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Scribophile: An On-Line Writing Community

Are you like me? You’d love to join a writing community so you can discuss ideas, problems, etc., but you have no transportation and would rather spend the 4-hour bus ride writing?

Or maybe you’re in a town that’s too small to have a writer’s group. Maybe your only access to a public library is via the Internet.

Then pour yourself a nice cup of tea, find a comfy chair, and let me tell you all about Scribophile. Here’s what the site has to say about itself:

Scribophile is a respectful online writing workshop and writer’s community. Writers of all skill levels join to improve each other’s work with thoughtful critiques and by sharing their writing experience.

We’re the writing group to join if you want to find beta readers, get the best feedback around, learn how to get published, and be a part of the friendliest and most successful writing workshop online.

Scribophile is famous for the detailed and helpful critiques our members exchange. The critiques you’ll get are so much more than just a pat on the back—you’ll get actionable ways to improve your writing.

As part of our community, you’ll be writing critiques for others too. Members tell us again and again that learning how to write great critiques dramatically improved their own writing.

I first learned about Scribophile from an article I read on Medium and decided to check it out. I did, and it so impressed me that I created an account.

In fact, I was so impressed that I went back the next day and upgraded from a free to a premium account. For just a little more than a latte and a little less than a pack of cigarettes I now have access to all of the site’s features.

Pay It Forward

Scribophile expects you to contribute to the site. But not with money. Rather, before you can post your own story for review, you have to gain karma points. It costs you 5 karma points to upload each story.

You gain can karma points in any number of ways: writing a critique of someone else’s work, posting comments, and just generally being a polite and active member. I’ve only been a member for 2 days, and I’ve already received 2 karma points. As soon as I earn 5, I’ll upload my first work to be critiqued.

Why This Makes Sense

At first, I resented that I couldn’t upload a story until I earned the required karma points. But the longer I thought about it,  the more t made sense: you can’t come barging in demanding that everybody read your work and then run off. You have to earn the right to have your work critiqued.

That approach also keeps people active in groups and forums.

Scribophile: your online writer’s group. Give it a try!

Different Strokes for Different Notes

Or, I’m always on the lookout for The Ultimate Note-Taking App

freestocks-org-570357-unsplash

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Sadly, it doesn’t seem to exist. IA Writer comes close, but it still doesn’t have all the features I’d like. Note’d is pretty nifty, but it too lacks the features I need. Standard Notes has all the features…but you have to pay $10 a month to get them. It is available, however, for all your devices: iPhones, iPads, Windows machines, MacOS devices, and Android smartphones and devices. So if I create/edit/delete a note on my iPhone, it syncs to my iPad and my laptop.

(As an aside, before I went completely digital, my ultimate notepad was a Rite-in-the-Rain notepad and a pencil.)

Which brings us to Apple Notes. From what I’ve seen of it—and used it—it seems to be the best all-around note-taking app available for iOS and MacOS: iPad, iPhone, and Macs. The problem is that in addition to an iPhone and an iPad,I have a laptop running Windows.

Apple Notes started out as a bare-bones note-taking app. But Apple, like just about every other software publisher, lost sight of the First Rule of Engineering: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.

Over time, Apple Notes has been tweaked and massaged and upgraded until it’s now just a short step away from being a full-blown word processor. And if I’m going to use a word processor for taking notes, I might just as well use Notes’ big sister, Pages, which runs on all of my devices.

The Ultimate Test

So I’ve decided what I’m going to do: I’ve downloaded  all the apps I listed above and installed them on the appropriate devices. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to use each of them to jot down the same notes. At the end of the test period, I’ll decide which one I like the best, based on ease of use. Then I’ll get back to you with the results.

 

 

On Writing On My iPhone, Revisited

Apple iPhone 10X

A Brief History of Technology

It’s funny how succeeding generations take technology for granted. My Nana’s first electric refrigerator must have seemed to her to be a miracle. Nowadays the only time I consciously think about it is when I’m looking in it to make my grocery list.

And even that is more about food and shopping than it is about the refrigerator itself.

June 29, 2007

Not exactly a Day of Infamy.

I sat at the Apple iPhone help desk on the evening of its release. Even though we had just completed 2 weeks of intensive training on the operation and capabilities of the device, that evening was the first time any of us had actually seen one, much less had an opportunity to work with it.

One iPhone between 8 techs. No wonder callers were frustrated.

Now my grandchildren all carry iPhones. And while I still look at mine with an occasional sense of wonder, to them it ain’t no big thang.

During those weeks of training, I had an epiphany: this was no mere mobile phone! No. What Apple had done was figure out how to fit an entire computer in the palm of your hand!

It’s 11 and a half years later as I write this. Cell phone (or if you’re British, mobile) usage has exploded. The phones themselves have evolved into various flavors of smartphone, and whereas they were once considered a luxury, they have become for many of us an essential part of life.

Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people I know don’t even go into their own bathrooms without it!

But Here’s the Thing…

I love my iPhone X, which I once swore I would never own. My next upgrade was to be to the 8S or Plus or Z or whatever was the top of the line 8 at the time.

But my carrier had a special offer: buy one iPhone X and get a second one free! And so I decided on the X, not realizing that it was about to be replaced by a few newer, more improved models.

