I saw a video by Vivien Reis recently, and started on a reply. Then I decided to put it here.
It’s been remarked that you can write either for money, for Art, or for pleasure. And while one does not necessarily exclude the other, these do push against each other a bit. If like Vivien, you write for money, you have to keep in mind that you need to write what you can sell. Me, I am an amateur. I am strictly an amateur, because writing to me is an important way to forget the present when I need to. I also need the ability to completely drop the book for a few weeks or even months, without anyone breathing down my neck. So I am uncompromisingly in the “Pleasure” slice. I don’t need, nor even want to make money off my writing. So now you know my motivations in writing, I thought I’d give you my cost rundown, or the freebies that I get.
Writing software: I use the Linux equivalent of Notepad, gedit. All my writings live on my home server in flat text files. I don’t want anything more elaborate, because chances are you will end up playing with the software rather than writing. I’m a Unix geek, and there is literally nothing you cannot do to a text file under Unix. Change the name of a character over twenty files is no trouble at all. For version control, I use Git, which also lets me keep multiple copies of all my books on my server, my laptop, my desktop. and keep track of changes everywhere. If anyone else uses the same method, I will be most surprised, but this is my thing.
Publishing software: I’m a Perl hacker, so I use a Perl script (Perl 5 of course, Perl 6 is for source code artists). It takes my texts and turns it into HTML. I keep the actual text as simple as possible, and do all of the formatting magic using Cascading Stylesheets (CSS). I tend not to use pictures, and on the rare occasions I do have them, I’ll hack them in manually. I use the HTML to put things into Archive Of Our Own, or into this free WordPress account. If WordPress wants to make some ad money to keep their servers running, that’s fine by me. I also stick the HTML into Calibre, and then use Calibre to convert it to .mobi, PDF, or epub. Those files get uploaded to my ISP’s web server, and linked to from here.
Editors and proofreaders: I have no editors, and I don’t want to pay for one. So my standing barter is, I’ll proofread yours if you’ll proofread mine. I do miss having proofreaders, because I invariably find errors after I stick my books up here. Such is life.
Front page design: This is one thing I do spend money on. All my front pages are drawn by Lindsey Batdorf (who appears in the stories as Linda Davenport), and are then cover-designed by Corinne Pritchard (Rina Prescott). These ladies are very good at what they do.
Things I won’t work with: There’s a few things I will not use, for one reason or another.
- Word processors of any ilk. These things tend to be feature-creeped into infinity, and they mess with the words I type. I am tired of autocorrects that don’t know the meaning of the word STET. Tired of choosing out of thousands of nearly identical fonts that will get overridden on the first edit, tired of all the crap they insert into their HTML or PDF output, tired of when they do to words what food processors do to food. Flat text all the way. No surprises.
- On-line document storage. I firmly believe that data you care about belongs on your own computers. So no google docs, no google drive, and things like WordPress of Archive Of Our Own are publishing sites, not storage sites. They are not even all that convenient anyway.
And that’s basically it. Literature on a budget.