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Yarny’s New Friend, Publification

If you use Yarny at all (or you read my last post and clicked the link to the site there), then you know that Yarny has joined together with the Estonia-based self-publishing site Publification.

I’ve had plenty to say about Yarny, but what about this new site? And I do mean new. I may have been effectively exiled from the internet thanks to my move, but I have never heard of this site before. So when I got a newsletter from Blue Burro announcing this partnership, I had to take a look.

Funny thing: when I first tried searching for information about it on Google, all I kept getting was the main site and a snooty search bar insisting that I don’t know how to spell.

At first, it sounds great. Instead of files, you make “browser books”. Nothing to download, just send out links. People can read and comment, and it all feels very much like deviantART except writing is the point instead of being the undisputed underdog.

Strand bookstore

Strand bookstore (Photo credit: ktylerconk)

Publification is little like other self-publishing sites like Smashwords, and bit like a social site. You track statistics–and not just number of views and unique readers, but the time people have spent reading your work. It’s kind of like Wattpad, except I have yet to find a way to browse any kind of booklist. It appears to work on a link system–meaning that you send the link out yourself, which I must admit, is very bad for a serious writer trying to market his or her ebook.

Databases, collections, libraries… These are all much better than word of mouth. Especially for people who like to browse.

Another serious problem I have with the site is that although you have the option of adding an ISBN to your book’s metadata, a free one is not provided to you. I haven’t tried every form of self-publishing on the web, but I do know that Smashwords and Createspace (ebook and print, respectively) both give you a free ISBN, with the choice to obtain one yourself.

Of course, some people want to be listed as their own publisher and are willing to pay for it, but free is a hard price to sniff at. Especially if you don’t care what it says under “publisher”.

Along with the self-publication stuff, there is an editor and book manager, meaning that you can write the whole book online. (or not, if you’re linking to it from Yarny anyway.) You can also add pictures, and they seem to be working on a way to incorporate music as well. With all of that, I would like to see, if not CSS support, then at least the ability to change the font from this Arial yuckiness to something serif that I can actually read.

Publification is still in beta, with a sort of forum for feedback. Things could get better.

But how do the sites work together? Pretty simply, right now. Each has a sort of linkback to the other from their main pages, and Yarny’s export feature has been modified to include an option to export to Publification.

I have yet to try it (for some reason, I just can’t finish a project in Yarny, I don’t know what it is), but it’s in beta, so as they say in the Yarny blog, go out there and break it! See if it’s for you.

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New skills

This morning I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. So I just got up, showered, and hobbled over to my computer. I was planning on either doing something useful or listening to music.

Last night, my brain was keeping me up with thoughts of Desiderata. I played through our new desert gorge map (no monsters yet) and it looks really good. Then I went through the mass of cutscenes that has for so long comprised Chapter 2.

Altogether, they get pretty dense, but I don’t want to cut any of them. They’re honestly quite good. However, they could stand to be separated by some action and triviality. I made a list of all the cutscenes and basically made some “serving suggestions” inline with that list.

I also fixed some minor errors and the like. But that was all yesterday. What I did today was start to learn parallax mapping.

The tutorial I found is cripplingly 403’d, but it did at least get me started. I made a simple classroom with Celianna’s sets, and I taught myself a few things about available space.

I’d post the picture, but I’m writing this on my mobile. Tonight, maybe. It’d be nice to make a better one and share that.

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Quest for Glory: So You Want to Be Nostalgic

Yesterday I had a grievous migraine that had me sobbing from the pain. I went to bed early and woke up around two in the morning, when I found an SMS from my brother, about THIS. I had to go back to bed to stop myself from buying them and playing immediately.

Quest for Glory was my favourite game series, and to this day, I don’t think there has been a single successful attempt to top it. Not even Assassin’s Creed, which I went fairly nuts over until it was hit by the shockingly NaNoWriMo problem of character show-stealing.

The first game has the title, “So You Want to Be a Hero”, which is a phrase that I have always loved. Quite appropriately, you play a young man who had a positive response to the question, and has recently graduated from a correspondence school for young adventurers. There are three classes, which later expanded to four, sort of. I don’t remember now if you ever got to actually create a paladin, or if you had to become one properly through the second game.

It’s a fairly simple story at the start, but it’s Lori Ann and Corey Cole. You can’tjust have a hero who quite innocently stumbles into a rich world of adventure. There’s always plenty going on, to the point that the first game actually contains references to things not only in the second game, but in the fifth. This is a series that went from this:

To this:

Over the course of about nine years. It’s an amazing experience to play all five of the games with the same hero. What you do actually affects the story, in a way that games like Fallout 3 have overthought and largely failed to do. Even when those things are part of linear plot development, you feel accomplished and satisfied that you have affected the game world.

