Doing “Writerly” Things

I’m back. Did you miss me? You probably thought I gave up on blogging.

With all deference to Kristen Lamb, who has taught me, “Blog several times a week”, I’m guilty and I have no excuse. I allowed myself to get ensnarled in a myriad of projects, anything but writing.

I thought that if I wasn’t going to write, I could do other “Writerly” type things.

What kind of things? Oh, you know–er–um.

  • Take out the trash
  • Buy a new battery for my Dana
  • Build a new website or
  • Improve the present site

The following item provided a push: I got an email from GoDaddy telling me that my Hosting fees were coming due. I was paying for hosting fees on both my website and my blog, and I thought

“Hey, this looks like the perfect time to eliminate my website and move it to my blog. That shouldn’t be too difficult for a techie like me.”

 

In my early days before the dawn of the PC I had worked as a programmer using Assembler language for the S360. I must have done a fairly good job as I was paid well.

 

Having said that, I sadly confess, (hides face in shame  and murmurs) “I am totally inept at WebPages”.

You ask, “Why”.

(Said in total FRUSTRATION)! “Because, I have no CONTROL!

At my age CONTROL becomes very important. My wife wants to CONTROL me; the government wants to CONTROL me. You have to fight for every last thing that YOU could possibly CONTROL, and I can’t even CONTROL where a picture is going to be placed.

I insert the cursor at the point where the picture should reside, I Insert image; it appears, filling the entire page. Oh well I can handle that. With great skill, I shrink the image to the desired size, yes that looks good.

No, I want it a little closer or farther from the text, it doesn’t matter which. The damn picture won’t move!

After throwing a minor tantrum, I realize that I have not activated text-wrap and therefore the picture is locked in position, I change the setting and move the picture to the spot where I want it. Success

 

So now I have a Word document to copy to my Blog site. I do a Copy and Paste from Word to WordPress.

Looks pretty good but where are the pictures. Oh right, I have to Insert them, No you can’t Copy and Paste them.

Okay, I find the jpegs and upload them to WordPress and then insert them into my Page/Post. The picture magically appears–but it’s not where I want it. I try moving it, nudging it, backspacing it, nothing works—-I go to edit the picture to see if I can set the location. Oh, yes there it is, Left, Center, Right.

How about 1/8 inch to the right of the text?

What do you mean I can’t do that! I used to manipulate individual Bits of a Byte, and you’re telling me I can’t do that. Programmers can do anything!

(With profuse apologies you say), “I didn’t realize that you had this extensive technical background; you can do anything you want using CSS.

What the Hell is CSS? Oh it’s another language like HTML, XML, Java, and Pearl?

Languages, what kind of languages are those? What happened to Autocoder, Assembler, Cobol, and Fortran?

You never heard of those. What’s the world coming to?

Back to your languages, I know where Java is, do they speak Javanese? What about Pearl is that short for Pearl Harbor? I thought they spoke English?

Oh, you say it’s a programming language. Well, I should be able to master that.

I bought a book, WordPress Web Design for Dummies, I looked through it, I slept on it but it wouldn’t sink in. I needed a Rosetta stone to make sense out of this.

I sent a message to my mentor Laird Sapir who suggested a marvelous website W3Schools.com with tutorials and opportunities to practice the lesson. W3Schools.com was a big help.

Armed with my new knowledge I added fonts to my blog, changed font size, changed colors…..

But I still couldn’t place those pictures exactly where I wanted them.

In desperation or frustration over my inability to CONTROL I emailed Laird who readily agreed to help me. I felt an immediate sense of relief the moment I turned the problem over to her. In a week the pages were ready for publication. Her rates were very reasonable and I was very pleased.

 

So here I am writing this blog post to announce the new pages added to my blog site Donald Bueltmann

What do you think of it? Please let me know.

I have now been able to return to my WIP a trilogy about a parallel universe.

So what’s the purpose of all this rambling…?

You have to choose your role in life. Are you a writer, a publisher, a web designer, etc? Do what you excel at and give others a chance to demonstrate their skills.

One of my other mentors Harvey Stanbrough said this on his blog “I’m a Little Annoyed”

I think I’m going to listen to Harvey and remember this last experience and stick to what I know I can do and give others a chance to show what they know.

 

 

The Trials of Self-publishing Part 1

Why Self Publish

The first book I wrote was a travel narrative about a trip through Europe that my son and I took “Fulfillment is a Place”.

It was a fantasy trip, my fantasy, to see all of the places I had always wanted to see. Since my son lived in Columbus OH, the trip was planned over the internet, deciding what we wanted to see vs. what we realistically had the ability to see, the logistics of travel, etc.

We visited Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, Munich, Salzburg, Dachau, Colon, Paris, Monaco, and London. Most of the trip was taken with Euro rail Pass. We visited museums, churches, enjoyed great food and had an unforgettable trip.

I had planned on writing a book when I returned, so we took several cameras, a micro-cassette tape recorder and a note pad.

The trip fulfilled all of my hopes and I returned with a collection of museum books, about 500 photos, 14 cassettes, and a journal full of notes. Now all I had to do was put the book together.

It took about 2 years of research and editing and required a lot of time to review photographs, scan the selected ones, and determine on what pages they would look best.

I attended a presentation at a Senior Citizens computer club meeting given by the owners of a short-run printing firm. They were hoping to appeal to people who wanted to convert their genealogies to books.

