Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Failed Experiments

My experiment with NaNoWriMo fizzled. As I should have anticipated, overnight guests and other holiday doings curtailed my time on the computer. And my first attempt at generating word count was a discouraging dud. I squeezed out less than 2000 words that were nothing like coherent narrative but rather a collection of names, and phrases of description and lists of potential actions and plot twists. It would have made more sense as a bulleted list than as a story. And of all things to get hung up on, I spent hours trying to settle on a name for my protagonist and could or would not be satisfied. I could not get emotionally attached to the character without giving her a name resonating with my vision of her. I was reminded once again of the loss of my collection of baby name books which aided me in this task in the past. I tried using the phone book but that was only of moderate help for the support cast.

So I essentially gave up on the contest and went back to working on creating my web page. I had spent most of the week my in-laws were gone designing Joywrite with the Geocites online page builder but I was increasingly dissatisfied with it. Aside from the fact I had to be online to work with it and did not want to waste my online time that way, it would not let me do things I wanted to do and the ‘text boxes’ seemed to be limited to less than 1000 words so that longer essays and stories would have to have multiple pages created for them and then be linked together with forward and back links. A hassle I did not want to commit to.

When I complained to my husband about it he encouraged me to experiment with Selida, a WYSIWYG he had downloaded a few weeks previous. And he proved to me that a page created with Selida could hold indefinite text content and could be uploaded and linked to the other pages already existing. But the look of the pages I had created online could not be duplicated in Selida nor could pages created in either be edited in the other. It was important to me that the site have a coherent look. So another experiment was failing on me.

I was intimidated by Selida as I am by any new application but more so when it involves having to work with actual code. Selida is not as sophisticated a WYSIWYG as I remember FrontPage to have been in 98. The user interface and the help files are not as friendly to a non-tech savvy word wright. But I took my husbands advice and started playing with it. And before I knew it I was learning my way around the code. Not so that I could write it in any fashion but I was beginning to comprehend the purpose of certain elements. It was a language after all and I do know language. They even call it syntax--certain code elements that is. I played with templates of pages created by Selida by changing colors and sizes of tables and fonts, inserting and deleting using the WYSIWYG design mode and then studying the code to see what had been added or subtracted. In the process I created a look I liked.

I even went into the minimal Paint program on the computer to create my own graphics--logos and buttons. And then I got very brave and started with a new blank document and tried to recreate from scratch the look I had cobbled together by manipulating the template created by someone else. I wanted to do this because I had already begun to notice that all the cutting and pasting had left behind straggling bits of code that no longer served a purpose and they offended my sensibilities. I was surprised at how easy it was. It took me only minutes to recreate what had taken me several all night sessions at the computer to learn to do. And once I had a working template it became a simple task to insert the text of the already existing essays, stories and poems and create the links to knit the site together. And once I had reached a point where it was ready for a test drive online, I decided that I might as well go ahead and get Joyread ready to go first so that I could post them simultaneously with all the links woven in and thus existing in the templates that will be used to produce new content pages for the sites. A little extra work now will save a lot of tedious fixing and tweaking later and will leave me free to focus on the content creation which is my original passion. I expect to be posting both sites within a few days.


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