Each of the games has a clear influence from different cultures and mythology. My favourites are still the fourth and fifth, thanks to the Slavic and Greco-Mediterranean themes (and the in-universe version of the Cthulhu mythos).

This is really just an excuse to gush mildly and come up with a post to fill out my horrendously dry month. Right now, I’m playing the VGA version of QFG 1, with a wizard named Schmendrick. It is midday on Day 2, and he’s just killed a goblin on his way to Erana’s Peace. He is feeling mighty proud of himself, but he’ll get obliterated if he runs into a brigand before he can learn an aggressive spell more affective than Zap (which only charges his weapon, it’s not Zio or anything).

Just in case someone is reading this and actually recognises this series–the GOG bundle contains the VGA version of 1, the EGA version of 2, and I have yet to test the well-known bugs in the former and QFG 4 (whose bugs are INFAMOUS). I intend to play AGD‘s VGA version of QFG 2 rather than the EGA. Mostly because I was following it throughout its development and have as many fan-points invested there as in the original series.

And because it features the hero import/export stuff that will make my journey from 1 to 5 seamless and AWESOME.

Seriously though, go buy this series. It’s $10. That’s less than I paid for the Anthology ten years ago.

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Writing Software report/mini-reviews

This would have been up sooner, but I’ve been trying to give one of them a grace period of patience. It’s browser-based, and the first two days I had limited computer/internet access. The next couple days, every attempt to use it resulted in an almost immediate error message.

So why not start with the failed one?

QuietWrite is a mellow-looking browser-based writing program that mixes up privacy and lack of distraction with the ability to share your work and receive feedback in the form of “responses”. I was never interested in the feedback. I was also categorically unable to actually use QuietWrite for any length of time. I would type a couple of words, then an error message would pop up and reload the page.

Every single time. So that’s enough of that.

On the flipside, there was Zenwriter.  At first, I thought: flipping SCORE. Backgrounds, soothing music, typing sounds, fullscreen. Distraction-free writing with distractions. This is the kind of contradiction candy that I love.

But I’m not altogether happy with the way it keeps making my AVP nervous. I would rather not have any program bothering my AVP at all, even if I know why. It’s also pretty much the same as OmmWritrer, which does not worry my AVP. Uninstalled.

Storybook, I was on the fence about. It has nice, somewhat guided organisation, but the actual writing space gets a little lost in those efforts. That organisation is also kind of passively pushy. For some reason it asks for dates (MM/DD/YY kind of dates) in a lot of fields. This is only one example of the superfluous fields in Storybook, but it’s very prevalent and almost unavoidable.

Who writes with dates in mind? I mean, in general. If you’re writing a world that tells time differently, then it’s really only going to give you a headache. If you’re like me and you just have a vague timetable such as “This happens after this and before this, and the days change when they ought to”, being asked for the date at all is really jarring.

It’s too bad it isn’t easier to write a program like this with the ability to change what information you’re even being asked. Or just have a blank page where you can use fields or write a character study.

Oh wait.

Storybox does that. It’s also got a very friendly opening screen that gives you access to all of the information you need to get started on using the software. Although you might feel a little lost with the freedom you have as soon as you’re done reading it. Still, I like the flexibility. You can change your workspace, and there are templates available, but they are turned off by default, and are simply text within your page. If your character doesn’t have a Home, you can delete that field and write “Years spent roaming” or something instead. Or Favourite Haunt.

You can also organise your writing into as deep a level of complexity as you want. Most programs are ready for chapters, a lot do scenes, but very few of this type let you choose to write the whole thing in one place. Storybox lets you choose any of these. It’s also not pushy about anything. If you just want to use it to write the story and not even keep any notes, you won’t feel like there’s someone bugging you to make characters or locations.

It also has a timer in the corner that tracks how long your session is, and keeps track of your daily goals and overall goal for wordcount (which you define yourself). As well as the ability to make your finished book into an ebook. It’s pretty spiffy.

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Writing software – Price and Productivity

Alternate post title: I Like Writing Toys

I have talked a lot about different types of writing software. Usually in comparison, or because I was using a particular program and had it on my mind.

Today, I had a chance to play with my brother’s iPad(dunno if it was original, spicy, or extra crunchy) and it reminded me of the one or two apps that I wish would just get an Android port. I could barely justify a $USD5 purchase to my penny-pinching self. How could I accept buying a $USD300-700 machine functionally similar to something I already own–just to use that app?

The app in question is Novel in 30. I don’t think that I have mentioned it before, except maybe in passing and not by name. All I’ve been able to see are some screenshots and the obvious marketing (i.e., homepage). The fact that I can never use it rankles occasionally. It’s made worse by my rich imagination.

