Updates: Writing & Writing Tools

Writing Tools: On this site I provided a Microsoft Word macro that I use to quick save documents (automatically date stamp and archiving the old copy). I have made some slight updates to the macro so that it works in Office 2013 (and now also 2017).

Writing: After a false start, revision will now begin on my first novel Vengeance Will Come. There are some significant issues to fix up, not the least is communicating successfully to the reader the intended passage of time. This is made complex because the events occur on multiple non-Earth planets and sometimes scenes last for very short periods during the climax events. More on this later…

The Rebel Queen. Response from my earliest beta reader has been positive. It is intended as a stand-alone book, but is in the same universe with ties to Vengeance Will Come. Revision will probably be queued until after Vengeance Will Come is completed.

There are so many other things I want to write and yet I must be disciplined and finish the existing projects. There might have to be a bit of a juggling act for sanity’s sake though.

Blog Post: I’ve re-released my bio for the early years.

 

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Thanks Microsoft!

So I finally bit the bullet and upgraded to Windows 10; somewhat apprehensively. I was very happy with Windows 7, and so other than no more service packs there was little to entice me.

After discovering the reason why my screen was truncated (AMD Catalyst Controller graphics software) I was relatively happy. I must say it is faster, though I don’t like losing control of when and what it upgrades.

Then I went to use my handy little Microsoft Word tool which automatically date stamps and archives my writing, only to find that it no longer worked.

After a little looking around I discovered that Microsoft had decided I really needed US English to be installed and reset to my default language as part of the upgrade to Windows 10. The Americans, God bless their cotton socks do weird things like Month-Day-Year and this was the cause of the problem.

Partway through planning my angry rant I then realised that this exposed a flaw in my code. So after a little tinkering and some humble pie I have now fixed the code so that it works better, no matter what your date settings are (hopefully).

I find the tool invaluable.

Now, back to actually doing the writing…


 

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The Danger of Visual Cues in Drafting

Author’s note: (Finally I am back online after some network trouble caused by a small and seemingly inconsequential ADSL filter). You may notice my progress bar hasn’t moved on Vengeance Will Come, but that’s because I am in the midst of writing the final 3 chapters!!! Yes, that is entirely deserving of no less than 3 exclamation marks.


In the blog post for today I am going to discuss a possible trap when drafting a story using a visual cue for scene changes.. Hopefully my mistake – shared – will help you avoid it.

Firstly, a home-baked definition:

Scene change: Where the perspective of a story shifts to an alternate character’s viewpoint, location and/or signifies the passing of time.

In the past I have used two different ways of visually showing a scene change.

Option 1

The first is this nice little image (taken from Windings or Webdings and then mirrored). To my artistically challenged self, it was an aesthetically pleasing caligraphy-like symbol.

The downside of this particular approach was I had to centre it each time I added it, and embedding the image repeatedly increased the size of the document. (Not drastically, but still…)

Scene-line2
Option 2

The second method which I have now adopted is to alter a header style in a Word document. This provides 4 benefits:

  1. It provides the visual break (but is on the subtle-side using a lighter grey),
  2. I can also navigate around the chapter by using the navigation pane,
  3. It automatically numbers my scenes which is helpful and saves a lot of time re-numbering all the time when scenes move, and
  4. It allows me to name the scene which I comes in handy for navigation, and I suspect when it’s ready for reviewers to give me feedback.

I think a visual cue to the reader that there has been a scene change is very important, whether it is something this fancy or just a few dashes or additional carriage returns on the page.

Not having ever published before, this is something I am guessing at but who is to say that either of these options is a valid option for publication? I assume that they would be stripped out and at least replaced by something else.

However, visual scene changes are not all innocent and good; there is also a hidden danger in them.

With the visual cue not only does the reader know it’s a scene change, but so to does the author.

Because of that visible scene change, my eyes tend to gloss over the scene change. I know it’s a scene change so I haven’t put as much effort into making it clear with the words than I might otherwise have done. The reader should be able to tell there has been a scene change without the visual cue being so clearly defined.

There are a couple of approaches that I have done to try and make scene changes clearer:

  1. The character actually leave the room at the end of the scene. (I think there is also a danger in over-doing this).
  2. The character has a final thought which points toward a scene-conclusion.
  3. In the first sentence (or two) of a new scene I try to make it clear their has been a change in location, time and whose head the reader ‘in in’.

Do you have any thoughts on scene changes?

Update on Quick-Saving Documents

In Writing Tools I provided a Microsoft Word macro that I use for quick saving documents, which automatically adds a datestamp to the beginning (or end) of the filename with a single click, and moves the old version to another location.

In the original article, I recommended putting the datestamp at the beginning of the file so that files are sorted nicely in the directory by date.

2015-06-19 Vengeance Will Come.docx

This works fine if the entire story is in a single document. However since then I’ve noticed Word tends to struggle a bit when documents grow too big, so I have split my document into chapters.

So now I have an amended recommendation:

If you are using the auto-archiving feature which automatically moves old versions of the document to an alternate location and you have multiple documents per story, then the datestamp works best when at the end of the filename.

Chapter 1 – Vengeance Will Come 2015-06-19.docx

This way it will be ordered nicely by chapter and as auto-archiving moves files you will still only have the latest version of each chapter in the folder.

Quick Save Your Documents

“You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.” Charles Bukowski

Following on in the same vein as my attempt to organise my writing files… After I’ve made the obligatory coffee, how do I first start to write? I open up my writing folder on the computer, and

  1. Copy-and-paste the document, to create a copy.
    datestamped file
  2. As I like to date stamp my writing (in the event of something cataclysmic happening), I then have to rename the file, changing the date at the start (to today’s date) and trim off the “- Copy” at the end.
  3. I then drag the previous (older) version of the file into an archive location, so my directory isn’t full of dozens of duplicates.

It might only take a few seconds, but it is tedious, and time better spent actually writing. No More.

I have created a fairly intelligent macro to do all this boring stuff for me, and now share it with you.

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Tool Tip: Comparing two documents

Microsoft Word has as lot of features: many which the average Word-user wouldn’t have used or known about.

One of these is document comparison. You can load up two documents and see the differences between the documents. (For example, you could use it to compare the first and second draft of The Captive by copying the text into Microsoft Word, saving the documents and then compare).

Helpful instructions can be found in this article (scroll down to the heading “Compare Two Versions of the Same Document”).