuscript full of basic mistakes and flubs to a professional editor than I would go to a doctor without bathing and wearing clean clothes.

I also edit other peoples' work and I can tell you that when I get a piece that has not been run through grammar, spell, and style checking the final price I charge can be up to 30 or 40 percent higher due to the added and unnecessary work.

There is one other tool that I consider indispensable in my non-fiction work; an open copy of the Chicago Manual of Style next to the keyboard.

I am well aware that Sod's Law is in full effect when writing about grammar so I fully expect that this note is properly infected

Um....... No. Midnight in the Marine Corps, and I would assume all branches was 0000, not 2400. I think in the Army they would say, "Zero hundred hours." In the Corps, it's just, "Zero hundred."

There is an international standard (ISO 8601)  that governs how time is formatted and expressed. It specifically allows the use of 0000hrs and 2400hrs as designators for midnight.

Midnight is a special case and may be referred to as either "00:00" or "24:00". The notation "00:00" is used at the beginning of a calendar day and is the more frequently used. At the end of a day use "24:00".

In real world practice, in both international broadcasting and while working alongside several NATO military forces in conflict areas, I have heard and used both. There is simply no confusing what either 0000 or 2400 means. Although, it is always possible to turn any such hair splitting terminology into a bar argument.

And in that vein of pointless argument, let me refer to the correspondence manual for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps which specifically avoids the use of 0000 . . . .

SECNAV Manual M-5216.5
March 2010
15.  Expressing Military Time.  Express military time in four digits based on the 24-hour clock.
The time range is 0001 to 2400. The first two digits are the hour after midnight and the last two
digits are the minutes.  Do not use a colon to separate the hour from the minutes.

As a former Canadian military pilot, and current civilian pilot, I note that both 2400 and 0000hrs GMT are used interchangeably. But again, it really doesn't matter because it is clear that both mean the same thing.

Sorry for the digression in this thread, I got carried away by the fact that this is one of the few things I actually know about.


Writers' Cafe / Re: Ok first time ever doing a promo video.
« on: October 01, 2014, 03:08:34 pm »
I can appreciate the work that went into this, but I believe that you allowed your excitement to rush you into publishing the video. The concept is good; the execution flawed.

There are spelling, grammar, and stylistic mistakes in your intro, and in the video.

Clearly, you did not have it edited or proofed. It reflects poorly on your book.


Writers' Cafe / Re: Writing a press release?
« on: September 30, 2014, 03:02:08 pm »
Hello Rue,

There are lots of resources on the web about press/news releases. It's quite simple, especially for someone such as yourself, an author and all.

Before hiring someone to do it for you, why not spend a couple of hours trying it yourself? I have an article on my main webpage page called "How to Write a Press Release" that you could have a look at, but there are probably hundreds if not more, similar web articles out there.


Writers' Cafe / Re: Let's talk Audio books
« on: September 27, 2014, 01:32:00 pm »
"What noise floor are you getting to in your recordings? You "need to" get below -60dB without using a noise gate and that can be a challenge in terms of quieting your recording space."

Not sure what you mean by this.  I'm using a quality cardioid mic and it doesn't pick up much background noise. Sounds very pleasant on play back. I'm not even getting any popping P's even without a guard. I assume that once I have it all edited I'll be able to set levels for the final output.

If I may jump in here to help a bit, sorry if it is intrusive.

The Noise Floor in a recording is the product of every bit of audio noise that is generated before you start recording the main performance, in your case, the human voice. All recording systems produce noise and the goal of every recording technician and producer is to reduce the noise as much as possible, even to the point of never ending noise suppression obsession.

Obvious sources such as fans, fluorescent lights, and air conditioners are straightforward to deal with. But the workings of all of the electronic equipment also produces noise, so too does far off traffic that you are unconsciously aware of, a solitary crow five houses down, the very slightest wheeze your sleeping cat makes in the studio. Just the increased heat generated by your computer which you have now covered with a blanket to quiet the fan pumps noise into the recording.

The advice to get it to a maximum of -60 dBu is very good and you should strive for that as a goal to be bettered. Professional recording studios fight their way down to -90 dBu and many a bar bet has been won and lost over who could do better.

Plug in all the equipment you will be using, turn on the mic, lights, etc and so on and let the software record several minutes of the so-called silence in your booth. Do not try to use noise limiters, plugins etc at this stage.

Analyze that recording and go noise hunting.

During the final mix you may want to run some noise gates in the pauses, or even go right into the wave-form and delete the noise during the pauses. (This extra work is why recordings are so very expensive to produce and intensely stress producing.)

As mentioned, the ACX site has some excellent tutorials and recording lessons. In addition there is an amazing amount of professional audio advice on the net.

A final point about noise. You know how there will always be a typo in your book that has escaped 8 beta readers, three editors, and a thousand readers only to be picked up by a particularly nasty typo nazi? Well, the same thing exists in the audio world, and I guarantee that outside listeners will hear stuff in your recording that you would have bet big money was not there.

(Source: many years as a producer, director, performer in TV & Radio recording studios - but never an actual audio engineer)


Writers' Cafe / Re: The Spreadsheet that Keeps Me Motivated
« on: September 17, 2014, 11:36:50 am »
Thanks for going to that trouble Matt. Very nice.


Writers' Cafe / Re: Alphasmart
« on: September 12, 2014, 10:24:46 am »
I'm wondering whether your double-space problem could be solved by placing the cursor on the right-hand side of the space that follows the word you want to delete, before you hit Shift-Option-Left Arrow. Then you would be deleting both the word and the space after it.

