Monthly Archives: March 2011

Another Writing Template For OO Writer

I stumbled on this Book Writing Template for OpenOffice by Stephen Winters the other day and thought I’d share it here. It’s based on the functionality of yWriter5 software by Spacejock Software. A free program I have dabbled with.

I goofed around with the template a bit. It’s well thought out, but still a work in progress. It is usable though, and if you’re looking for something new to help organize your ideas you might want to give it a try.

Huff Post Should Change It’s Name to Minitrue…

No. Really. They should. For a supposedly “progressive”, “liberal” news site they moderate their comments more heavily than Der Angriff did. Hell, I don’t think Fox News moderates this much. No, I know Fox News does not moderate this much.

So what am I aggravated at. This: 7 Sites You Should Be Wasting Time On Right Now; but really, with the exception of the one I’m about to mention, you shouldn’t. Waste your time with them that is. Specifically I am slightly agitated with a site this article references, [sic] humor. This site claims to want to share with me “incredible mutations of both the English language and the ancient tradition of storytelling” from apparently published authors by someone who “reads books for a living“.

Curious, I immediately perused the site and while there were a couple of gems most of it is single sentences or extrapolations of dialog mounted with a snippy comment by the sites creator. And so I commented, rather rashly I will admit:

“Checked out [sic] Humor and it’s a FAIL. Just a bunch of criticism from some pseudo-int­ellectual gatekeeper at some publishing company. Sounds more like he/she is pissed of because he/she can’t get published.

There are some gems (like vagina portals) but most of what the site is picking on are single sentences, obviously taken out of context, topped with a snippy comment from the sites creator. A lot of it is just characteri­zation.

I get a picture of the sites creator, looking down his/her nose at everyone in a room, with one of those collegiate fraternity­/sorority smug superiorit­y looks in his/her eyes.”

Okay, I see now the personal attacks were uncalled for. I’m only human. To my surprise the creator of the site responded.

“Hi AJ -
Thought I’d correct a few accusation­s here. I’m not a gatekeeper at a publishing company nor have I ever attempted to have anything of my own published. All of the quotes on the blog are taken from books already published and readily available at retailers like Amazon.

I can also promise that none of the quotes are purposeful­ly taken out of context. I find the blog easiest to read at its most concise and am always considerin­g the sound advise “don’t hide the joke.”

I’m sorry if the blog is not for you, but if anyone is making snap, condescend­ing judgments here (I’ve read every last word of some very, very long books) it’s you.”

Okay, the author called me out. I apologized in a reply, which, as of this writing, is still “waiting for moderators approval” (EDIT: A week later and the reply is MIA, probably traveled back in time where it now sits in a neat little pile of papers on Joseph Goebbels desk). I also decided to lay my case out in more detail, I don’t have an exact copy of that reply but it went something like this.

To me, the site comes off as intellectual snobbery. Take the first post as an example:

The truth is not here.

“’Waffles sound really nice. Besides, we should put our heads together and figure this whole thing out.’

‘I have a sixth sense about these things, and I think it is something paranormal. There has to be some explanation. I mean I watch X files and usually there are reasons.’”

What is wrong with this? More specifically, what here is an “incredible mutation of both the English language and the ancient tradition of storytelling”. All I see is some character development through dialog of some dimwit that believes everything he or she watches on prime time TV is real. If that is what the author is trying to convey, I believe the author did a very good job of it. Maybe I’m missing something because I didn’t read “every last word of some very, very, long book” but I just don’t see anything wrong here. Another one from the site:

A little dim for a 6000+ year old Demi-God

“I haven’t been on the earth proper without being tethered to the labyrinth in I don’t know how long. What year is it? That’s right, they started counting them forward after Jesus’s death didn’t they.”

Once again, what here is an “incredible mutation of both the English language and the ancient tradition of storytelling”. Is [sic] humor suggesting that 6000+ year old Demi-Gods can’t be dim? I’ve read the Bible and I’ve found some pretty “dim” stuff in it. Remember that whole Mayan, Inca volcanic sacrifice thing? Don’t seem too bright these days does it?

I could easily apply this nonsense to most popular culture:

Carpets don’t walk, silly.

“Will somebody get this big walking carpet out of my way?”

