If you’re looking for music to perk up a storytelling project, take a look at Vimeo’s music store. Here you’ll find more than 45,000 royalty-free tracks covering just about any music style or mood you need for your project. Many tracks are free and those that aren’t will only set you back $1.99 for personal use.
My favorite layout tool is Keynote – Apple’s presentation graphics app. It gives me the flexibility to build publications that are part story and part scrapbook – my favorite format. Keynote is not a writing tool and it doesn’t handle the linked text boxes that flow from one page to another like Pages Apple’s word processing app. It does make it easy to place and arrange photos and other graphical elements and I can create some interesting text effects. In this particular publication, most of the stories come from blog articles I’ve written over the years, so I’m taking that “finished” text and styling it with layout, fonts, graphic effects and photos to get the look I want.
The Scribd online library makes it possible to publish my stories in this unconventional format, letting others read it online or even download a PDF if I choose to make that feature available. The built-in revision system makes it easy to upload a new version when I have more stories to add. The first edition of Behind the Alligator Farm is posted at Scribd. You can view it via the embed below. Like most family histories, this is a work in progress. As new stories are completed, a new version will be posted at Scribd.
I find the beginning of a writing project a difficult and intimidating time. I have an idea and possibly a few notes – maybe even a rough outline – but there’s still so much to consider before I write the first paragraph. Starting your first project in Scrivener can be rather intimidating too, but hopefully this post will show you how the app can quickly become your friend and make those early stages of a writing project easier and more focused.
Here’s a look at a writing project that’s just getting started. Looking at the contents of the Binder in the left sidebar you see there are a number of folders set up with different icons chosen to help define their purpose. You’ll also notice there are only a few text items included at this point and these are mostly generic content. Let’s go through what you see here and why they are included.
You’re looking at the “How to Use This Guide” text element located as the first element in the Draft folder. The Draft folder is where the actual contents of the book resides. Right now it contains just a few things – most of them boilerplate text. As you can see, the Front Matter folder holds the copyright, fine print and other legal requirements for this book. Other than a few things like book title and copyright date, this stuff won’t change much from one project to the next. You’ll also notice that I’ve got my text set to a rather large font. I’ve already set up the formatting within the manuscript so it’s easy for me to read while I work. This won’t affect the look of the published book, but it will sure make writing and editing easier on my eyes.
Below the contents of the Draft folder is another folder called Research. This is where I’m going to stash all the notes, screenshots, web archives and other information I’ll need to reference while I’m working on this project. Right now the only thing in there is a blank text item called Useful Links. I’ll soon have this loaded down with URLs to online sources related to this project.
Trash is where I drag and drop folders and text items I no longer need. Those things are not actually deleted until you manually empty the trash.
The Graphics folder has sub-folders to hold the image files for both my book’s cover as well as any graphics to be included in the guide.
Style Guide is used to build a quick reference for grammar and style issues. Right now you can see that I’ve imported the word list file from Yahoo’s online style guide. Why this word list? Because most of my books discuss tech and online topics and this word list supports those terms and phrases. I can easily add to this word list or include notes and grammar references at any time.
How did this word list get added to my project? I downloaded the list from Yahoo, then clicked on the Style Guide icon in the Binder and chose File > Import > Files and selected the file I wanted to import.
Notes is empty right now but will soon be full of reminders, notes, imported files and web archives. There could well be several sub-folders added within Notes to keep things organized as my research items grow. The goal is to have all the reference material I’ll need while I’m writing within easy reach inside Scrivener so I don’t waste time trying to find it.
I’m a big fan of outlines and I keep outline apps on both my iPad and phone to jot down something before I forget it. I can easily export those files and include them in my Scrivener research. I keep an Outline folder in my project so I have a place for them when I want them.
Because I plan to write several guides, I’ve saved this basic setup as a template. That way I don’t have to recreate these same generic elements with each project. Once I’ve got the basic setup the way I like it, I save it as a template (File > Save as Template …). Next I’m asked which category to save it under – I chose Non-Fiction – and to give it a title. Now, when I’m ready to start a new guide all I do is choose File > New Project and select my template from the appropriate category.
One Scrivener feature I’ve found quite useful is the ability to include Web Archive files in my research folders. The Safari browser [Mac & Win - free] lets you save all or part of a displayed web page as an archive. The result is very similar to a screenshot except that the links included on the page will work. It is important to note that a web archive doesn’t always capture all the contents. It does have problems with content displayed within an iFrame – like the census pages displayed on Ancestry. If you want to include one of these views in your Scrivener project, it’s best to download the page as a graphic then bring that into your research folders.
