A Long Time

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Why has this blog been neglected for so long? Well I’m not going to make excuses. Life presents opportunities and challenges. Choices have to be made. Sometimes, those choices are right. Sometimes not so right. My wife and I have had a very trying year, but we are in a better place. Light is now visible and life is starting to return to normal. Although it’ll be another year or two before everything gets back to something similar to the routine that existed when I started this blog.

‘Nuff said.

To the point. Entries will resume this month. I’m not going to commit to a regular schedule, current circumstances will not permit it, but new posts are coming. Writing is about persistence. And persist I shall. My fiction writing has resumed and this blog is the next step in resuming my pursuit of a dream.

Thanks to those who still view this blog and welcome to the newcomers.

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Change In Posting Schedule

After much thought I’m going to move the posts to every other week. Currently my wife and I have too much on our plates and anything that does not produce revenue has to be lowered in priority. This should be temporary with regular weekly posts resuming in the June/July time frame.

 

 

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Do You Have a Productive Printer?

The days of typing a manuscript to send off to a publisher seem like ancient history to younger writers. The number of publishers requiring printed manuscripts shrinks daily. And some authors write, edit, submit, and publish without ever touching paper. The whole eco-arguement aside, is this the best way? The printed -I’m talking ink and toner here- word can be a good thing.
I started using a computer when I was eleven. It was a time when the era of huge inflation was giving way to the era of huge hair, but I digress. To get to the point, I was raised on paper. There are times I hate paper. This time of year is one of them, taxes and the annual file cabinet purge have me surrounded. Then there are times I insist on paper. For final editing, there is no better medium than paper. It’s easier on the eyes, it doesn’t require a battery or outlet, it’s portable, works on most surfaces, and never blue screens while you’re reading a sentence. And a shout-out to the green minded, it’s recyclable. The hidden issue with printing what you write is cost. Ink, toner, paper, the amount of time it takes all add up. This is why we need to look at printer technology. A printer, is not a printer, is not a printer. You would not use a finishing hammer to replace shingles and you would not use an InkJet printer to print your 500 page manuscript.
Printers put words on paper using two different technologies. InkJet, which sprays or paints the words on the page. Consider this the machine version of fountain pens. The other is laser. This technology uses a powered ink, called toner. The toner is transferred to the paper using an electrical charge and then fused to the page with heat.
Why choose one over the other?
Two main items set these technologies apart. Cost per page and speed. Let’s look at two Hewlett-Packard printers. A basic DeskJet 1000 and a LaserJet Pro P1102w.
For comparing the two printers, we’ll use a 100,000 page manuscript, assuming 250 words per page to give a real world example of 400 pages.
DeskJet 1000 LaserJst Pro P1102W
Cost $29.90 $159.99 These are retail prices from hp.com. Most likely you can find either printer on sale
Speed (PPM) 5.5 19 Laser is 3X Faster
Resolution *=(DPI) 600 1200 Laser will be more crisp
Duty Cycle # pages/month 1,000 5,000 You can get 5X more productivity from the laser
Tray Capacity 60 sheets 150 More time writing and less time filling up paper trays
Ink/Toner cost $13.99 for 165 sheets$27.99 for 480 sheets $68.00 for 1600 sheets You’ll spend over $100 in ink for the same capacity of toner
Cost Per Page $13.65 cart – $0.085$27.99 cart – $0.058 $68.00 cart – $0.04 At 400 pages that’s $23.20 vs. $16.  You just paid for lunch!

The cost difference per page is only 0.018. But as Grandma used say, if you pay attention to the nickels and dimes, you’ll soon have dollars?

Given the same number of pages, the InkJet will take over an hour to print what the LaserJet will kick out in 20 minutes. The duty cycle spec tells us InkJet will wear out more quickly. The cost savings in ink will quickly pay for the increased cost of the laser printer.

The numbers indicate that laser technology may be the way to go. But don’t run out to the nearest office supply store yet!
If you write for magazines and only need to print 20 pages per month, InkJet tech may be the most cost-effective and cash flow friendly option for you. However, if you’re working on the next novel that will make War and Peace look like a bathroom read, then laser tech makes more sense. Only you can decide what makes the best productivity fit for your situation.
If you don’t use a printer in your writing process, I urge you to give it a try. I’ve found that printing a manuscript with a 14 or 16 point serif font on yellow paper, makes those punctuation and  spell check errors stand out. Plus I can stretch out on the backyard swing under our red bud tree while editing.
Next week we’ll explore duplexing, scanning, WiFi, Air Print, and color options.
Are you a paperless author or one who will risk the dreaded paper cut? Please share why you think paper or paperless is the best way to go.