Stating the obvious.

“What good is a reward if you ain’t around to use it? Besides, attacking that battle station ain’t my idea of courage. It’s more like… suicide.”

What, no stammer about the cup size?

“Have you felt yourself to be exploited in any way?”
“Like what?”
“Well… well, like to get this job. I mean, did… did you do, or… or were you asked to do anything lewd… or unsavory, or… or, otherwise repulsive to your… your person, huh?”
“Are you for real?”

I bet she is.

“She’s a replicant, isn’t she?”

See how easy that is? There are some gems on the site, I particularly enjoyed “Burger Master. A unique Mary Sue“, “Gevity guy“, and that whole “Vag Portal “nonsense on the first page was quite amusing. Other things come off as feminist nit-picking, some of it righteous, some of it questionable.

I take back what I said about it being a FAIL. It’s worth a viddy, if you like nitpicking somewhat idiotic mistakes in writing (an activity I sometimes partake in). Some of those mistakes are obviously editing oversights (at least I hope they are, no one can be that stupid, right?), still not an excuse but shit happens.

And as for you Huff Post, try and play Winston with my opinion will you? NEVER I SAY, NEVER!

AFTERWORD

I had pretty much decided not to publish this blog piece I wrote last week but when I was checking the news on Huff Post this morning I saw the following in my comments activity section, written by a brand new member of the Huff Post forum community named sbbn;

Way to shut someone down, AJ, for being being smug and having a superiority complex by responding with a condescending, bitter, smug comment of your own… er, wait, no, nevermind… That’s a stupid approach because it just makes you look worse than whoever you’re criticizing.

Now this particular comment won’t show up under sbbn’s comments for some odd reason but it showed up under my sign on. You have to understand that this whole situation is a week old now, in order for sbbn to find my original snippy comment, the one for which I apologized and was Winstoned by Huff Post, sbbn would have to know where to look and seek it out. As sbbn is a brand new member of the Huff Post forum community I can safely surmise that sbbn is a close personal friend of the creator of the [sic] humor site and/or a moderator at Huff Post. Way to [sic] your dogs on me!

The Only Two Tools You Need To Write

I’ve tried it all. From Dramatica Pro to yWriter. While Dramatica Pro did teach me a lot about plot and character balance the only thing these programs really did was just clog up my whole writing process with tedium. Sure, it’s a good idea to have someplace to jot down all your character and plot notes. But Keep It Simple Stupid. Use a notebook and an old fashioned pen. Use a separate Writer document (or Word if you’re still using that bloated software). I use KeyNote-nf myself. I like KeyNote because it’s simple, fast and easy to figure out. It allows me to not only jot down my story notes but to spread them out in ways that allow my cluttered mind easy recollection. And, most importantly, it allows me to do this without slowing down the writing process.

But honestly, the only two tools you need to write are yourself (after all, only you can write your story) and a decent writing template to help speed the process along. Having dual monitors is nice too, but not as important.

I will show you how I made my template in OpenOffice Writer 3. I learned how to create one from this article by R.L. Copple. You are free to go to the source but I modified my template to allow for better transitions from scene breaks and easier navigation of the document for editing purposes. I also added a header in case you’re going old school and submitting to a publisher. You could download and save the template I made in Writer on your computer from here but then you would not learn how to make one for yourself.

STEP 1: Open Writer and set up your workspace.

  • Hit F5 to open the Navigator and dock it to the left or right side of your workspace by dragging it there.
  • Hit F11 to open the Styles Menu and dock it to the opposite side of the Navigator in your workspace.

STEP 2: Set up the page layout.

  • Go to Format / Page and set up your margins: Left, Right, & Bottom to 1″ and Top to .75″

STEP 3:Set up styles: Novel Body. Chapter. Scene. Scene Break.

