Enter Vellum… the closest ePub's got to WYSIWYG

I put up a new short story earlier today, formatted more professionally than anything I’ve ever self-pubbed before. I don’t pretend to be a self-pub expert. If something suits that medium I’m happy to do it. But conventional publishing — sorry I won’t call it ‘legacy’ because that’s plain daft — remains my bread and butter and I’m happy for it to stay so.

Technology primarily interests me through what it makes possible that couldn’t be done before. I love short stories but the conventional publishing market for them isn’t great. Delivering some now and again direct makes a lot of sense.

What held me back before? The hassle. I like my work to look good, and that’s not easy with ePub and Kindle. Yes you can go through the format routine with Word. Scrivener, Pages and Ulysses will alll publish direct to ePub too, and do competent jobs. But the finer points of publishing — custom design, drop caps, handsome styling — are hard to get unless you dirty your hands with code. That’s beyond me and it will stay that way.

And then along came a remarkable OS X app called Vellum.

Continue reading “Enter Vellum… the closest ePub's got to WYSIWYG”

So Game of Thrones is written in Wordstar

Here’s George R. R. Martin explaining why he still writes on an old DOS computer using Wordstar 4.0…

Good on him. Writers should use what they’re happy with, not what they feel fashion forces them into.

I was never a Wordstar fan and it wasn’t just for the interface, below.

wordstar

For one thing I was a Mac user from the moment the Mac came out. So, apart from an early dalliance with other machines, I was on Microsoft Word from the start. But one thing about Martin’s choice does amaze me. Those early word processors really screamed at long files. It wasn’t until the late Nineties that hard drives and memories finally allowed me to write an entire book in a single file. Before that you’d hit crashes as early as the 10K word mark when documents got too unwieldy for the machine.

Perhaps Wordstar’s different. But I wouldn’t want to go back to the days of writing a book in separate files just to keep the computer running.

Interestingly though perhaps we’re going back to some of the earlier ‘show me just the words’ ideas that seem to attract writers like Martin. Here’s the dark, full screen view from Ulysses which breaks books down into sections and chapters but shows you them as a combined whole.

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 12.52.00

It’s a lot more attractive than Wordstar… but quite similar too in some ways.

Browse the Ulysses themes library here and you can see plenty of people looking back to those simpler days too.

As always… whatever works for you. I’m not sure I could write in white type against a black background. But I may try all the same.

Free Scrivener template

Please note this post is very out of date now as is the template. It was written for an early version of Scrivener 2 on the Mac. How it functions with Scrivener 3 I don’t know. I imagine you can update it but it’s up to you to play around with that. I won’t be putting out a new version for Scrivener 3 because frankly the app is now so mature I suspect most people don’t really need it.

As part of a general tidy-up around here I’ve taken a look at the free Scrivener template associated with Writing A Novel with Scrivener. It needed a bit of a cleanup too. So feel free to download this one and play with  it — you don’t need the book to do that.

This is just a set of suggestions to play with. Scrivener is incredibly flexible so as always please cherry pick what you like and reject the rest.

To use unzip the compressed archive. If you’re on a Mac you will see a standard Scrivener file. If you’re on Windows you will see a folder (as is usual with Scrivener projects on Windows). Open it in the usual way (please see the Scrivener help file if any doubt). I always find it easiest to run Scrivener then locate the key file in the project folder rather than trying to double click anything (but I’m not a regular Windows Scrivener user so that may just be me).

This is a freebie. No tech support so please don’t ask.

Download David’s Scrivener template.

You can get the general idea from the screenshot below.

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