Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


NaNoWriMo Prep – Templates and Worksheets

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Trying to get all your ideas and characters organized for National Novel Writing Month? I can help!

It may not always be obvious, especially to those closest to me, but I love being organized. What’s probably more obvious is that I played a lot of role-playing games growing up. I think it’s safe to say almost every hopeful writer or professional geek my age or younger played Dungeons and Dragons, or something similar. But, for me, the best part of that was always before the game started when we were making characters and filling out their character record sheets. I absolutely loved thinking about all the things they might buy at the market for use in surviving their adventures. And, along with that, describing their looks, their clothes, their family relationships and other background details. Not everyone did all of that, but, like I mentioned, it was just about my most favorite part. And, now, it’s one of my favorite parts of writing. Unfortunately, it can also become one of my favorite distractions from actually writing. Don’t let that happen to you! But, also, as you’re planning your novel, it’s good to try and think about who’s going to be in it, what they’re going to do and where they’re going to do it. So, toward that end, I’ve got some, hopefully, fun novel planning worksheets, or “printables” as the fancy kids call them these days, for you.
First, from the All Freelance Writing website, I’ve got an article by Jennifer Mattern which collects her favorite Novel Planning Tools and Worksheets. It’s a short list, but it’s also a great place to start if you’re just looking for the bare minimums to get you started.
Much more complete is the list of links gathered by Eva Deverell in her Creative Writing Worksheets post. Frankly, it’s a pretty complete list and you could stop there without worrying about missing out on anything, even if you do have to chase them to all their respective sites.
If you’re a more visual guy, like me, then maybe you should try this collection of “pins” at Pinterest titled “Novel Writing Worksheets”. It’s got a lot of “printables” besides the planning worksheets that might help, especially if you find yourself needing a little help creatively in a crunch.
My personal favorite, however, is the group of Evernote templates for planning your novel (or story) at the Evernote blog. I’m 99% sure I’ve mentioned these before, but they’ve updated them and added a few. If you use Evernote to plan and organize any other aspect of your life, I highly recommend that you take a look at these templates. They’re really well done and should cover any creative writing need. Seriously.

The next question is, of course, what are you going to use to actually write your novel?
If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format. If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead. It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer. And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo. And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator. I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.

For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text. I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools. I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs. I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one. Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level. So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers. Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.

This post originally appeared at the Fantasist’s Scroll.


Review: Rainbows End

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,GUI Center,News and Current Events,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I finished Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge last week.

There’s a reason Rainbows End was awarded the Hugo for Best Novel in 2007. It is, to put it simply, a great book. There were parts that got a little slow for me, but, over all, it was a great piece of work. Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that I knew Vernor Vinge taught Computer Science and that the book had won the award. That is why I got it to read, after all.

The story follows one Robert Gu, a famous poet who’s fallen victim to Alzheimer’s Disease, as he’s cured and reintegrates into society.  The “down side” of his cure is that he’s lost the miracle of his poetry.  Somehow, whatever the cure does to fix the dementia alters Robert’s brain in such a way that he is no longer the man he used to be.  And, he’d do just about anything to get that magic back.  The story also follows Robert’s son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter as they deal with his regained ability to interact with the world.  The twist comes in with the fact that his son, Bob, and daughter-in-law, Alice, are in the military as part of the group who keeps America, and the world, safe from terrorists of all stripes.  International spies find a way to use Robert’s desire for regaining his poetic skills to get inside Bob and Alice’s command.  Their goal is somewhat less clear, but it involves a plot to manipulate the minds of the unsuspecting world public to “improve” everyone’s way of life.  Of course, things rarely work out the way anyone intends.

Well, as you can imagine, there are some very good reasons this won the Hugo for 2007.  It is a very good book.  I got a little distracted in the middle when life got a little strange, but, for the most part, the plot moved along at a good pace and always had something interesting to offer.  One of the attractions for me was the view of future computer technology that Vinge describes in this book.  His concept of wearable computers that are partially integrated into clothing and contacts seems like a logical step from where scientists are experimenting today.  Vinge presents this, and all the hard science-fiction in this book, in a realistic, no-nonsense way that makes it all seem very plausible.
He also draws some believable characters who’s actions are logical and reasonable given their motivation and the circumstances.  I can easily see myself doing some of the same things these characters do, both good and bad.

In short, if you enjoy science-fiction, there’s plenty to enjoy in Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge.  Definitely a change for me, but a good one which I heartily recommend.

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