Here’s what my Wikipedia article looks like in Scrivener. I can use the links within the Contents box to move to specific content within the article and the external links will open in my default web browser. The difference is this information is now easily accessible from within my current writing project.
With the essentials already waiting for me in my Scrivener template, I’m ready to concentrate on building my writing project. In this example, you see my Binder is beginning to fill out with more research items and a number of topics to be discussed within the manuscript. I’m still in the research and organization phase of my writing project but I’m getting focused and can concentrate on the what I want in this guide and how to organize it. Of course things will change frequently as the project progresses. The published guide will bear little resemblance to what you see here, but Scrivener will continue to help me manipulate my manuscript until I have it just the way I want it.
Since I spend a lot of time in Scrivener working on writing projects, I want to make it as comfortable as possible. For me that means large fonts that are easy on these old eyes. Fortunately, the only formatting options that can’t be overridden in the compile process are bold, italics and underlines. That means I can set font styles and sizes in the workspace that make it easy for me to see what I’m doing but have the final product set in more platform-appropriate type. I’m loving that!
If you’re like me, you probably won’t even think about doing something like this until you’re well into a Scrivener project. In my case, I recently imported my first book, The Future of Memories, as a Scrivener project so I can bring it up to date. It came in with all the fonts, styles and colors used in the PDF edition of the book so now I want something that’s easier to work on. I’m doing a review to define which areas of the book need more information/updated information/new content so updating the format has been included in the review process. Here’s how it works.
Once I’ve got a text element set up with the font, size, line spacing and other formatting preferences I want, I select it and choose the Format > Formatting > Redefine Preset From Selection command, then choose the element I want to redefine. In this example, I had body text selected so I would chose Redefine Body. I would do the same for block quotes, headings and sub-headings within the draft. Notice there’s also an option for setting up new presets – like maybe a caption or something similar.
Once everything’s the way I want it, I can then make them your default presets so every new project will be set up just like this one. To do that, I go to the Scrivener Preferences panel (Scrivener > Preferences), choose the Formatting button then click the Use Formatting in Current Editor button.
Now, whenever I need one of these formatting presets, I’ll select the text to be formatted, click on the Presets button in the toolbar and choose the preset I want. It works for me.
My fascination with the Kindle is two-fold. Yes, I love the reader itself because it’s just the right size and so easy to use, but it’s also the reader of choice for a growing number of people in my family. We have our own little community of Kindle users which continues to grow as older members upgrade and pass their old readers on to the younger crowd. Not only do we share books, but thanks to the Kindle Personal Document Service, I can create and share family stories quite easily.
No, you don’t need any special software to create a document to send to a Kindle device. All you need is an app that can save documents in Word format (.doc or .docx). Once your document is created and saved, send it on to the Kindle (or Kindles) of your choice and Amazon will convert your Word document into Kindle format before delivering it to the device(s). Here are some formatting tips to give you the best results possible:
- Stick to one font throughout the document and use a standard font rather than a decorative one.
- Take advantage of your word processor’s styles feature to format headings and paragraphs. Use the Normal style to define things like paragraph indention and space between paragraphs. Not familiar with styles? See the All About Styles fact sheet below.
- To force a new page to begin at a specific point in the text, use the Insert > Page Break command.
- Don’t use the Return key to add space within the document.
- Using bold and italicized text is fine, but headers and footers, bullet points and fancy fonts won’t convert so leave them out.
- You can include tables, if needed. Just remember that screen size is quite limiting and large tables will be difficult to read. Use the Insert > Table command to add you table to the document.
- Take advantage of Word’s table of contents generator if your document is large enough to need one.
- Images should be inserted using the Insert > Picture command to insert an image file. Don’t use copy/paste . Only use JPEG format for your images and insert them on a blank line using center alignment.
- For e-Ink readers, generally an image sized at 600 x 800 pixels will fill the screen. Size limit for each image is 127KB.
- It’s okay to use color images (not every Kindle is black and white) but e-Ink devices will display them in 16 shades of gray. My experience is that images with less contrast (like screen shots with lots of white background) look quite washed out on those screens.
You can distribute your document to your family using their Kindle’s email address. You will need to get that address from them and have them add your sending address as an authorized source for personal documents in their account. You can also send them the Word document and they can use the Send to Kindle app [Win & Mac - free] to send it to their device themselves.
What about those people who don’t have their own Kindle devices? There are free Kindle reading apps for desktops, iOS and Android devices, Windows Phone and Blackberries. If none of those works, there’s the Kindle Cloud Reader for browsers.
