Getting the Dana software ready to beta-test

March 8, 2012

So, I posted open calls today for beta-testers of my Dana Alphasmart programs on the Alphasmart flickr group and the Nanowrimo Alphasmart users thread.

I thought that both programs were as ready as I could make them, but as I tried to explain what they did, I thought of a few other features that would be nifty for the Multicounter… ‘Does it export to the onboard Memo Pad yet, or just to SD card’? ‘What if you could get a grand total word count for ALL of your scratchpads at the touch of a button?’

That led me to opening up the source code, with more questions – I actually don’t think that the version of the source code I was looking at at the time was the most up to date, because I was sure that I’d tweaked the export to SD card routine so that the export format output looks like the UI layout. And I noticed a few places where I wasn’t correctly testing the results of my DB calls for errors – bad Chris!

Hopefully it won’t take too long to iron out these few little details – it may have to wait until after Toronto Comicon though!

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More Ad Astra notes from Friday night:

May 28, 2011

(Taken from my palm tungstens)

Beta Readers
Terminology – editors versus test readers versus critiquers versus critters or beta readers.
The Bunch of Seven, at Ryerson: “Does anybody want to read this manuscript?”
The worst critiquer – your mother? Anybody who will grimace and say “it’s great”!
Deal to meet every two weeks for coffee to talk, and you had to demonstrate process or owe the other person a coffee.
Pride on the line, didn’t want to have to owe the other person anything.
My sister, the professor beta reader – loving yet stern.
Critiquing the work in progress is an art – getitng from the little cleanup stuff, to the bigger stuff, ‘where you lost me, what were you trying to do I didn’t get it.’
Is it important to all be around the same level of skill?
Useful specialty fields, like renaissaince history, fantasy fan
Someone who will give you the bad stuff, won’t take your bullshit or excuses.
Shorthand vocabulary between long time beta readers, familiarity with longer works.
30% more or less of a particular factor (30% less words?)
Posting something up for the fans realtime, but it’s malleable, make changes based on the fan feedback. intensely collaborative experience.
Different specialties and different perspectives, like cultural – british or german?
Busy schedules – distributing manuscripts before the meetings.
Everybody has to make a commitment to the group.
Internet writing friends – commiting to writing.
Limits on the group policies, reciprocity.
Where to find readers? making friends with other readers.
Writers as beta readers? giving the readers/audience perspective.
At what stage do you let the beta readers see it? in progress/first draft/second draft/later?
Clarity for helping you see where you need to get over the hump you’re facing.
‘Too many characters?’ When you list them off, if you say ‘he’s the other guy’ then get rid of him.
The reader is doing a good job when you say ‘I hate you / shut up.’
Ongoing relationship – it builds over time.
Might overlap with professional editing.
‘A marvelous precis of a story, with good cursing.’
Something positive, and something to improve on.
Getting the most beautiful rejection letter, it’s nice that they took the time to write it.
When do you take a comment to heart?
The stages – first to encourage, then your needs change as you get more confident and better.
Don’t tell them that you’re not taking their notes to heart, just thank them and compliment them.
Have the courtesy to say thank you.
Don’t tell them that you’re not taking their notes, or defend your work. (as in getting defensive,)
‘That’s a starter book’, ‘that’s a green belt book instead of a black belt book.’
Writer’s group, you feel under the gun with serious criticism. (defensiveness again.)
Don’t repeat the same constructive criticism that other people in the circle did.
Plug for ‘day jobs for creative professionals.’
Times when it’s very hard to write. you may need to make a change in your life.
Mystery story without any mystery in it.
‘Rewrite in regular english instead of fake olde english.’
‘Very pretty, very terrible story, with a remembered plot.’
Cutting 20000 words from the middle of the story.
‘Well i like you as a person.’
Confessionals didn’t come in for another 300 years.
Writing a rosary within 10 years of the introduction of rosaries.
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Lost notes from long-ago conventions.

May 26, 2011

Well, I went through the memo pad files on my Palm tungsten handhelds this evening, looking for more material on Ad Astra, but when I realized that I had some notes from even longer ago, I thought that I had to share them first. I’ll try to edit for a bit of clarity when I can, but these will generally be very rough, just what I managed to type down at the time. Please reply with questions in the comments about anything that intrigues you, and I’ll answer in more detail if I can, or speculate otherwise.

This first memo I don’t honestly know where it’s from, but it could be from Polaris 2010:

How to write
worldbuilding – know how things work and where things are
map of dystopian ontario – civilization around hydro plants, cancer pollution zones
writing a story in 24 hours – with prompts from strangers and libraries
outlining a story before starting the first sentence
have to be willing to kill characters off, even if you like them and they don’t want to die
two characters running around a building in opposite directions but not meeting
to master the art of outlining… Or not?
character driven writing – know their skilllsets, and then make them go beyond
appendectomy with a spoon and first aid training
wars and the aging of characters – retconning your history
computer tools – custom dictionary spell check, massive internet research, excel file for character bible, search and replace, macros for italicizing ship names
chinese font issues – pdf submissions
preparation details that don’t get into the book – lots of them
helps you live in that world
the grist mill – after being in one when it was working, the feel was wrong, needed to rewrite
tinker’s plague, triangular trade deficits, drove some of the plot
writing programs – ms word with all auto functions turned off, simple good manuscript format
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