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Creativly Link You Social Network Accounts

Most social media sites have made it easy to link your accounts. But what if you want to link more than just Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? What if you want to link your Google reader account to Twitter and use a specific hash tag? Or Instapaper to Facebook pages?

Face it, not all social media sites play well together. WordPress plays well with your primary Facebook account and Twitter, but isn’t so cooperative with Facebook Pages. And what if you don’t want to link all your accounts together? Do you really want every Tweet going out to all your social media feeds?

Some creative folks out west have created a solution just for this. The site ifttt.com is still in beta, but it is one of the most innovative services on the Internet. The service is currently free. Simply create an account and your off and running. You can create tasks that link different social media sites. They refer to the differing services has channels. Basically you ink your ifttt account to a service in the channel list. Then you create a task with a trigger.

For those of you who follow theWriteTechnology on Facebook and Twitter (@theWriteTech) you may have noticed some posts have ‘via ifttt’ associated with them.  I have created tasks that automatically check for blog updates and then post to my Facebook Page for the tWT. I’ve also create tasks that link my Google Reader account to Facebook Pages and Twitter using tags. When I’m reading an article in Google Reader I think needs to be reTweeted from @theWriteTech I add the appropriate tag and the magic happens. It reTweets the article for me. I have created separate trigger tags that add different Twitter hash tags. For example, if I think an article is good for the #writetip, I have a unique trigger tag that automatically adds the #writetip hash tag to the Tweet. The same goes for publishing tips. There’s a separate trigger tag that can reTweet an article with the #pubtib hash tag.

This site saves a lot of time when it comes to sharing information with other writers. If I’m sitting in the doctor’s office reading an article or simply browsing posts over lunch, by adding a tag in Google Reader I can share the information over any social media channel I have linked to ifttt.com.

The site currently has channels for over 40 services. This includes WordPress, Gmail, Pinboard, Facebook, Google Reader, Readability, Twitter, Delicious, Evernote, YouTube, LinkedIn, and more. No longer do you have to remember to post something when you get back to your computer. Now you can do it from your smartphone or tablet with ease. This site will reduce the time you spend on social media and allow for more writing time.

Now stop thinking about your next excuse for burning through your writing time and get down to business. Close out you browser and open your word processor. You have magazine articles to sell and novels to pen.

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Internet On The Go

Writers today are not chained to a location. Some write at coffee shops, others on trains, some at home, and if you’re like me — any outdoor place you can drag a pen and notebook to. This mobility is great for finding distraction free writing spots, but what about research? Not so long ago, you would simply go to the library and sift through card catalogs, files, book shelves, microfiche, and an endless piles of dusty books. Today, the Internet is the primary research tool. Fortunately we can now take the Internet with us to most of our favorite writing spots.

I think most writers are familiar with using the free WiFi services offered at popular coffee shops and restaurants. This is the easiest and cheapest way to access the Internet when out and about. Some cities are now offering WiFi hotspots in select parks. I’ll take sitting outside researching a subject instead of sitting in a library any day of the week.

But what happens when WiFi service isn’t available?

Cellular companies offer data plans with smartphones and tablets. These plans aren’t always cheap. The big carriers start around $40 a month and move up in price, but this allows you to connect your smartphone or tablet to the Internet and retrieve data over a 3G or 4G network. However, surfing on smartphone can be tedious. Those little three inch screens are hard to use with aging eyes and big fingers.

Tablets are a good substitute. Much easier to use and you can purchase ones that are compatible with CDMA or GSM cellular technologies.But once you purchase a tablet using either technology, you’re stuck with it.

Cellular companies also offer an AirCard option but these can be restrictive too. AirCards plug into your laptop’s USB port or card slot. These offer a lot of flexibility, but they require a separate data plan. It’s also another piece of tech to keep track of. They can get lost, damaged, or stolen. An alternative to AirCards would be a technology called tethering. It allows you to connect your computer to your smartphone and access the Internet. Not all smartphones will allow this and not all carriers provide the service. The ones that do, charge extra for it. If you use tethering, be mindful of any data usage limits on your accounts. A browser designed for Windows, Linux, or MAC will consume more data than a browser designed for a tablet or a smartphone. You can hit that 2Gig limit fairly quick.

