What process do you write in?

September 26, 2012

There was some great conversation between the four of us who showed up to Chester’s Beers of the World for the Hamilton Writers meeting last night – once they turned down the music enough that we could hear each other speak, that is. 😉

One interesting topic that came up was our choice of writing process – specifically between three very different experiences – typing on a keyboard, scribbling with a pen or pencil on paper, and speaking into a voice recorder. It was interesting to see how different people reacted to the different options.

I’m a typer; I have been since I was very young; taught myself how to go beyond two-finger hunt and peck typing, though it took proper typing lessons to cure myself of looking at the screen. I have handwriting so horrible that I can’t read it myself, and I get very nervous about the sound of my voice and my ums and uhs if I try talking into a voice recorder. But I’ve never really needed an alternative to typing – it’s a process that works very well for me.

The new gentleman who brought up this topic for conversation said that he found that a voice recorder and Dragon Naturally Speaking work very well for him – especially after he’s reached the halfway point in a story, which is where the tough part usually begins for him. He can usually cruise through the first half on a keyboard, he said, but then gets blocked if he can’t talk it through. Another writer that I’ve known for many years mentioned that she associates keyboards as a tool for a day job, not a part of her writing process, so she writes her first drafts out in longhand.

Have you found the process that works for you? Is there some special subprocess within those big three that you write best with, (a particular keyboard device, that perfect notebook paper, or whatever?) Do you ever wish that you could find a better process than the one you’re writing with now?

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Belated Deja Vu blogfest – Dana by Alphasmart

December 17, 2011

Sorry I spaced on the Deja vu blogfest yesterday, guys – it just went outta my head. 😦

I’ve picked, somewhat arbitrarily, a post from last May to rerun, about one of my favorite writing tools. And it’s one that served me in good stead during Nanowrimo 2011!

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I’ve told you about some of my other writing writing devices during the A-Z challenge, but I don’t think that I’ve ever mentioned my Alphasmart Dana portable word processor on this blog yet, other than just casually in passing.

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Not my ideal writing machine: Asus Eee Pad Transformer

September 23, 2011

I’ve been playing around for a few days with a new gadget – the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. It sounded like a great idea – an Android tablet with a touchscreen, that docks onto a keyboard to form a machine with an ultrathin, ultralight netbook form factor. I thought it would be great for writing, revising, working with simple spreadsheets, and as a multimedia machine to watch videos and listen to music on.

It’s not a bad machine. It can handle all of that stuff – sort of. But I’ve found that the available Android office and productivity software is awkward and doesn’t exactly play nice with the keyboard interface. The pre-installed suite, Polaris Office, won’t open Rich Text Format files, doesn’t offer a word count function or show comments, and it’s awkward about text entry and navigation in spreadsheets. I downloaded a trial for another office package, OfficeSuite pro, and that was a little better, but I still found some issues – like no spell checker or ability to actually see the contents of comments.

More than just the office software, there’s all kinds of things about Android that I don’t like in the netbook keyboard experience – the complete absence of scrollbars in scrollable lists, for instance, since Android things that being able to push the list up or down on the touchscreen is so completely intuitive. The movie player doesn’t show titles, just sample frames; the music player is locked into a kind of a circle flow interface, and the Market application (to find and install new apps) seems very buggy, often getting stuck at the point between downloading and installing my app.

And wait, there’s more issues! The mouse touchpad is incredibly sensitive while typing, although to their credit, Asus had foresight enough to include a dedicated button to turn the touchpad on and off. And the browser doesn’t seem to want to let me scroll up and down inside a text area as opposed to scrolling the page up and down – which is incredibly frustrating when I want to compose a blog post. (And the WordPress android app is still stuck and won’t install.)

I know that I could probably sort out some of these annoyances by experimenting with other Android apps, but at the moment, I don’t have the patience for it. The entire package is going back to Futureshop, probably tomorrow. Thanks for the test drive, Asus, but this latest product wasn’t worth it – nearly $800 canadian, with the 2 year warranty plan and taxes. No thank you.

PS: And the web browser won’t even let me paste in text from OfficeSuite, so I won’t be able to post this to the blog until I get home. Grr all over again.


My Fold-out PDA keyboard

July 3, 2011

I don’t actually remember where I got this Targus keyboard, if I ordered it online or found it in a shop like Futureshop. It’s a bit of an ungainly thing when it’s all set up, though it looks compact and elegant while folded away – the keyboard itself is in two segments, and then there’s a third piece that’s used to prop up a palm-pilot or pocketPC, with a wireless arm that you put over the IR transceiver for the PDA. This arm works well for my Palm tungstens, but keeps me from even trying the keyboard with the hp iPaq pda, because its IR transceiver spot is in the bottom, which is great if you’ve got a keyboard that’s built that way, but anyway.

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Dana by Alphasmart

May 2, 2011

I’ve told you about some of my other writing writing devices during the A-Z challenge, but I don’t think that I’ve ever mentioned my Alphasmart Dana portable word processor on this blog yet, other than just casually in passing.

So, let’s see. The Dana has a big, comfortable keyboard, about the same size as that of a wide-screen laptop, built into a molded plastic case. The screen is monochrome LCD, a little bigger than two inches high by seven wide, with a backlight option to make it glow faintly, which is useful under dim lighting.

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