  • Novel Body: In the Styles Menu, right-click on the “Text body” style and select “New”
    • Replace the “Untitled” name it gives with “Novel Body”.
    • Select a font from the “Font” tab like “Courier New” and make it 12 point. You can choose any currently acceptable publishing font such as Times New Roman or Arial. I prefer Courier New because I find it easier to read after editing for several hours.
    • Select the “Indents and Spacing” tab, set the first line indent to “0.5” and the line spacing to “Double.”
    • Click “OK” and your new style has been created.
  • Chapter: In the Styles Menu, right-click on the “Heading 2″ style and select “New”
    • Name it “Chapter” and make “Novel Body” the Next Style in the drop down box below.
    • On the Indents & Spacing tab, make sure all indents are set to 0″. Set the Spacing Above paragraph to 2.00″ and Below paragraph to 0.75″. Set Line spacing to Single.
    • On the Alignment tab, select Center.
    • On the Font tab, select Courier New (or whatever font you chose for the Novel Body), Regular, 12pt.
    • On the Font Effects tab, under Effects, select Capitals.
    • Click “OK” and your new style has been created.
  • Scene: In the Styles Menu, right-click on the “Novel Body” style you created and select “New”
    • Name it “Scene” and make “Novel Body” the Next Style in the drop down box below.
    • Click “OK” and your new style has been created.
  • Scene Break: In the Styles Menu, right-click on the “Novel Body” style you created and select “New”
    • Name it “Scene Break” and make “Scene” the Next Style in the drop down box below.
    • On the Indents & Spacing tab, make sure all indents are set to 0″. Set the Spacing Above paragraph to 0.34″ and Below paragraph to 0.34″. Set Line spacing to Double.
    • On the Alignment tab, select Center.
    • Click “OK” and your new style has been created.

STEP 4: Set up Header Hierarchy.

  • In the Tools menu select Outline Numbering.
    • In the Numbering tab, select “1” in the Level window.
    • In the Paragraph Style drop down box, select Chapter.
    • In the Number drop down box, select 1,2,3, …
    • Under Separator, in the Before box, type “CHAPTER ” in all CAPS with a space at the end (no quotations). In the After box, type a “:” (a colon with no quotation marks). Select 1 in the Start at drop down menu.
    • In the Position tab, select Space in the drop down menu for Numbering followed by.
  • In the Numbering tab, select “2” in the Level window.
    • In the Paragraph Style drop down box, select Scene.
    • In the Number drop down box, select None. Character Style, select None. Show sublevels, select 1.
    • Under Separator, leave the Before and After boxes blank. Select 1 in the Start at drop down menu.
    • In the Position tab, select Space in the drop down menu for Numbering followed by.

STEP 5: Set up the header.

  • Go to Tools / Options, under OpenOffice.org Writer in the tree menu, find “Compatibility” and check “Use OpenOffice.org 1.1 tabstop formatting”.
  • Go to Insert / Header to pull up a header box at the top of your page. In all CAPS type your last name, a space, a forward slash (/), a space, TITLE (the title of your novel will go here). Now hit TAB, then hit CTRL +R, Insert / Fields / Page Number to add a page number that is right justified. Finally, hit the enter key to add a second line to the Header. This second line, along with formatting the Top Margin to .75″ makes a printed copy look better in my humble opinion, adding a little more space between the first line of text on a page and the Header. Making editing a printed copy a little easier on your eyes. Keep in mind if you’re submitting to a publisher the editor may prefer the old standard way of doing it. In that case, make the top margin 1″ and remove the secondary line from the header.

STEP 6: Save the template. Go to File / Templates / Save. Select “My Templates” and give the new template a name like “b33m3R’s Really Cool Novel Writing Template”… Or you could just call it “Novel” like I did!

USING THE TEMPLATE

Select your template by going to File / New / Templates and Documents. Start by changing the “TITLE” text in the Header to the actual name of your novel. Select “Chapter” in the Styles menu (if it’s not already selected) and type the name of your first chapter. Note what happens in your Navigator. Hit enter and start writing your novel.

Traditionally, for a scene break, one would Enter twice, center the # sign and Enter twice again. In my template all you have to do is type in a # sign, go to the Styles menu and select Scene Break by double clicking on it, and the # sign will be centered on the page with approximately 2 double spaces below and above it. Now note what happens when you start typing your next paragraph in the Navigator. The new scenes first paragraph of text will show up in the Navigator nested under the Chapter. Now you have easy access to every segment of your manuscript through the Navigator. This will make the editing process easier for you.

R.L. Copple’s original article has another way of marking off scenes by setting it up as another heading and using a scene summary but I find using the first paragraph as the marker enough for me to remember what it is just by looking at it in the Navigator.

