Things the modern writer should request…

It is likely that the modern writer will want to:

- publish through amazon. The software should indicate where the 10% line falls in the text – as this is the sample cut-off point.
- write in Markdown. This will enable ebook ready text, quickly.
- rearrange their words. Please make this very easy.
- work with multiple texts. Allow them to import docs and group them accordingly.
- export their work to somewhere safe. Dropbox is perfect.
- word counts
- syntax identifiers and options.

Things a writer does not need:

- Fonts. Just a few simple options is enough.
- formatting tools
- ‘how long it takes to read this’ counters.
- lots of file format saving and importing options: txt and .md is fine.
- colours. Nothing in writing needs colour options, ever.
- images. Writers don’t need them – imagery is someone else’s job.

That’ll do for now. I will have more, eventually.

WordPress 2 step authentication sucks

If, like me, you have enabled WordPress 2-step authentication recently. You, also like me, will be disabling it very, very, soon. 

The first time I had to log back into my site and be faced with these ridiculous ‘codes’ you’re going to regret setting it up. Then you might have to log in to your WordPress iOS app and you’ll be screwed. You won’t be able to get in at all! 

It freaked me out. So now it’s gone, and that wasn’t an easy process either. You have to go here: https://wordpress.com/settings/security/ and click the button to generate a new ‘Application Password’. From there it will be needed to log in to your WordPress iOS app. Do not bother trying to use you regular password – that has now gone!

Good luck – Mark

The Things A Student Will Not Receive By Doing A Degree Course In Creative Writing

Here is a list of things that creative writing students are not getting on their course: 

- Students should work on one story from first year to third year – this will reflect the effort involved and commitment from beginning to end. They currently do not. They try various things in the first year, focus on becoming employable in the second year, and get to focus in the third year. 

- Students should be pushed to write everyday and be marked down accordingly – this will reflect the professionalism needed to consider yourself a writer. Every writer has to learn that writing is a job. You have to work at it everyday. The students are not pushed to do this. Sure they are encouraged, but they should be pressed and marked down if they under perform. Blogging everyday for three months solid is enough to instill a routine in anyone. Peer pressure – a public leader-board – will get students to pull their socks up. 

- Students should be given the rules of writing – they exist: why is the 3 act structure not considered until the third year? Why is plotting not covered until the third year? 

- Students should be given the ‘How’ element of writing. We are given the Why and the What, but How? For that we’re told to use Word and ‘see you next week with a thousand words’. Not good. There are a plethora of ways to write, and write well. The students are not given (in any formal manner) these discoveries from teachers, or told what has proven to work for established writers. 

- If you are a mature student, you are not catered for. Eg: You will be asked to ‘get a job’ multiple times. You will be asked to write a CV multiple times. You will be asked to perform ‘teamwork’ tasks multiple times. As a mature student, you need none of these and it is largely (99%) a waste of your time. 

These are just 5 ideas, and I have more, many, more. 

Getting a degree at 40 is frustrating. 

However, the MA course has a 100% track record of getting people published! What is the percentage for getting BA students published in their chosen course; not as copywriter, or in advertising, but selling fiction? 1%? Appalling. 

InkMark iPad App Review

I have been hunting hard for a good Markdown app and I think I’ve found the best. Here were my requirements:

Must be iOS 7 designed – I didn’t want to be using something that was full of bevelled edges and faux paper panels. I want my editor to be beautiful like the system I’m using. This requirement alone made it very easy to discount many editors. So many of them look like they haven’t been updated for years.

It must do one thing really well – write with Markdown – and not try to do everything. So many tools that I looked at tried to be everything a writer could ever need. With so many features and options, I felt like these apps were bloated and overloaded. I didn’t want that at all. This editor needed to be light and quick to open and type on. Evernote is normally my note taker of choice, so that gives you an idea of what I’m used to.

