Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Tool is Only as Good as Its User by Mackenzie Crowne

I’m the first to admit, I’m tool challenged, and living with my guy, a real-life MacGyver, that can be a real problem. I mean, how the hell does one tell the difference between a socket and a crescent wrench, and why should she want to? And what’s up with the flathead vs Phillips head screw drivers? Really, one would work just fine—if they’d simply make all those screws the same. I guess it’s a guy thing, but hubs has at least a dozen tool boxes, and I’m not talking about the ones you can fit behind the seat of a truck. We’re talking monsters. Six feet tall with wheels and eighty-five drawers full of shiny guy toys.

The sheer number of tools hubs claims to need boggles my mind but, then again, since beginning my writing career, I’ve discovered there are tools I can’t live without either. Unfortunately, as with hand tools, a writer’s tools are only as good as their user, and yeah, I’m challenged here as well. Oh, some are simple enough even I can understand and appreciate their value. I love my jumbo thesaurus and four dictionaries. The low tech pile of magazines stacked in the corner are a must have for a visual brain like mine. My netbook, laptop, and smartphone are never out of reach and I can no longer remember what I did without Google search and Grammar Girl. Online craft courses are a Godsend and my friends on social media are constantly sharing various links that make all the difference in expanding my writing skills.

I have found, however, that some bring more problems than solutions, at least for me. With November just around the corner, I won’t get into my opinion of NaNoWriMo. I’ll just say that scrambling to write a book through that dumpster diving school of writing is a visit to hell I will NEVER experience again. My blood pressure shoots into the red zone just thinking about my first and last attempt at NaNo. And while all that pissed off blood is bubbling in my veins, what the hell is up with Microsoft making it nearly impossible to find a download of a previous version of their software? I’m an author, dang it! Not a computer geek. Don’t they realize I have more pressing issues to consider than navigating the differences between Word 97 and 2016? Why can’t they just leave well enough alone?

The bastards.

Doesn’t Microsoft understand that after coming up with the idea for a story, researching its elements and locations, then pouring out blood, sweat, and tears to weave all that info into a grammatically correct adventure others will enjoy—beyond the author’s mother and best friend—a finished manuscript needs to be polished and formatted to an editor or agent’s satisfaction. And that means searching out and then understanding the little symbols and gadgets that allow proper utilization of paragraphs placement, left justified, page breaks and indent. Then there are ellipses, headers, and page numbers, right justified, hanging indents, and Widow/Orphans. It’s enough to make a grown woman howl in frustration. In my case, just last week, the howling was accompanied by frustrated tears. Widow/Orphans? Really?

Thank God for the most important tool of all. If you’re anything like me, you know all about the generous kindness of guardian angel author friends. I’m happy to report, with a whole lot of vodka and a bit of help from my GAAFs my polished and formatted manuscript finally sailed through cyberspace to my agent’s inbox. Take that, Microsoft!
My tears have dried, and my blood pressure is back to normal, pretty much, but as I told my GAAFs, if I ever track down those widows and orphans, I’m knocking them out!

*Deep breath* Okay, rant over. So, what tools have you found that you can’t do without? Care to share?

When Mac isn’t trying to figure out the newest version of Word, she spends her time weaving HEAs for her characters, like those in her Players series from KensingtonBooks — Oh, and the first three books of the series are all on sale next week. All three for under 4 bucks!


Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Your hubs and mine should compare tool boxes. You're right. It's a guy thing. If I bring a flyer in from the mailbox from Harbor Freight Tools, Calvin gets absolutely giddy and shuts himself off in the den. As a writer, any changes that require me to stop writing and learn something new make my stomach clench. I don't have the time for it. That's why I'm not on Pinterest or anything else that requires learning. I have enough trouble keeping up with the newest writing trends. Great post, Mac.

Diane Burton said...

Mine, too. When we run out of gift ideas, because he has so many tools, we buy him some place to put them. I agree about Microsoft. I wish they'd leave things alone. Just when I figure out where things are, they change them. Again.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Right on, Mac. An upgrade on any device changes stuff and I'm fumbling like an old fart, trying to figure out what happened. So then I learn a new 'trick' for the device, and use it with aplomb; four months later, I'm supposed to remember the 'trick?' Hell no. Our men may be on to something with their tool gathering. Tools are tangible and they come with great, confidence-building names like SKILL saw and DRILL press. For most of them, their purpose and meaning is clear...and you can SEE them. 'Widows and orphans?' Ha!

Jannine Gallant said...

My husband is a contractor. The entire garage is full of tools, but if I need a screwdriver, can I ever find the size I want? Uh, no. As for writing tools, I'm currently typing on a keyboard attached to my laptop because several of my keys don't work anymore. I have Windows 7, and I prefer hauling around an extra keyboard to getting a new laptop with Windows 10. I intend to resist until they pry my old laptop out of my cold, lifeless fingers...or it blows up completely, whichever comes first! I can format my books in about 30 seconds on my current system, and I have ZERO desire to be taught a bunch of new tricks! Ugh. I think we all can relate to this post. Thanks, Mac!

Brenda Whiteside said...

You got me giggling, Mac. Thanks. But, yeah, I've been stressing over my switchover with the new laptop from Vista to 10. Good grief. And then my bank decided to change there on line banking set up. I get lost trying to pay a bill now. Jeez.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Coming in late because of a massive grandkids invasion all day yesterday. So very, very true, Mac. All of it. I wa actually just forced, yes, forced to buy a new desk top. Then my IT specialist son re-connected that to my laptop on the network he created for me years ago, and tried to explain it's inner workings. Aaaaakkk! Give me a laptop, jump stick and wireless printer and I'm deliriously content. My husband too with the abundance of tools and other toys. We're building a pole barn in the spring to accommodate them all. More space for my gadgets. Hmmmm.

Leah St. James said...

Like Margo, I'm coming in late because of a family day yesterday, but all I have to say is YES, YES, YES!! NaNoWriMo is my nemesis. I've tried it three or four times, all on the urging of friends who assure me it's better to write fast and sloppy, sloppy, sloppy, and each year has been an EPIC FAIL. Last year I even challenged myself publicly to keep it up, and publicly failed. (I feel my BP escalating just thinking about it.)

As for Word...please, don't get me started. I've been whining about Word ever since Microsoft forced WordPerfect out of competition. (I loved WordPerfect. You turned on "reveal codes," and could see exactly what was causing the formatting to go all goofy.)

I have managed to trick Windows 10 into allowing me to use my 2003 version of Word (although for a couple days it seemed to have wiped it from the laptop's memory banks...and I was sweating it), but I now use Scrivner for writing. I use only about 5 or 10 percent of the functionality, but I'm just FINE with that.

Great post, Mac!