When beginning a new chapter, make a Manual Page Break (Insert / Manual Break / Page Break) at the end of the previous chapter and start the new chapter on a fresh page. This is old school but it also makes editing easier.

For submission purposes I’ve always done the cover sheet in a separate file. I’ve made a template that you can modify to suit your needs here.

We Are Not Alone: Heroes of Self-Publishing

Here’s something to inspire you all…

Heroes Of Self-Publishing: Authors Go It Alone @ Huffington Post.

I also encourage you to read the article Presto Book-O (Why I Went Ahead and Self-Published) by Steve Almond.

I was cool with Harvard Bookstore selling it. But other than that, Minute, Honey is available only at readings. My reasoning is pretty simple: I want the book to be an artifact that commemorates a particular human gathering, not a commodity. ~ Steve Almond

Sonia’s March Writing Challenge; My Entry

This post is for the March Writing Challenge over at Doing the Write Thing. The following is a little dark but it’s the first thing that came to me. Thanks to Sonia for presenting the writing community with this challenge.

I should have listened with both ears instead of one. But that’s kind of hard to do when you have your right ear pressed against a glass, pressed against a wall and an index finger stuffed in your left.

You see, the thing about staying in sleazy hotels is you never know who you’re going to come across. Like the couple in the room behind me. A tranny and his John, business fellow with a wedding ring, neck tie choking and trying to look all tough when he’s completely out of his element. Saw them at the front desk. Listened to them for a while, until the beating got a little too brutal; even for me.

So here I am, ear pressed against a glass, pressed against a wall, index finger plugged in my free ear, listening to the young couple in the next room argue over spilled meth.

I should have listened with both ears instead of one. I might have heard the John come in. I might have heard his footsteps. I might have heard the excited little gasp escape him as he slit my throat.

Now I can hear the moron below me, singing out of tune to some obscure punk song on his iPod. I can hear the soft footfalls of the John as he leaves the room and gently closes the door behind him. I can hear the blood gurgling out my throat.

Yeah, I should have listened with both ears instead of one.

249 Words

An Old Dog & The New Rules of Writing

I recently fell out from under the spell of Black Ops when I had an epiphany about it treating me like a lab rat. Yes, I was playing too much lately when I should have been writing. Alas, my creative juices, confidence and motivation were just not there for me over the past few months. All was not in vain though, Black Ops did get me to restart this blog. Black Ops did get me writing again.

I updated to the latest version of OpenOffice and I found a couple of interesting novel and story writing templates for OO Writer which I will blog about in more detail another time. I modified the templates to suit my needs using Internet resources to brush up on the latest publishing requirements only to discover that things have changed quite a bit over the last several years. Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

Courier used to be font du jour. Double spacing after a period the norm. You underlined words in your manuscript that are meant to be in italics in final print… There are more but you get the picture.

The whole double space thing after a period is a pain in the ass for me to get used to. See? Even now I had to go back and remove that extra space from these last two sentences. With technology advancing so fast, faster than our humanity, change is to be expected these days. The most important change for the aspiring writer? We no longer have to dream about being accepted by a publishing house who would trustingly spend enough money advertising us to the appropriate niche and then, hopefully, be accepted by said niche. Anis Shivani said it best in his Huffington Post article, New Rules For Writers: Ignore Publicity, Shun Crowds, Refuse Recognition And More.

Why take part in the game at all? Who has ever come out of it alive, able to set up tent and build followers on the other side? Why not accept the reality that writers aren’t forged in social harmony and peer input and obedient fellowship, but in a region where madmen and insomniacs find no comfort? ~ Anis Shivani

A region where madmen and insomniacs find no comfort. Reading his article filled me with renewed hope. It speaks to the rebellious nature deep inside of me. Fuck the gatekeepers, Mr. Shivani says. Fuck the gatekeepers. It was liberating to read. The writing industry, like all other industries, has suffered from the maladies of stagnation, insiders only, and status-quo for ages now. I’m amazed that J.K Rowling was discovered at all while Stephanie Meyers “discovery” does not surprise me one bit. For decades the people manning the entertainment gates of success have been telling the public what they should be reading and watching, never caring about their customers enough to ask them what they want (can you tell I’m still quite miffed over the cancellation of Firefly?) Thanks to the Internet and this little nudge from Mr. Shivani I am encouraged to go directly to the source. I no longer dream of that Random House acceptance letter but of the day when people post here to tell me that they have read my book on Kindle or iTunes and enjoyed it. I will take that praise and I will look away from it. I will wallow in my self-doubt and fear of failing at my chosen art form but I will continue to write. I will continue to write. Not for you. Not for me. Not for fame. Not for fortune. I will continue to write for the story.