The typing font must not be ugly – by ugly I mean the Courier font. This is fine if I want to be a coder or write scripts all day, but I don’t. My usual font of choice is Times New Roman because this is the standard font which Agents and Publishers accept. Failing Times New Roman, I just didn’t want to see Courier on my screen – anything else (contemporary) would be fine.

The app must either have good support or regular updates. I don’t want to feel like the developer has created one thing and then moved on to the next project, leaving the app to grow old and die. Therefore, new releases are vital.

Good feedback or lots of promise. Many apps I looked at has lots and lots of reviews, and I read them! Many apps started off well, but then as iOS 7 came along, some of the best apps appeared to struggle to please other buyers. Their feedback was negative and somewhat miffed at the loss of a good app. Failing good feedback, the app should be free and/or have lots of potential.

The app should have export options. Writing on an iPad is never where my words stay – and I don’t always want to publish it somewhere. Therefore, exporting to Dropbox is a must, or Evernote, or Google Drive (in that order). I don’t need a million options, just the basics.

So that is an extensive list! Is it possible one app could deliver all that? Well it appears so. Whilst I was browsing the App Store under the ‘markdown’ search term, I flicked the ‘sort by’ setting over to ‘most recent’ and it was here that I found InkMark.

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InkMark is clean to view (iOS7 designed), does Markdown writing really well, the font isn’t courier (it isn’t Times either, but no matter), it appears to be well supported, there is no feedback yet but lots of promise, and finally, it has dropbox support.

All this means it’s pretty damn good.

The negatives? It’s quite pricey. It was free to ‘buy’ initially, and then I discovered it was £3.99 a year to store more than 3 files at a time, plus a number of other features become available in the settings. This was a great strategy for app discovery, because everyone loves a good app for free (Evernote), and I did feel cheated somewhat at the hidden cost for storing more files, however, after thinking about it, I do want more updates and I do believe developers should get paid for good apps. If this business model keeps everyone happy and the updates coming, then it’s all good with me.

The thing I like most about InkMark is the live Markdown preview panel – I don’t need it, but I love the feature. It’s easy to swipe it away from view, and pull it back again if I want to see my formatted version, and this feature was a deal breaker for me. I should add this to the requirements list, because I discounted many apps which didn’t have it.

So, I bought the app, then found a bug which meant it didn’t respond well with my bluetooth keyboard. A quick click about in the settings and I turned off the Keyboard Experience (or whatever it was), then, bingo, my problem was solved. The devs say a new update is in the process, so that should be sorted soon, I hope. So with this sorted and the devs responding to my cries for help, I dropped the £3.99 per year to ‘upgrade’.

Want to take a look at it in the App Store? Here’s the link.

Fingers crossed this was a good move, and it gets supported. I’ve got a good feeling about this app. More news as I have it.

Mark

Writing Fiction with Markdown

I have realised that I’m obsessed with writing Fiction in Markdown. This is very geeky. Most people don’t even know what Markdown is, let alone is thinking of writing with it.

In my quest to discover the best software for my needs, I’ve been searching the net for great tools.

For anyone who knows what Markdown is, they will know that you don’t need an app or software to write with it. Agreed. However, until the joys of seeing my text auto-render as a beautifully formatted document as I type, becomes dull – I will always write in a dedicated Markdown editor.

I have explored every Markdown app worth its weight in the iPad store, and I have also Googled for the best software to use on my PC. I am now happy. I have found three good tools for the PC, which are: MarkdownPad, Brackets, and Stackedit.

For the iPad: I have tried many but only invested in one. InkMark. I want to explain what I have been searching for, why these software choices worked for me and what things I find essential in a Markdown writing tool.

I don’t plan to talk about MarkDown code itself, DaringFireball does that perfectly well, nor do I plan to talk about the benefits of writing in MarkDown (yet). I’ll save that for another post.

On to the review! View the next post.