There’s another option that allows the flexibility of connecting any WiFi capable device. It’s called a hotspot. These are offered by every major cellular carrier. Again, they will require a data plan, but you can use these handy devices for anything. Most will accommodate multiple connections–there’s a cost in speed when using multiple devices–allowing you to share it with others. Select smartphones have the ability to be used as a hotspot thus reducing the amount of tech you need to carrier to access the Internet.

Some of the bargain carriers offer no contract hotspots.They offer scaled data plans allowing you to spend only what you need to and to use it only when you need to. Most do have a requirement that you use your hotspot once every six months or so. This is the option I use. My iPad is WiFi only and my wife and I both have laptops. When traveling I purchase what I think we’ll use. As long as we have cell service, we can access the Internet. It’s a great thing when flights get delayed and the airport doesn’t have free Internet. Or if you’re driving long distances. We drove to Florida in 2010 and had Internet access for almost the entire drive. There was one section in Mississippi that we couldn’t get any service. It was a grueling fifty minutes, but somehow we made it through.

I like the hotspot because I can pack a composition notebook, a couple of fountain pens, an iPad, the hotspot, an external battery pack and take off to any park or local hiking trail. All of it weighs less than five pounds and easily fits into any small backpack or netbook carrying case. This is great for getting away and doing some serious writing.

Taking the Internet with you does bring along all the distractions like Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, email, and your favorite games. However, for me the distractions aren’t a concern. The Internet is along for quick fact checks.

Whether sitting on a hillside rock overlooking the city or a remote riverbank, great weather, scenic writing spot, pen and paper in hand, the only thing left to do is write.

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Transcribing Recorded Interviews and Notes

I’ll have to credit the topic of this post to John Wooley. During a recent presentation, he stated that transcribing takes four times the length of the taped interview. Did I hear that correctly? Taped? What are we living in, the 19th century?

It does take time to transcribe anything recorded. However, we have options and most importantly, none of them involve using tape. Today all you need is a cell phone, iPad, Android tablet, or digital voice recorder.

I’ve touched don Evernote in an earlier post. This is an amazing piece of software. It works on any platform and stores data in the cloud. I’ve recorded several meeting with Evernote. However, I must admit to never transcribing anything recorded. A quick search of Evernote’s Trunk reveals a service called Quicktate.  For a fee, they will transcribe your recordings. A word of caution about transcription services. While they save you time on transcribing audio, you have no control of what they choose to leave out. It could be something small, yet more significant than the main answer.

If you’re not into Evernote and wish to use a digital voice recorder. These are available from any online retailer or your neighborhood brick and mortar office supply store. I received an Olympus years ago as a gift. It’s a handy device. With it configured for basic audio, I can record over 70 hours of audio. Once done I can pop it into my laptop’s USB port and transfer the files. You should be able to find a DVR that creates recordings in your favorite file format.

Once the file is transferred, you’re left with the same issue of start, stop, back up, and type some more, that leads to such a long transcription time. Thanks to the world of dictation, there are solutions you can purchase for your PC. Olympus makes a kit that allows you to use a foot switch to control the playback so you can continue to type. This can be a huge time saver. But with all things that save time and increase productivity, it comes at a cost.

There are many models of DVRs made by a multitude of manufactures. Go to Amazon or Newegg and search for digital voice recorder. No matter what your previous choice of recorder, wax cylinder, wire recorders, reel to reel tape, or cassettes. None compares to the flexibility of digital devices.

You may be thinking that you can use your cell phone too. This is true. Most smartphones have recording capabilities. But they are geared more for recording notes, not lengthy interviews. How many times a day do you have to connect your phone to a charger? An hour-long meeting puts the smack down on my Android phone’s battery and electrical outlets are not always handy. However, I’ve had excellent luck with the iPad2’s battery. But if you have that all import interview that could go hours, nothing beats a DVR and a fresh AAA battery.

Microphones are another consideration. My Olympus DVR can pick up more audio than any other device I have. This includes making recordings while it sits in my shirt pocket. The mics on laptops and mobile devices can be hit or miss on quality. Some handle ambient noise better. Others may be too directional to be functional in an interview setting.

Do you use recording devices for notes or interviews? Please share any tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years.

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Take the Typing out of Writing

This is the first guest post for theWriteTechnology. We’re turning over the reins to JP Jones.