Creating content to read on a Kindle device is easy enough that it’s not only a great way to share your family history stories with your family, it’s also a convenient way to build your own research reference library on your own Kindle. Try it yourself and see!
One of the many useful tools Scrivener offers is the split pane view. It allows you to open a second pane below or beside the text item you are currently writing or editing. There are many uses for this feature – from referring to another part of your manuscript to maintain consistency to opening a scanned family document for transcription. And, for those who use the Safari browser [Mac & Win - free], it can be used to create a web archive file like the one you see in the example below.
Creating split panes is quite simple. Choose View > Layout > Split Horizontally to create the example you see above. The View > Layout > Split Vertically displays the panes side-by-side. When I am ready to return to a single editing pane choose View > Layout > No Split. I can display just about anything in either pane. In this example there’s a text element from the manuscript in the top pane and a web archive file in the bottom pane. The web archive is from a blog site I’m discussing in the text and it’s there so I can see it while I’m writing about it. The web archive file is located in the Research section of this project’s Binder and I just dragged the file to the pane’s title bar (highlighted in blue) to display it in that pane.
So, what exactly is a web archive and why bother with it?
A web archive file is created using the Safari browser. When I save a displayed web page as a web archive file, it saves the entire page including all images and hyperlinks. The hyperlinks will remain functional as long as the destinations for those links still exist. Why not just use a screenshot? Screenshots generally only capture what is currently visible on the screen whereas a web archive captures the entire web page. And, it’s just as easy to capture a web archive file as it is to capture a screenshot – I just save the page as a web archive. Want to capture an entire article in Wikipedia? I can do it with a web archive file.
To add web archive files to a Scrivener project, I just drag and drop the file into the appropriate folder within my Research section of the project. Remember . . . only text can go into the Draft/Manuscript sections.
On Mac systems, the default application for displaying a web archive file is the Safari browser, but in addition to Scrivener, I can also view web archives in my Footnote, MacJournal, Notebooks and Paperless apps. Since web archives are an Apple feature, I doubt that there are many Windows apps supporting the format. While Safari’s web archive feature isn’t the ideal solution for capturing the contents of a web page, it’s still one of the best options we have. And, for people like me who spend most of their online time in the Safari browser, it’s one of the easiest ways to capture the page. Even if you’re not working in Scrivener, there are still a lot of ways to put a web archive file to good use.
Designed by Laura Worthington, this Open Type font is great for titling, display and logos. It’s quirky while also being quite elegant. Mandevilla includes a downloadable User’s Guide, 950 glyphs, and 210 alternates, including sets of uppercase and lowercase letters (both swash and standard—the standard are listed in the User’s Guide as “Titling Alternates”), and 3/4 uppercase alternates listed as “small caps.” Thirty-eight ornaments complete the package. Right now all three fonts – light, bold and normal – are on sale for $29.
Caffeine is a package of three handwritten fonts (regular, bold and light) that could be used as either headings or “small print” in many family history projects. Currently this font is on sale with the package selling for $9.00 or $4.50 for each individual font.
If you’re an iPhone user and an Evernote fan, you may find this app quite handy. EverEPUB [iOS - $3.99] can turn an Evernote notebook or tag collection into an ePub book.
Here you see a page of an ebook I created from my Tech T.I.P. notebook on Evernote. One of the things I use Evernote for is to collect the articles I write for other blog and publications – along with topic ideas for future articles. This particular notebook has articles captured from the Journal’s web site as well as those I’ve written right in the notebook. Using the app, I selected each article note, added a title and author then tapped the Create button. In seconds I had a book.
The page you see here is from one of the captured articles. That’s why you see the header graphic as well as the text. Since I didn’t clean up the articles before I created my book, I’ve got a lot of unwanted content from the captured page. That’s easy to fix – just clean up my notes then generate a new book.
Except for the junk in my original notes, I am very impressed with the quality of the finished ebook. Both text and images are formatted beautifully. Yes, there are situations where pages break in the middle of a hyphenated word, but those are to be expected from any kind of automatic conversion. With a bit of effort, this Evernote and EverEPUB combination could make a very nice publishing platform – especially for sharing with family members.
In addition to publishing your own Evernote content, this combo can be an easy way to build your own news magazine or even reference books from articles you collect in Evernote. Society editors could combine Evernote’s collaborative tools with this app to make managing a newsletter or journal a whole lot easier. Kindle users won’t get left out either. A quick conversion in Calibre will generate a Kindle edition in seconds.
I think we’ll soon be seeing some very interesting results from this easy and affordable combination.