The First One Over the Finish Line, Technology, and Other Mental Oddities

I’ve officially had one beta reader finish the first draft, and it’s been a wee hell for me waiting for one of them to finish.  He’s compiling notes on the story to share with me, but he also just bought a house… so I don’t imagine I will see those notes anytime soon.  Still, the first draft has been read by someone other than me; the story exists in someone else’s brain other than my own.  I just finished reading Jim C. Hines’ Libriomancer, in which the protagonist is a magician-librarian who is able to use the power of readers’ collective belief in a book to pull items out of the text and wield them in his defense… like Excalibur, because that’s the very first thing many of us Fantasy geeks would reach for (I’ve got a review for Libriomancer over on Goodreads if you’re interested:… I think I might reach for Aragorn’s sword, Anduril, first… hmmm… or a lightsaber.  Okay, okay… I digress… In my mind, books and stories become more real as more people read/watch/listen to them.  A story just isn’t a story while it exists only in your head, it’s incomplete and in a very nascent stage at that point: it has to touch another, hopefully a lot of others, for it to gain any real momentum… any real magic.

As a writer this conjuration requires a lot of attention and detail, everything must be in meticulous order for the reader to suspend disbelief so that he/she can participate in the fiction dream you’ve crafted; hopefully, they will identify with your character enough to become immersed in the story.  In that respect, a story can be a veritable witch’s brew of amusement and entertainment; it cannot be mere sleight-of-hand because the reader will not appreciate being tricked unless the trick is the heart of the story itself, in which case the reader will be delighted… in theory anyway.  There is no way a writer can account for every temperament or sensitivity, you just kind of hope you score more in the positive rather than in the negative.  Research and careful plotting are critical here, because if you pull that off right often readers who don’t like your character will at least come to respect your story for it’s structure.  I like to use architecture as an example: I like architecture, but it doesn’t move me that way other forms of Art do… in fact, I don’t really consider architecture to be Art (hold the hate mail, and follow along for just a moment), but I respect everything that goes into making a great piece of architecture (For me, architecture falls into the category of “decorative arts,” which falls into the larger category of “Craft,” which to me is not Art.  I’ll expand on this in a future posting.  I wish I had more followers, so we could have a nice discussion about this… I’d love to hear what others think).  What I’m saying is: if your story is sound, but your characters are flat you still have a novel or short story or tale or whatever…  Make sense?  I hope so, because I haven’t had much sleep and my brain is buzzing in a way that makes me a bit unhappy… I’m being held aloft by coffee and the guide wires are pretty thin at this point…

The last time I posted I made a mention that I would be talking about technology this time around, and I don’t want to back off of that simply because I was highly amused by a posting on John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, where he lists all of the tech he’s currently using.  I’m not going to do that, at least not to the degree he does.  What I do want to do is mention the fact that I have been composing more and more on my mobile devices than ever before.  The quick rundown is this: I have an HP laptop, an Asus Transformer TF-101 Android tablet, an Asus Nexus 7 Google Android tablet, and a Samsung Galaxy Nexus Android smart phone; I provide this list only for context, not to brag.  I take my phone and my Nexus 7 tablet with me everywhere, I enjoy these devices thoroughly because they are both on Android 4.1.1 Jellybean, so these are the devices on which I will focus.  I’m not going to discuss technical specifications for either device because those can be easily found here for the Galaxy Nexus, and here for the Nexus 7.  What I will say is that Jellybean is far and away the best Android experience out there.

I got my wife and myself a Nexus 7 tablet each because I wanted to test drive the Jellybean OS (and give my wife a really awesome gift, because she deserved it), and the Nexus 7 was the first device to receive the update.  I wasn’t instantly impressed with the device because the first one I received was defective and I had to wait for a replacement, but in the mean time I watched my wife use hers and that’s where I began to be impressed.  She would not put the thing down… and truth be told, two months later, she still hasn’t put it down.  My wife is not a techie, and I was afraid she wasn’t going to enjoy the Nexus 7 if it proved to be too complicated for her to use; at which point I would give up and get her an iPad (because the iOS devices are renowned for their ease of use and user interface).  I have nothing against Apple (virtually nothing anyway… the baby fit they threw in court against Samsung didn’t overly impress me though), and one of the reasons they are at the head of the tablet and smart phone class is because of the ease of use of their devices… well, and the status associated with using their devices… again, I digress…  I don’t personally prefer Apple iOS devices because of the “walled garden” approach to services attached to their devices, I like a fair bit of freedom and choice… I totally get that iEverything makes the user experience what it is which many people feel is “premium,” but I like to  have the ability to choose without running into any walls that are going to require me to jump over or break through… I had just escaped Amazon’s Kindle wall, and I was not interested in getting myself caged again.