JP Jones wears many hats. She’s the author of “Market Yourself: A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media“. Owns Paige1Media and Paige1Publishing and is in a joint venture with Collipsis Web Solutions, LLC. If that’s not enough she also an adjunct instructor at Oral Roberts University. She has won over 100 awards for her designs and promotions. Additionally she was named one of the Top 101 Female Bloggers for 2010 by Women’s Entertainment Magazine for her bog, In Search of Design.

JP uses this software every day and provides a user’s perspective on its functionality. If typing is not your thing, the solution she discusses here may be for you.

Take it away JP!

* * *

There are tools that every writer needs in their arsenal. Pens and paper have long since been replaced by more digital means of writing through the use of personal computers and now laptops and tablets. Unfortunately, as technology use increases many writers have found themselves dealing with new problems—from carpal tunnel syndrome to eye strain issues as the spend more and more time clicking away on a keyboard.

If this describes your work habits, you’re in luck. While there are numerous dictation softwares available, perhaps the most notable of these is Dragon Dictate (for Mac) & Dragon Naturally Speaking (for PC) from Nuance Software.

How it Works:

Dragon Dictate assists you in creating a voice profile to ‘teach’ the software your specific inflections and accent beginning with a base voice profile. During the setup, you will be asked to read aloud several passages at a specific speed. This process allows the software to analyze your voice and will give you the most accurate results. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect medium, but the more that you train the software to pick up on your inflections, the more accurate it will be when it comes to translating your words into written text.

How it’s Available:

Like any good software in today’s technology age, Dragon dictations software is available for your PC, Mac, Smart phone, or iPad. Being an Apple girl myself, I have enjoyed using the software on four platforms: the full software suite on my MacBook Pro and iMac and the mobile app for iPhone and iPad.

My Experience:

I purchased the software after a year’s worth of 18-hour days in front of the computer took it’s toll on my wrists. I was desperate for a solution that would allow my wrists to heal and still allow me to get tasks accomplished—not to mention writing—on my computer.

In addition to being able to dictate written documents, the full-featured software actually has a complete catalog of commands that will allow you to control your computer hands-free should the need arise. While there is definitely a learning curve involved—and in some cases it’s slower and bit more frustrating than doing it the old-fashioned way—if you find yourself in a position where you need to save some of the pressure on your extremities the software is a great alternative.

Like many, while that was my initial reason for purchasing the dictation software, I later found it to be an invaluable tool for speeding up my writing, without developing the painful side effects associated with too much typing. If you’re like me, chances are that you can actually talk much faster than you can type and in many cases it’s easier to get your thoughts out in a cohesive unit without the distraction of a potential misspelled word or missing keystroke.

After getting hooked on the dictation software on my computer, I soon installed the mobile apps on both my iPhone and iPad. While the apps are not terrible, there is a definite difference in their accuracy. Since they are not specifically trained for your voice and your inflections, you’ll find that their sensitivity to your words are not nearly as good. Thus, rewarding you with many more errors and potentially confusing sentences. However in a bind, or during travel, it is still a great alternative to trying to type—especially on the smaller devices.

What to Watch For:

With any dictation software, the software is relying often on the context clues and sentences you are crafting. In that case, it’s important to speak in a natural pace and allow the dictation software to determine your stops and starts. It does take a bit of getting used to you, especially to develop the habit of actively speaking out punctuation. For instance, while dictating this particular sentence, I have to verbally say words like “comma” and “period” to add proper punctuation. This is a new twist since thankfully, in casual conversation, we don’t have to voice those punctuation marks!

It’s also imperative after completing any dictation with the software, to go back and thoroughly edit the text. Because it’s not perfect, it can easily get words that sound similar confused, and there’s always the occasionally awkward sentence structure that it throws in seemingly with a mind of its own. I use the dictation software personally for a lot of guest posts on a variety of blogs and magazines that I write for. My most embarrassing dictation mistake to date, actually made it through my editing as well as the bloggers editing and was posted live until someone caught it. In an article talking about my business and its success, a sentence that was supposed to read ” I’m very happy with my life.” Actually read instead, ” I’m very happy with my wife.” Awkward, to say the least considering I’m a female.

If you’re interested in checking out the software for yourself, don’t take my word for it. There are several trial versions available that will allow you to get a feel for it and see if it would be a good gift for your writing habits. Good luck and happy dictating!

http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/by-product/dragon-for-mac/dragon-dictate/index.htm

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