But that’s on me. My iPhone X still runs circles around my old 6S Plus.

Writing and Publishing

I’ve written before on how I love writing on my iPhone. How it’s become my main writing tool for whatever site I’m writing: Medium, letters to the editor, blog posts—you name it, I’ve written to it on my iPhone!

And on Medium and WordPress, at least, published as well.

That’s About to Change

Ever have an improvement that really wasn’t? When I bought my new laptop 3 years ago, a Windows 10 machine, it booted blindingly fast. Now, after a long series of updates, upgrades, and “improvements,” I can turn it on and almost have time to get dressed, go downstairs, eat breakfast, and wash the dishes before heading back upstairs in time to see the damn machine is ready—finally—for use.

With the release of iOS 12.1.1, my iPhone is still blindingly fast—compared to my original Motorola flip-phone.

And there are far more things that are easier and faster to do on my laptop than on my iPhone. Things specifically related to publishing what I write.

Even Medium’s own mobile app isn’t designed to publish straight to Medium; more and more often I find I need my laptop to prepare my stories for final publication.

The Solution

So here’s what I’ve decided.

(What? Did you seriously think I was going to invest all this time bitching about things without offering a solution? You obviously don’t know me very well.)

I’m still doing the bulk of my writing on my iPhone, with an occasional detour to the iPad.

But rather than publishing (in Medium’s case, posting) what I write directly to the web or wherever, I’ll save my drafts. Then I’ll move to the laptop to massage them, add images and links, make them pretty, and then publish them.

And Apple? I’m sorry, my old friend, but I was wrong: you still haven’t managed to put a computer in the palm of my hand.

And as we techies like to say in our own inimical, technobabbly way, “Close, but no cigar.”

Image: Plasencia Cigars

 

Goodbye, Scrivener

We’ve had a good run, but it’s time to say goodbye. I never used you as an actual writing program; I merely copied what I’d written in other programs and apps and pasted them in to you. So I was only using you as a place to store all my writings.

My first mistake was configuring you to use Dropbox. I wanted to be able to access you across all my devices. But that created a problem: when I launched you, Dropbox had to sync before you would open. And when I’ve got an idea for an article or story, 2 minutes is too long to wait.

So I deleted you from my laptop, after deciding that I’m never going to own a Macintosh, desktop or otherwise.

Instead, I’ve moved all of my files into Evernote.

Why Evernote?

  • Because I can install it on all 3 of my devices—laptop, iPhone, and iPad—and it will synchronize across all 3 of them.
  • Because I can fine-tune my settings to a degree that Scrivener never approached.
  • Because it has a smaller footprint, loads faster, and in general just does a better job of what I want it to do.
  • Because even if I leave my devices at home, I can access it on the web via the nearest computer.

Still, it Hurts

It hurts because Scrivener has been a good friend for the past couple of years. And like any other friend, it hurts to say goodbye.

But nothing lasts forever, right? Just as we outgrow certain friends, so it is with computer applications. And I’ve simply outgrown Scrivener.

An Aside

QUESTION: What’s the difference between an app and a program?
ANSWER: There isn’t any. Software publishers decided that “app” sounded sexier than “computer program,” and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

Is This The Ultimate Writing App for iOS?

Ulysses. Ancient Greek adventurer and explorer. Legendary traveler. And now, a writing app for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

I discovered Ulysses whilst searching for a new blogging and writing tool. I had several requirements that any system or app had to satisfy:

  1. It had to be reasonably priced
  2. It had to have a clean interface
  3. It had to have a free trial period
  4. It had to be compatible with the apps already in my existing Writer’s toolbox
  5. It had to allow me to sync between my iPad and iPhone.
  6. If possible, I would like it to sync with my windows laptop.

Price

At $4.99 a month or $39.99 annually, it definitely is reasonably priced. That took care of the first requirement. It also comes with a free 14-day trial period, thus fulfilling number 3.

So far, I’ve not found any conflict with my existing tools. That was number 4 on my list.

Syncing

As far as syncing between my iPhone and iPad, I originally installed and configured it on my iPad. When I installed it on the iPhone and launched it for the first time, it was already synced with the iPad. Since my documents were set to store in iCloud, what I had written on the iPad was already available on the iPhone.

And syncing was almost instantaneous: I started this document on the iPad, edited it on the iPhone, and when I moved back to the iPad, all of the new changes were there!

As far as syncing to my laptop, I haven’t tried it yet. But since I can export documents in MS Word docx format, I don’t foresee any problems.

The Interface

Finally, the interface. It doesn’t get much cleaner than this:

One of the reasons for the clean interface is the fact that Ulysses uses markdown language for all of its formatting. There are only 25 commands to memorize, but if you’re lazy like me, there’s also a pop-up menu to give you access to all of them.

Of course, as I use the program, I’ll become used to and will learn the language.

Exporting

When I’m ready to publish, Ulysses will export my WordPress posts directly to WordPress. It’s an easy enough setup, and you can configure the program for multiple blogs.

My New Default Editor

Ulysses has replaced Scrivener as my default text editor. I still use Scrivener to archive my writings, but Ulysses is much easier to use.

Find it here. You get a free two-week evaluation period before you have to buy it.