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Friday, December 31, 2010

F3 New Year

     She watched as they all scurried about in their preparations. The anniversary of the planet swinging around the star meant nothing to her, and it baffled her as to why they insisted that the event was noteworthy. A picture of an old magazine cover served as the inspiration for the festivities showing a baby in a top hat of all things. Pure foolishness.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Writing Tools: Make Capslock Useful

     There is one key that has been a perpetual bane on the modern keyboard. It's usefulness is so limited as to be laughable, and it's usefulness is really only a momentary convenience. In all of the writing I've done, and all the reading I've done, I've never really found a use for the Capslock key. It just sits there on the edge of the keyboard taking up useful space. I'm more likely to hold onto the shift key to type out capitals. Finally, though, there is a solution.
     I introduce you to Autohotkey a wonderful little scripting tool which can, among many things, remap keys on the keyboard. No, it does not take a degree in programming to use this program. In fact, I'm going to just give you the script I use to remap capslock to something useful.
     My script remaps capslock to become CTRL+I, which turns on italics in all major word processing programs, a typeface I find infinitely more useful in writing than all capital letters. Change the I to a U or a B, and it becomes underline or bold, respectively. More than that, I still have a way to enable the Capslock mode by holding down the shift key, then hitting Capslock. to turn Capslock off again, I repeat with shift and Capslock.
     To use the script, simply download the program from the link above, open up notepad, and copy the following two lines into it, and save the file as filename.ahk (the extension is important).


     And that's all there is to it. The possibilities are endless with Autohotkey, and several sites post up their own scripts for users to download and use. I've got another one that lets me put in the nice little indents to my blog paragraphs, but that's next week.
     For more information on Autohotkey, here is a nice little write up about it on Lifehacker (a favorite site of mine).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

F3 Christmas Miracle

     The bitterly cold night was calm. Down in the trench someone tried to get a small fire going in a rusted tin in an effort to keep frostbite at bay. The only good thing about the cold tonight was that the mud had frozen solid, and our boots no longer soaked. The threat of frostbitten toes replaced trench foot, but it was a welcome trade.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writing Tools: Dropbox

     There's nothing quite so terrifying to a writer (at least to me) as the following phrase: Hard disk failure. Data death is not something that a book can realistically recover from. That 100,000 word manuscript can disappear in an instant, and even if you perform a back up, when was the last time you did that? A month, two, six? It's imperative for writers to have a fast, simple way to regularly back up their writing, else they will be wont to commit Hari Kari after ritualistically bludgeoning the remains of their computer with an aluminum baseball bat.
     For all the paranoid writers out there, I give you dropbox. Dropbox is a simple, fast, and free (up to 2gb, more than enough for even prolific writers) online file synchronization tool. What this means for writers is that, as long as you are connected online, your documents will automatically update themselves to dropbox's servers as soon as you're done working on it. Even if you're not connected, dropbox will wait until you are, and then synchronize them, without you needing to remember to tell it to do so.
     This means there's always a copy available to you online, securely backed up on Dropbox's servers. The site is secure, using encryption that rivals that of banks. Of course, the feature I like most is that I can use multiple computers and have it sync the files between all of them without eany effort. I can take my netbook out to the coffee shop, write something, bring it back, and the files were automatically updated over wi-fi on my home computer. I can open it and resume writing where I left off.
     Now, there are other services such as this, but some of them are overly technical, are not free, or simply a pain to use. A simple search for online file sync should turn up many different services you could try, but I throw my weight behind dropbox for its ease of use. I've been using it for 3 years, and it's really saved my bacon a number of times, and I have never lost a hard drive in that time.
     So, writers, I encourage you to go check out dropbox and see if it's for you. If you use the link below, you'll get an extra 250mb for free. One more tip: Complete their online tutorial and get another 250mb for free.
     One last thing. Those file folder locations from last week with the autosave? You want to make sure that those save folders point somewhere in your dropbox folder. Get out of the habit of saving everything in just the 'my documents' folder, and pipe it into some place useful, such as a documents folder inside of your dropbox folder.
     Dropbox sign-up link:
     Dropbox information:

Friday, December 17, 2010

F3 Last Dance

     Oh, God! Carol! She lay there just out of his reach. He couldn't see her face, but the position she fell in did not seem natural, did not seem as if a body could lay that way without injury.
     I'm coming, Carol. Isaac tried. He really did try, but his body did not respond, He lay on the floor as well, and willed his body to motion, but he made no real progress. His hand stretched out, grasping at carpet fibers but he lacked the strength to even pull himself along the floor.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writing Tools: Autosave

     Writers fear losing their work. It's a given. Having a word processor freeze up or a computer crash while in the middle of a hot writing streak is a knife to the heart. We simply can't recreate what was written before. However, all is not lost as one of the best tools for writers is under their very noses.
     All word processors these days are equipped with an autosave or autorecover option (at least ones worth their salt). As I am a more mainstream word processor instead of the new options such as Scrivener or Liquid Story Binder, I'm stinking to only platforms I use: WordPerfect and Word.
     By default, the time limit on an autosave or autorecover is listed at 10 minutes. However, ten minutes, on a really good day, could mean pages of a novel between saves. Fortunately, that ten minute time limit can be brought down to 1 minute (the absolute minimum as I've tried decimals and the program pitches a fit).
     For you Word users out there---despite the awesome superiority of WordPerfect! (end soapbox)---finding the actual location of the autosave depends on which version of the program. In the more recent 2007 or 2010, it's buried in Word's options Office Button > Word Options (2007) or File tab > Word Options, and the screen looks something like this:

     Simply change the time from the default 10 minutes to the much less scary 1 minute time. And that's it. All work is automatically saved every minute.
     For the people who have older versions of Word the autosave is buried under Tools > Options.
     For my WordPerfect peeps (Represent!) it's under Tools > Settings > Files, and basically is the same process.
     Now, lastly, you'll notice in the picture that there are file locations which I've blanked out. These are important to keep in mind for next week's tip. We'll be doing something special with them.

Friday, December 10, 2010

F3 Winter Finery

     My breath came out in crystalline clouds that soon ghosted into nothingness, the only sign of movement in these trees. The only sounds belonged to me as a boot scrunched the snow down. This brought back memories.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writing Tools

     Writing tools will be a new feature I put up here, and I'm going to do my best to make it a weekly feature, either every Monday or Wednesday. I'm something of a nerd (okay, more than something) and I realize that I have talents in areas that I have re-purposed towards writing, and I should share them with web o'sphere. So I'll post up blurbs about software, word processor configurations, lines of code, and other bits that have helped me in my writing. Hopefully some people will find this helpful to their writing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Agents Rule

     I recently delivered a workshop to a bunch of creative writing students at the college I work for about how to get published---I still feel odd about it seeing as I have not yet been published. Yet. Yet. In this workshop I I somewhat surprised myself by devoting ~90% of it to the priority and importance of obtaining an agent.*
     Now, I don't know anyone personally who has an agent. My personal contacts in the publishing world would not impress anyone (I do hope to change this). I do, however, know people in a local writing group who are all about the self-publishing. They sit there and encourage me to do it, too. "Release your novel online via your blog. Put it up through Amazon. You'll get numbers and eventually you'll attract an agent and a publisher. Meanwhile you'll get your writing out there. Record your own audiobooks and distribute them." For some it's a siren lure. It's not for me.
     I think I know just enough about the publishing world to know I don't know nearly enough, but that's fine. Agents do. I'm a writer, and while some people think they can and should do it all, I don't. I know where my strengths and my talents lie, and I will play to those. I will work on honing my craft, coming up with new stories, characters, and worlds instead of split my efforts. I know that I'll obtain an agent some day, and get to see my books on the shelves of the Big Box Bookstores.

*I received no money by agents for this post, and no agents were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Friday, December 3, 2010

F3 Calligraphy

     Calligraphy had always been his passion. The smell of old parchment, the way it crinkled and curled. The thick feel of vellum between fingertips, but most of all was the elegant curves of the perfect fountain pen. Sharp nibs that left a fine line on the page and a skritching sound that recalled ancient writers, how writing should be done. Each stroke of the pen deliberate, quick, and irrevocable. The stroke could not be recalled, undone. The mark left on the page was indelible. The pen did more than leave ink, but dug into the page etching it permanently with the author's words and passions.
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