Yes, I noticed that as well. It does work, but either way it is a bit fiddly.

However, this is a very minor problem and the only thing it serves is to point out how very well designed the Neo2 is overall. If the only thing I can find to complain about is an inconsequential fault in the delete word function then that is high praise for the machine itself.

Thanks for your help.

Rick Grant

Writers' Cafe / Re: Alphasmart
« on: September 08, 2014, 02:39:22 pm »
You can select the word to the left of the cursor by pressing Shift-Option-Left Arrow, and then delete it either with "Delete" or "Backspace".

Thank you very much. But oddly, both delete and backspace insert a space while taking out the word so it helps to remember to put in a second backspace/delete. It is still a useful command and I appreciate your help

Writers' Cafe / Re: Alphasmart
« on: September 08, 2014, 09:10:08 am »
Does anyone know whether there is a keyboard command with AlphaWord on a Neo2 to delete the word either directly to the left of a cursor, or the word the cursor is on?

I am running AlphaWord 3.4 and the NEO was firmware upgraded through Neo Manager 3.9.3 on a PC

Writers' Cafe / Re: Let's talk Audio books
« on: September 03, 2014, 01:39:49 pm »

If I've learned anything from this exercise, it is that before publishing an e-book or print edition, I should read the whole thing out loud to myself as if narrating it.

That is one of the most productive things you can do with your time during the revision and editing process.

I live in the journalistic/non-fiction world. Reading one's own work out loud, whether it be destined for print, radio, or television is a standard and never neglected step. It might seem to be a huge time sink but as you have likely discovered, it pays huge dividends. You can take it one further step if you like, and I recommend that you do; have it read by a good text to speech engine. Text-speech engines are available for just about every device out there and the quality is very good. Some are excellent. (You can safely save up to 30% of your time doing this by having the speech engine speed up its reading, and without altering voice pitch.)

I noted the comments earlier in this thread about some not liking the sound of their own voices. I have spent many years working in broadcast journalism and I have been in studio for many a new reporter's first few goes in front of the microphone. All, every one of them, myself included when I started, cringed and shrank upon hearing ourselves as others hear us.

But ask yourself this; has anyone ever remarked that you sound like a half strangled parrot, or a mumbling cave dweller? Nope, they haven't. With few exceptions we all sound pretty good to each other.

That said, there are many techniques for improving how you sound in front of a microphone and unless you are a natural in the studio you are probably going to have to learn some of them.

While writing this I followed an earlier link here to and did some exploring. There is a very impressive and professional series of tutorials and lessons on how to do your own recording. I really cannot add much to it because it is very good indeed so you might want to check it out.

But there is one thing that I believe would really make life much easier for the DIY audiobook maker. Find someone to sit on the other side of the studio glass to act as a combined audio engineer and producer. A second set of ears will save you hours of re-recording of mistakes you didn't pick up during the recording, correcting pronunciations, and having to redo a whole session because your phone was too close to the microphone and fed a buzz into the audio stream. A producer cum audio technician also frees you from the technology and allows you to concentrate on the script.

And one final point if I may. Others have touched on this, but, there is an immense amount of physical work involved in audio recording. Long sessions are punishing. Just a one hour session can leave you drained for the day.

And that one hour will not be one hour in the finished audiobook.

Over the years of producing hour long and more documentaries I have found that it will take a professional sound studio with a producer and an audio engineer about two hours of raw recording with a narrator to produce one hour of unedited narration. It will then take another two or even three hours to edit together the various takes, rerecord sections, balance sound levels, and then mix to a final take. An individual who does not have the experience and training will take much much longer to get that one hour.

A lot of standard mysteries and thrillers clock in around 10 or 12 hours, and more. So, you are looking at weeks of heavy work.

But if you like it, can commit to meticulous production standards, and can physically take the strain, then by all means do it. Many, many people have.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Best portable device for writing?
« on: July 23, 2014, 07:04:54 pm »
Here is another strong vote for the AlphaSmart Neo. For me, it is an incredible machine for writing raw text in a no distraction environment. Apart from a word count and a spell checker there really is not much in a Neo to divert me from pure first draft writing.

All of my work is journalistic and non-fiction so I am mobile a great deal. So, I also use a variety of other devices.

My most used mobile device is a Nexus 4 phone connected to a bluetooth wireless folding keyboard. It is a small setup that can be tucked away into a pocket in seconds and just as quickly pulled out at a coffee shop table. Everything gets sent to the cloud so I can deal with it later on a desktop.

But the Nexus, as well as my iPad and Asus tablets, are useless in any kind of sunlight. That goes for my laptop as well.

The Neo however, is easily readable in bright sunlight, even when wearing sunglasses, and that pleases me greatly.

AlphaSmart targeted schools as their main customer base. I think that had the company also touted the Neo's benefits to writers it might still be making devices.


I wonder whether anyone can give me some advice about using b&w line drawings in an Epub manuscript.

They would be jpeg images of line drawings with file sizes of 150kb or less each

I have a non-fiction template from bookdesigntemplates that makes image insertion straightforward. But how to I size or place then so they fit on the most common types of ereaders and mobile readers? How do I avoid having them split over more than one page or scroll past the margins?

Is there a recommended dimension?

Is there an epub book anywhere for sale that does a good job of using line drawings such as maps, sketch work, etc., that I could buy to have a look at as an example of how it should be done?

Thank you


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