When my replacement Nexus arrived I got the experience for myself and I was so impressed, so much further impressed after watching my wife enjoy her device, that I made the decision to save up and order a Galaxy Nexus smart phone; having devices that are not bogged down with OEM bloatware is something to be appreciated.  The pure Android experience of the Jellybean version of the Android OS is something you have to try for yourself; in a way it’s like the iOS of Apple’s devices in that it works smoothly and feels, for the first time, like an integral part of the device not like it was just dumped onto the device and made to work by the OEM; but it’s all Android, not a copy of iOS in spite of what Apple might say.  Where iOS feels stable, Android Jellybean feels robust; where iOS feels aesthetic, Android Jellybean feels pragmatic; where iOS feels like pop, Android Jellybean feels like rock ‘n’ roll.  It will be interesting to see where everything lines up after Windows 8 comes out in its non-beta form.  There are very differing opinions out there as to whether or not Microsoft has what it takes to compete in the mobile market, since their Windows phone hasn’t exactly been a huge smash hit; I prefer the “wait and see” approach, myself.

So what does any of this have to do with writing?  Well, as I mentioned earlier in the post, I’ve been doing a fair bit of composing on my mobile devices — for the first draft of the novel, I wrote snippets of scenes, and even a whole chapter or two on my mobile phone (my Motorola Atrix 2, the phone I had before I replaced it with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus), and the Jellybean Android OS makes me feel a lot more confident about about doing this.  The Atrix 2 ran on Gingerbread, and crashed on me a few times causing me to lose what I had written.  My Asus Transformer runs on Android ICS, and is far more stable than the Atrix 2 ever was… bit it’s slow and choppy and not exactly the best writing experience in the world even though I have the keyboard dock for this tablet.  I have a very light-weight text application on the Transformer called, JotterPad HD Pro; it’s a simple text editor with a minimalist interface, that allows me to write in relative comfort and includes just the right tools I need while writing on a tablet.  I was so impressed with this app that I wanted to see how the Nexus 7 and the Android Jellybean OS would handle it — the 7 inch form factor of the Nexus 7 doesn’t give me as much physical room to work as the 10.1 inch form factor of the Transformer, but the quad-core processor and the Jellybean OS make JotterPad HD Pro work like a damn charm.

JotterPad HD Pro is a tablet app, so I can’t install it on my phone; instead, I use the Writer app (another simple text editor) on my phone, copy and paste into a plain text document in Dropbox, and then import it to JotterPad HD Pro on my tablets, or into Scrivener on my laptop… and since both JotterPad HD Pro and Scrivener are connected to my Dropbox account, it makes it easy for me to move files in between those different apps.  It works for me… may not work for anyone else; rather, I believe others will have figured out a different workflow that’s best for him/her.  I put this all here as a suggestion only… trust me, typing out a chapter for a novel on a smart phone is not ideal, but it will work and it can be done — I’m happy to be your guinea pig.

Holy shit, I sure didn’t intend to ramble this long… Before signing off, I will note that I am aware that it is Saturday and not Friday which is the agreed upon blog posting day…  Mandy and I volunteered at the girls’ school yesterday evening for their annual PTA carnival, and the experience left us wiped.  Plus I wanted to come back and watch Patrick Rothfuss’ Storyboard; he had Brandon Sanderson, Cherie Priest, and Terry Brooks on this time out, and I will remark on the show next week.  Cheers!

Egads!  Looking back through my archive I see I never commented on the second episode of Storyboard, the one where (*squee*) Amber Benson comes out… and Mary Robinette Kowal, and Brad Beaulieu, and Amber Benson… did I mention Amber Benson?  Oh, and a special guest appearance by… oh, I won’t blow it… I hate spoilers… but Amber Benson is in there 😛  I’ll devote the next posting to Storyboard, that will make it easy.  Later!


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