But I digress. So what does all this mean to you and I during the actual writing process?

Well for one you’re gonna have to spend the next few days going through all the crap you’ve written so far and remove all those pesky extra spaces and replace all the underlined words with actual italics. Who knows? You may find something long forgotten that’s worth rehashing. From now on when you write you have to remember that the end result will most likely not be printed, so many of the old writing conventions do not matter anymore. Unless you have a dear friend willing to partake the drudgery of editing with you, you will be the only one fishing through your manuscript for errors. I’ll be keeping the Courier type and the double spaces in between lines as this just makes editing far more easier on the eyes. When the time comes to get the manuscript ready for digital publishing, after the traditional editing process for plot, grammar and spelling, I will make a copy and then edit for digital aesthetics. And hopefully I will learn things along this journey and share them with the people kind enough to spend a little of their time reading my ramblings here.

CoD BO: Step Away From The Skinner Box!

“By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. Thank you, thank you. Just a little thought. I’m just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day they’ll take root. I don’t know. You try. You do what you can. Kill yourselves. Seriously though, if you are, do. No really, there’s no rationalization for what you do, and you are Satan’s little helpers, OK? Kill yourselves, seriously. You’re the ruiner of all things good.” ~ The Immortal Bill Hicks

This isn’t a bitch, whine or rant about how much Black Ops sucks.  I believe the core developers at Treyarch designed a game that is much more enjoyable and far more balanced than Infinity Ward’s MW2. I’m just starting to believe that the malicious hand of marketing had a little too much input into Black Ops game mechanics.

There is conclusive evidence that host advantage is a reality in BO. GUNNS4HIRE at NextGenTactics calls any lag he experiences in a Treyarch designed CoD game, “getting Treyarched” as it’s been a persistent issue with any CoD Treyarch release. But is it also possible that the coding in Black Ops that governs matchmaking was designed around the work of B.F. Skinner, inventor of the “Skinner Box,” a cage containing a small animal that, for instance, presses a lever to get food pellets? If there is something notably wrong with your network code in the first iteration of your game and you have not fixed it after the third iteration of the same title under your helm, I have to assume the bad code is designed to be there at this point. The only other possibility is that the developers are that freaking stupid.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had great fun with Black Ops. Hell, it helped restore my gaming confidence after MW2 near obliterated it. But since I started playing Black Ops something has always seemed fishy to me. I do really well for several games and then I drop off to sucking so bad Times Square pimps are calling me with job offers. Over the weekend I played the Crysis demo and did not notice these “Treyarchasies”. I played some Halo Reach and did not get “Treyarched” once. I even played some MW2, and while I did completely suck, I did not suck because of a “Trearchacy”. In Black Ops I’m never quite sure if I’m doing good because I’m playing well or because Black Ops is throwing me a bone, either by getting me on a team that has host advantage, or matching me with people below my skill level.

Recently I reread this Cracked article by David Wong about methods game designers use to keep us playing. I don’t believe that game developers delve into a game design with these treacherous ideologies at the forefront of their vision. Sure, they want to make money, and lots of it. But mostly I believe they just want to make a great game. They ask questions about game play balance and talk to each other about what is fun and what is not fun and begin the design process with these ideals in mind.

Then, halfway into the development cycle, enters the dubious corporate entity. The bewildered CEO, chained to his equally befuddled stockholders along with the malevolent arm of marketing stroll in. These guys are not concerned with how fun the game is. They just want to know how many suckers will buy the game after marketing prematurely pushes it out the door. They want to make sure people keep playing while they work on overpriced “map packs” and other insignificant virtual items to sell to the unsuspecting, clueless masses.