Mark

20 things

  1. I need the loo
  2. It’s a beautiful day for a walk into town for a coffee
  3. Glastonbury 2013 is on right now and I’m never there.
  4. Work is going well, but I want it weller.
  5. I had a bad dream last night about my parents and wasps.
  6. I want to catch the bus to Bath: 10.30am, possibly.
  7. Today I’ll start writing a non-fiction book: my first
  8. I might try a hypnotherapy session to get over a personal hurdle
  9. I don’t need the loo any more.
  10. I am desperately waiting for a software update for ProCreate 1.8
  11. I really, really wish MS was supporting Expression Encoder :(
  12. A site I put live yesterday is not working properly yet :(
  13. Avila is in Birmingham all weekend and I have no car.
  14. I have been sketchnoting, with success (somewhat).
  15. I can only manage 15 things…

WordPress-super-(night)mare

Image

I’ve had a bit of a nightmare with a WordPress set up recently and need to document the process and solution here:

I’ve recently found a way of creating a site mirror and then removing that mirror to go live, which makes for a smooth deploy. Win. It goes like this:

Add a new subdomain mirror at the host (Dreamhost): eg: test.mm.com
Go to the Domain Registrar (eg: 123 reg) and add an A record for that ‘test’ subdomain, with the value matching the IP on the host, eg: 173.236.195.113. You can find this IP by clicking on the DNS link and scrolling down the page.
Now wait a few hours for it to propagate – doing this the night before is a good idea.
Next FTP: this time you’ll be connecting to your webserver (not the subdomain). For me Dreamhost shows my servername in the account status panel. Contact support for yours – tell them you want to access your hosting before you make a nameserver switch. For example mine could be http://monkeynuts.dreamhost.com. Once logged in, you can add files in the usual manner.
To view the files in the browser, go to your subdomain.
When you’re ready to go live, do this:

Set up a WP maintenence plugin – not needed, but my preference.
check (copy) the current nameservers. (incase you need to put them back in)
Back up the .htaccess and wp-config files via ftp – just in case!
change the nameservers with the domain registrar. I didn’t delete the A record I created earlier btw.
IMPORTANT! update the WP site uri to treatingautism.co.uk. If you don’t do this your site will break! Make sure you have this page open in a browser ready to do this when you make the nameserver switch.
go back to the webhost and deactivate the mirror.
This is where my problem started. I know the DNS will take a while to resolve, but for me I found I had some browser caching issues (Chrome). Therefore I had to add the domain and IP to my systems hosts file. Which for me can be found here:

C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc

Look for the ‘hosts’ file, copy it to the desktop, right click and ‘open as administrator

under this line:
# ::1 localhost

put this:
[Your IP address] [leave a space] [yourdomain.com]

Save it, then drag it in to the /etc directory and overwrite the existing file.

Now open it again and make sure your computer has saved it correctly – some Windows/Antivirus software prevents this. If so, disable it and try again.

Now try visiting the domain in a different browser – eg: FireFox.

If you still have problems, contact the webhost support and tell them what you’ve done.

Hopefully you should successfully see you site now.

Cheers – Mark

Windows 8 Disappearing Mouse Fix

disappearingMouseWindows8

Click the picture to view larger.

If your mouse goes missing when in Windows 8, try this method to cure the problem.

  • Win + R – to bring up the Run window – type: devmgmt.msc
  • Click Human interface Devices.
  • Right click: USB Input Device – select ‘Properties’
  • Go to the Power Management tab and un-tick ‘Allow the computer to turn off this device and save power’

Note: This guide is only possible for me as I have a touchscreen laptop :) If you don’t have one, you’ll need to find another guide. Sorry!

Edit: This issue appeared again and the above technique didn’t work. I Googled and found that a ‘power-off’ by holding the power button down for 5 seconds, reset the system – no files lost or anything – so go ahead and try that. Here’s a Youtube video which also provides some insight:

This worked for me! I hope there is a patch soon for it.