Monday, February 04, 2008

It's A Whiz Bang Week

This is the post I've been promising since last summer during Sven Round I. An explanation of the application I was using to write my novels in. That mysterious creature that was not quite a word processor and not quite a database.

One of the things holding me up was needing screen shots to show the thing in action. Ed had downloaded a screen shot ap last summer and showed me how to use it one time but I didn't practice on my own and lost my memory of how to work it. I am such a Nervous Nelly around unfamiliar tech things.

Well either I was too busy with Sven or NaNo or Ed was working too many hours or the Holiday's needs overran all else... I'd finally gotten a commitment from Ed to teach it to me this past weekend. And then he woke up sick on Saturday morning.

Tonight I just couldn't bear to wait one more day to put this post together. This was the only thing I wanted to post about as it is just about the only thing on my mind since Friday evening. So I gathered my gumption into a wad and stuffed it down the throat of my anxiety. And opened X-Shot 2002. And proceeded to teach myself how to use it.

Since X-Shot can't take screen shots of itself, or at least I couldn't figure out how, I found this page with some screen shots of it and linked to it above. And no, my version was not in German. It just seemed like it. Looks like they have added some features. Guess I will have to give Ed a head's up.

The upshot after two hours was the following five screen shots:


On the left here you see the topic window containing the story I've been posting on Friday Snippets the past two weeks. The highlighted part is the last paragraphs of last week's snippet. Below that you can get a sneak peek at the first paragraph of next Friday's snippet. In the middle is the FOS workbook discussed below and on the left is the topic window 'Novels' where you can see the ugly Jump commands discussed below.

These first two shots are of WhizNote, the freeware application that I've been using for fiction writing for the last four years. I did NaNo in it the last three years and both rounds of Sven last year. In both shots the gray windows represent separate documents. Each of my novels in progress have one of these. I had not created separate WhizNote documents for any but the three NaNo novels before I joined Sven I last July.

My major accomplishment during Sven I was to create those documents for all the Fruit of The Spirit story world novels, paste whatever text existed for story or notes into topic windows, generate dozens upon dozens of new topic windows for scenes, character info, plot work, theme and metaphor, research and resources and so forth.

At one point I got so overwhelmed with keeping track of all of these and also frustrated that I couldn't keep track of the characters walking in and out of each other's primary stories, not to mention the nearly century of time the entire story arc covers, that I created a WhizNote document called FOS Workbook for that purpose.

It wasn't until I had done that that I started to really make use of one of the most useful features of WhizNote and that is the ability to create links between topics and from a topic in one document to a topic in another. The reason that I'd resisted was that those links looked so ugly to me. I finally decided that such devotion to aesthetic over function was just too silly and swallowed my revulsion and began linking as fast as I could think of reasons to have a link. With up to 25 windows open on the Whiz desktop at one time, it was handy to have a link to either open it or pull it to the top of the pile.

After NaNo I created a topic in FOS workbook called Novels and that is nothing but a list of links to all the FOS novel's Whiz docs. That way I could close WhizNote with only the FOS workbook still open and it would open next time with the workbook sitting pretty in the middle where I left it. See, you can set WhizNote to remember the positions of all the windows when it closes. you can also set each document to do the same so that each time you open it, its window appears in the same spot and at the same size. Same for all its topic windows.


Here you see my NaNo novel Spring Fever opened on the left. Note that there are over 200 topics created in this document. But only about 10 percent are actual scenes. The majority are notes. This explains why it is so difficult to keep track of daily word count--all that hopping around among the topics where I leave notes in the middle of scenes and segue into scenes in the middle of notes. On the right is the scene from chapter 2 that I posted in Friday Snippets the last Friday of November. It is still the only scene I've polished enough to share. In the middle is the topic window outline for the novel which lists the chapters and links to the first topic window for that chapter. I created three apiece because WhizNote topics are limited to 32K in characters (5000 words). On the bottom is the topic window for the character Maia showing the info regarding the meaning of her names.

As much as I loved working with my fiction in WhizNote, the limitations of this freeware program created for Windows 3.1 and then tweaked a little to accommodate each of the Windows upgrades was beginning to cramp my style. Especially after I got a taste of WhizFolders Pro when I downloaded a 30 day trial version the week we got WIFI in September of 2006. I did little but play in its tutorial and imagine what I could do with it only if...

Sadly, we weren't able to afford to purchase it at that time. Even though it is the lowest cost application of its kind I've ever seen. And I've looked at a LOT.