And why does this even bother me? Is it because I think that all software should find some way to be available at least for a price below insane? Novelling software especially so? Or is it just that I like an aspect of gaming/play in my writing?

Truthfully, both. As to the first, I’m realistic, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still want impossible things. As to the second, I love to play. I was like Andy from Toy Story. My toys didn’t stop getting roles in epic stories until I was out of high school. And that was just because I had begun to perfect writing them down.

There’s a sense of accomplishment in the gamification of writing that, when tied to a realistic goal and meaningful achievement, is not just fun, but productive. I barely use Word anymore, because I have so many toys for writing.

But of course, I always want to try a new one. Not just because I have not really found my ideal yet. (prolly never will) But because I have this desire for new things across the board.

However, that can be an expensive habit. So, I balance it out by being a squeaky miser and knowing how to spell “free”.

In my post about whether I thought Yarny Premium-ship was/is worth paying for, I listed a bunch of writing software. I decided for this post that I would find a couple of new ones, try them out, and then report my findings. These are programs that I have not personally used before, so if it’s not new to you, I apologise.

…okay, due to life being incredibly messy right now, I’m going to have to post-pone this to another post. Not entirely bad. This way I can (hopefully) spend a little more time assessing the programs I found.

This would also be a great opportunity for people to leave a comment telling me any particular features they want reviewed/recounted.

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Should I upgrade to Yarny Premium?

Short answer? No. Long answer? Not unless you want to donate to friendly people.

Another short answer, which I’m going to cover in longer form in this post, is that as far as I have seen, everything in Yarny‘s premium service is already available for free from a different word processor.

From what I have been able to tell, Yarny is just late to the party. They started out offering features on par with LitLift, and the introduction of their pay service was underwhelming, to say the least.

The free features are not bad. Like I said, it’s similar to LitLift, with a few pluses and minuses. On the plus side, Yarny has an arguably easier and/or more attractive user interface, and actually offers the ability to recover a forgotten password. As far as I know, the latter is still unavailable on LitLift.

However, on the minus side, when recording information that many writers compartmentalise, LitLift is clearly better purposed. Character input is prompted by fields, and there is also a character generator.

Besides that, what you actually gain with a Yarny premium account is not made readily known. I would expect information on or accessible from the home page, but no dice. I had to dig through the blog to glean anything like what I wanted.

And what are the features? So far, things like themes, typing sounds, and at first, exclusive rights to unlimited titles–which they were later reminded had been promised as an eternal free feature. Very smooth, guys.

But I can understand why that happened. They’ve basically made a cloud-based word processor, and when the time came to implement a pay service, they couldn’t think of what to offer actual customers.

I’ve used tonnes of free word processors, as well as a few I’ve had to buy. Themes and sounds are not hard to come by. OmmWriter and FocusWriter both offer themes–FocusWriter even allows you to create your own. Both of them also offer sounds. WriteMonkey has lots of those. Q10 also has typing sounds.

On the pay side, Liquid Story Binder XE has an amazing degree of structure, as does the free program yWriter5. Neither has typing sounds (although LSBXE has themes), but offer organisation and features specifically for fiction writing instead.

However, none of them are cloud-based. In my opinion, that doesn’t matter. I have FocusWriter set up in my DropBox folder so that everything I want synced to all of my devices will be.

But if it did matter, there is still one program that has covered every base that Yarny seems to be struggling to think up: Evernote.

Everyone must know what it is, but it’s worth pointing out everything you get with Evernote.

  • Saving in the cloud
  • A hierarchical organisation in notes, notebooks, and stacks
  • Public sharing
  • Duplicating notes
  • Media sharing (pictures, voice, etc.)
  • Exporting to other formats
  • Email forwarding

And it’s cross-platform. In fact, an Evernote app is not only available on Android devices (unlike Yarny), but it also does not require a premium account to use the app (also unlike Yarny).

Actually, all of those features I listed are available for free with Evernote. And the premium features have their own page accessible from the main page.

I like Yarny. I think that the people on that team work hard and genuinely like what they’re doing and want people to like their service. But it’s hard to jump up and down with a kid who saw a horse when you grew up next door to a prize-winning breeder.

However, I would rather not end on a negative note. I still think Yarny could be great. It just needs to offer something that hasn’t been done many times, better or for free. Progress tracking is not new, but it sure isn’t common–and Evernote doesn’t offer it. It’s also something that can come in lots of different flavours. Rewards even as simple as WordPress’s “This many counts to your next factor of 5” upon posting would be nice.

I definitely see paying for Yarny as donating rather than actually buying a product or paying for a service. But there’s nothing wrong with donating. Just make sure it’s worth it to you.