Personally, I resent being manipulated into playing a game as though I’m some lab rat. It completely turns me off of gaming altogether. So much so I spent most of this week writing some fiction after having this Black Ops epiphany, something I have not done in a while.

Lot’s of people, kids mostly, brag about their K/D ratio in Black Ops. But bragging about your K/D ratio in Black Ops, when how well you do or don’t do is largely grounded in code you have no control over, is asinine. Using your Black Ops K/D as a yardstick for how “big” you are is kind of like going through a mid life crisis and instead of buying a Porsche you buy a Renault 4.

CoD BO: Domination Tactics On Jungle

CALLOUT MAP
I found this map at HupitGaming forums, I believe it was created by a forum member named INFINITE.  If she sees this I would like to thank her for creating it.  It saved me a lot of work.

STRATEGY MAP
STAGING GROUNDS:  These two spots on the map are the safest places to call in your Killstreak packages.
THE HIGH GROUND: The most important area of the map to control.  If you plan on keeping the B flag you must own this shack and the North Path behind it.

A,B & C: Approximate locations of the DOM flags.
S1-5: Likely sniper nesting spots & their site lines.
A1-C4
: Attack paths

The key to winning any DOM game is holding down 2 flags, most importantly the B flag, usually located in the middle of the map.  But on Jungle you will not hold onto B unless you also control the High Ground above it.

Given this, it is best to control C and B as C has easier access to both B and the High Ground above it.  If you start at A, you’re initial instinct may be to run everyone to B, while sending a couple of guys up the C4 path to the High Ground.  A more radical strategy would be to send two “sacrificial lambs” to preoccupy the enemy at B and the High Ground while the rest of the team flanks along the A2 path to get and hold C.  Your main concern while performing this flanking maneuver will be the S2 sniper spot at the Pier.  If the sniper has chosen to take up position on the top of the Pier, he will be easily spotted by one of your team.  However, it’s the sneaky git with ghost hiding under the bridge who poses the most danger as he is pretty much invisible.  If he is smart, he will wait for you to pass and take you all out while you are trying to capture C.  So be sure to pop off a few silenced rounds into the brush under the Pier as you pass by it.  Your other concern would be the C3 path that leads directly to the C flag but if you perform this maneuver early and fast enough, the other team should be preoccupied with trying to get B.  Once at the C flag, your main worry is the sniper at S1.  Sending someone up after him is probably best as he will be too lethal with a well placed grenade.  The rest of you need to worry about the guys controlling the High Ground, send a barrage of grenades and flashes across the Small Bridge immediately, with at least one guy covering the C2 path.  If you have 3-4 with you, you should be able to cap that flag pretty quick.  Next I suggest you take up defensive positions at C so you can regroup and fight back the enemy as they try to reclaim it.  If you are lucky, the other team may have got cocky and sent someone for A.  Let them have it, now they will spawn there and will have to leg it back to C.  This will give you some time to capture the High Ground, control the North Path and mount an attack on B.

The High Ground is easy enough controlled.  A couple of guys in the shack can easily dispatch any enemy coming for B along the A3 path.  Placing a claymore along the North Path will temporarily secure it.  If anything it will give one of the guys in the shack fair warning that an attacker is coming when he hears his equipment is destroyed.  Leaving a “lingerer” back there may be a more quantifiable strategy.  Someone with a grenade launcher and a China Lake as a secondary can easily hover, behind the shack along the C4 and C1 paths and control the area.  The guys in the shack will need to keep a vigilant eye out for snipers at S3 and S5.  It’s a good idea to pop off a few shots at S3 every now and then to see if you get a hit marker.

While it is possible for a skilled player to hold down the sniper spot at S1, it is also the first place people will look for you on this map.  Placing one of your Mortars here will almost always guarantee you a kill, sometimes even two!  Be careful of snipers hiding in the brush at S4 too.  Especially if you are flanking the A2 path to get to the High Ground.

When mounting an attack on B from A, I’ve had a reasonable amount of luck by flanking along the A2 path and cutting across and under the S1 sniper spot.  The enemy defending B is usually preoccupied with allies coming along the A3 path and will stay focused on this path, making them easy targets from behind.

These are some of the strategies I use on Jungle.  They are not the only strategies for this map.  I’m sure many of you have your own tactics for this map and I would love to hear about them in the comments section.

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