11 July 2011

Temporary insanity? Sure.. why not?

The Android writing app is on indefinite hold. After a little investigation and prototyping, I've come to the conclusion I was suffering from a bout of self-induced temporary insanity. There is absolutely no way I can write a tablet app on top of writing the sequel to Patriot and outlining my zombie novella (Air: Elements of The Undead in case you're wondering...) Maybe I bumped my head while I was sleeping or something.. anyway - crazy idea. Now it's dead. As a stopgap, I've purchased a copy of Documents To Go by DataViz. It's good enough for my purposes. It can sync with DropBox. It has word count. It lets me write on the tablet, which was the goal all along.

Aside from my little programming diversion, I've been writing pretty much every day. The first draft of Pressed sits at a little over 32K words as of this morning. I like most of it...I think. More on that later...

03 July 2011

A side project that uses my day-job skills

As an author and a lifelong technology freak, I'm always on the lookout for new and better (and sometimes just geekier) ways to write my stories. I wrote my first book using OpenOffice on an old 64 bit eMachines laptop running SUSE Linux. It was painful, but I was determined to make it work. And I did, but I learned an important lesson in the process : when writing, your tools should get out of the way so you can focus on the story.

I took this lesson to heart and promptly replaced the eMachines box with a shiny new white plastic MacBook. This was in early 2006, right after Apple had switched to Intel. I wrote Self Arrest on the Macbook, as well as the first draft of The Patriot Paradox. I loved that computer. It was easy to use, fast for the day, and best of all, it ran Scrivener. If you haven't heard of Scrivener yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It's hands-down the best writing software available. I won't say anything else about it here, other than it's worth evaluating if you're sick of your current tools (or if you're just starting out). And as a bonus, there's now a beta version available for the PC.

Which brings us to the next step in my technical evolution. I left the Mac world and went back to a PC. Why in the world would you do this? I'm sure you're asking. Well - reality intruded. I needed a more powerful laptop and I couldn't afford a new Mac at the time. I scoured the PC market (eBay) and discovered the wonderful benefits (and value) of a lightly-used Lenovo X200. With a twelve inch screen, 4GB of RAM, and an SSD, it was $500 cheaper than the MacBook I wanted, with all of the power and durability. But it didn't run Scrivener. For the brief period when Scrivener only existed on the Mac, I used a writing program called PageFour. Not as sexy, but it did the job.

I wrote the first draft of Fire: Elements of The Undead using PageFour, but this past winter, when the first beta of Scrivener became available, I switched over.

I thought I had reached nirvana. I had a lightweight (~3.5lbs), durable, fast laptop that ran Scrivener. I wasn't beholden to the Apple machine anymore. But then, just a few weeks ago, I picked up a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Weighing in at a svelte 1.25 lbs, the tablet is almost two full pounds lighter than my laptop. The only problem is, there's no good writing software for this beast. I've downloaded countless text editors - some free, some pay. I even bought a copy of QuickOffice. It works. Mostly. But it's overkill. What I really want is something like Q10 or full-screen Scrivener mode, something that will let me bang out a scene or two when I'm on my lunch break, and let me worry about formatting later.

So... I'm going to write one. Somehow, in between books. Last night, after I finished my daily 1500 words for Pressed (the sequel to The Patriot Paradox), I installed the Android SDK, Eclipse Indigo, and the latest JDK on my trusty Lenovo. I also ordered a book on Android development since the last time I dabbled with it was in version 1.5.

My feature list is simple:
  • Full screen, distraction-free writing
  • Word count displayed at all times
  • A configurable writing session timer
  • Automatic and configurable file saves (just in case)
  • User-configurable screen and text colors
  • No-Delete mode (I borrowed this one from jDarkRoom)
  • Ability to save files locally as well as full integration with DropBox and SpiderOak
This tool won't replace a full-featured suite like Scrivener, PageFour, or MS Office. That's not my goal. Maybe, just maybe though, I'll reach a new level of portable techno-writing enlightenment.. until the next cool gadget comes along..