Last Friday Ed bought a Visa gift card at Walmart for the purpose of paying for WhizFolders Pro. Then he woke up sick on Saturday. I told him not to worry about it but he managed to get it downloaded just before dinner and installed by the time I got the dishes done. I spent all night--and I mean ALL night, Saturday night reading the tutorial and help files and plotting all the uses I was going to put it too.

See it has so many juicy features, including pretified links, that it has more uses than I have time to enumerate here if I want to get this posted before the sun comes up again.

With Rich Text editing that allows for colored and highlighted text inside topics and topic titles in the tree, background colors, OLE, and jump links for file names up to 250 characters long, a nested hierarchical tree, up to 100 windows open at once... the possibilities are as limitless as your imagination.

And all my WhizNote documents will open in WhizFolder which will then offer to convert them.

It can run in the background with its small RAM footprint and act as a clipboard manager. You can send your clipboard content to a designated WhizFolder and a topic will be created to contain it. You don't even have to stop what you are doing in your browser, word processor, graphics program or spreadsheet.


Above you see the tutorial opened to the topic listing some of the many things you can do. One that excites me is family tree creation because that was something I've been struggling with for my FOS story world with its 100+ roster of interrelated characters spanning at least six generations.

As you can see in these three shots, WhizFolders no longer has its own separate desktop but scatters its windows all over your naked desktop. But the individual windows minimize to buttons on the desktop not the task bar. Only the master button is on the task bar and I believe I read that it can be sent to the tray on minimize if so desired.

Some generous soul who is fond of WhizFolders created a script that creates a ready made WhizFolder document that is a linked Events calendar for a year. He creates the documents and offers them free on the WhizFolder site. I downloaded one and am using it to start organizing my time with the same devotion that I spent on organizing my room last month.


Here you see the first topic window I inserted, wrote and formated myself. It is my purported Daily Tasks list. I can use the red arrows on the top left to migrate it down to the next day. I may have to adjust my expectations for how much a day can hold though. :) Especially if I continue to average four hours per day spent on preparing a blog post!

As you can see in the left hand text field above, I tried to start each task with its verb and then bolded it. And when I wanted to emphasize something I highlighted it and changed its text color. Over in the tree on the left you see the topic name selected. All three of those indented topics were created by me and made the child of the day's topic. One of them is for today's daily journal entry because I've decided to do a month's worth of journal entries in this folder and then export them to a text document that I can then copy/paste into my word processor. This will eliminate the hassle of waiting on the slow loading of a 20+ page document by the middle of every month. Or not, as I choose, I came very close to saving a second copy of Events 2008 and naming it Journal 2008. I'm still thinking about it.

The third child of the day topic is called 'Today's Tasks' and specifies tasks that are high priority for that day. If there are any applications or documents or URLs involved in any of the tasks, it is possible to put a link to them with the task description. As seen below.


Above you see the topic Today's Task open and fourth on the list is the task of creating a WhizFolder for a Webmap. That is what I'm calling my self-made and self-controlled WWW favorites or bookmarks. I made that the first priority after the Events folder because now that it is made I can add the links as I go about my business on the Web. The small window on the left is Webmap. Since one of today's tasks was to visit Monday Poetry Train participants, the first topic I created was for that. In this topic I will collect the links to the riders of the Poetry Train. I began with its originator Rhian which is the closest thing the Train has to a hub. Once that folder was created I could create a link to it in Today's Tasks. That was really just an exercise in learning how to create the link since I won't be using that topic after today. But I can copy/paste that link to a more useful location.

In the Today's Tasks over the next week or more, I will be assigning myself more WhizFolders to create. The highest priority will go to one for working with my poetry. And then a reading journal to keep track of my thoughts about what I'm reading or planning to read. And to write book reviews for posting. I slacked off on all that last winter during the run up to the library closure. In my panic I stopped taking notes and doing reviews. I read twice as much but a year later I remember less than ten percent of it and what I remember I can't cite without tracking down the text. I haven't re-instituted the habits of note-taking since because in the interim my papers and files had become a rat's nest.

Next in line will be one called Projects that will manage all my online and offline extensive projects. It will be tightly inter-linked with the Events folder and the separate folders for each of the projects. At that point, I think it will be time to start opening and converting the fiction projects in Whiznote.

I hope I get all of that done before Sven III starts. I have big plans for the next round. But I'll save that for another post.

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