This sounded like an ideal way to publish my book. I provided them with my manuscript and photos in digital format and the material I wanted used for a cover.

For $1000 I got 10 hardbound books with removable covers and 75 paperbacks. I was very pleased with the results. I gave the hardcover copies to my family. The paperbacks were mine. I sold about 50 copies at $14.

This is amusing; several years later I googled the title of my book “Fulfillment is a Place” and got a hit on Amazon.

At this time I had not released my book for sale anywhere. The listing on Amazon offered a copy of my book for $150 as a rare 1st edition signed by the author.

Of course it was rare, I only had 75 printed.

What were my advantages in self-publishing?

  • I had total control of the preparation process
  • There was no one to stop production
  • I had control of the number of books printed, I wasn’t stuck with a garage full of books

What were the disadvantages:

  • Since I was the publisher I had to purchase SBN numbers and an SBN barcode scan .
  • This was before the publication of Kristin Lamb’s  book “We Are Not Alone”  WANA; I was alone. I had no one to go to for assistance.

That was my first experience at self-publishing.

What kind of experience did you have?

What are your arguments for or against self-publishing?

I Confess

I Confess:

The title may be a bit radical, but today I’m going to talk about writing or what gets in my way when I write.

Steven Pressfield wrote an excellent book (a must read) titled “The War of Art”. In this book he describes the many things that prevent writers from writing and how to overcome them.

I enjoyed the bookl very much but I don’t think he described my problem.

I can hardly admit this but, I’m addicted to technology, not all technology, primarily the kind related to computers.

Okay, you got me, I’ve got a thing for cars too. But that’s pretty much under control.

How does this addiction manifest itself?

I collect tools, software tools, hardware tools. Tools that will help me in writing.

While searching, reading, looking for the perfect tools. I completely overlook the fact that many of these tools carry a high learning curve. But does that matter, not one bit, its all part of the quest for the perfect tools.

Using tools are not bad in fact many of my tools are excellent. Why else would I have bought them?

Step back and give me some room–I’m going to open the toolbox.

Let’s start with notes and research. I store my research articles, photos, web pages using either Evernote or One Note.

Why do I need both of them? Both programs are very similar, you can clip pages from the internet, type directly into the program, save email, etc.

I think Evernote is easier to work with and more flexible in using stored information.

One Note has an outstanding feature that sometime tips the scale in its favor. The program installs with an included print driver that allows you to copy a large document and “print” (think insert) it into One Note.

One Note comes standard with most of the Microsoft Office packages or it can be purchased through Microsoft. The basic version of Evernote is a free download and comes with a variety of optional packages.

Another tool that I depend on is Writeway Pro. This is a fabulous program designed to literally meet a writer’s dreams. It was designed by a programmer who is married to a writer and it was designed to his wife’s specifications.

You can develop and record the traits and background of your characters, plot your scenes considering location, environment, character actions, and tensions. You can create storyboards, outline, and it includes a full featured word processor.

If you’ve reached one of those spots in your story, you know the spot. Your hero has been driven to go on a quest, who will go with him and why? At this time I turn to a web program called Webspiration, this is a mind plotting program. It allows you to consider alternatives, all of the Hows, Wheres, Whos, Whats, and Whys. Webspiration will develop outlines or charts and instantly coverts from one format to the other. There is a fee for using the program but I think it’s worth it.

 

I use an Alphasmart Dana to write my draft copies. It’s the greatest little gadget for writing. In essence it’s a small computer (1.9”H x 12.4”W x 9.3”D , weight 2Lb) that has a full size keyboard. It’s powered by either a rechargeable battery or 3 AA batteries. It is advertised to have a 30 hour battery life and comes with a charger.

It syncs to another computer through a USB connection. With other included apps it can perform standard PDA functions. It can even be used as an ereader. Due to its compact size it can easily be taken anywhere.

One of its disadvantages is also a big advantage; it can’t access the internet, which means you can concentrate on writing. Isn’t that you’re supposed to do?

I find the screen on the Dana too small to do editing, for that I need my regular desktop or laptop.

 

Speaking of my laptop, I never could get used to using it. The glidepad or whatever controlled the cursor would not behave. While typing I would suddenly find myself in the middle of a previous paragraph, then have to go back and see what chaos I had wreaked and correct it.

I tried changing the sensitivity of the pad but that wouldn’t do it—then I saw an ad in one of the PC magazines for a Swiftpoint mouse. You have to see this mini_mouse to believe it.

Please follow the link; you’ll be glad you did. Swiftpoint

Your book or story is finished and it’s time to edit.There are many books on editing; I must have a dozen of them.

But, in addition I recommend a program called Editor, the program searches for problems using a customized set of criteria. As you would expect it catches spelling errors, in addition it detects errors in grammar and usage, it will identify problems with homophones, and suggest changes that might improve the manuscript. One of the more valuable tools is a word count of the appearance of each word per paragraph or sentence (I’m always amazed at how many times I use the word I in a paragraph. See, I used it three times in the last sentence.

Serenity Software the creator of Editor have made regular updates to the program, one of the more recent improvements adds Editor as a Plugin to Microsoft Word. This improvement allows you to review your word document with the suggested changes highlighted and explanations accessible.

All of these tools are very helpful to any author—as long as they don’t get in the way of your writing.

Tell me about any tools or programs that you have used. Maybe I missed out on something.

Don’t tell me that you use the oldest tools available stone tablet and chisel or tablet and pencil .