The short story manuscript template for Microsoft Word that I recently added was apparently quite a success, at least to judge by the number of requests I've received to add a version for novel manuscripts. Accordingly, I've created that novel template, and you can now find both templates at this page:

http://www.shunn.net/format/templates.html

Even more exciting, at least to me, are the macro-enabled versions I've created of both those templates, which allow you to update your word count, insert a line space, and begin a new chapter with simple keystrokes. You can find the new macro-enabled templates here:

http://www.shunn.net/format/advanced.html

If you find these templates useful, or even if you don't, please drop me a line to let me know how they're working for you.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
At long last, after more requests than it should have required, I've corrected a long-standing oversight and created a short story manuscript template for Microsoft Word. You can find it at this page:

http://www.shunn.net/format/templates.html

After you customize the template with your own name and contact information, you'll be able to create properly formatted manuscripts with ease. And the template even includes a wordcount field that updates on request, rounded to the nearest hundred.

The template should work for all versions back to Word 2007. If anyone is interested in a template suitable for older versions of Word, please let me know. I'm sure I can kick one out sometime in the next decade.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader follows up on an earlier question to ask:

I have a contents page after the main title page, so I want to start the page numbering on the third page, which is where chapter 1 starts. Have tried everything but can't seem to do it — any ideas?


This is a question that could be answered a few different ways. My first (and least preferred) answer is to refer you to my post "Page Headers for New Chapters," which contains tips about suppressing headers on certain pages. (Basically, if you're using Microsoft Word, you set a section break at the end of the table of contents and then create your header on the first page of your first chapter—though there's a bit more to it than that.) This is a fairly complicated option and is only recommended if you're a very determined power-user of Word.

My next (and slightly more preferred) answer is that you simply allow the table of contents to have a header and be numbered as page 1. The title page of your book manuscript is the only page that shouldn't have a header. If you include a table of contents, then it's fine if your first chapter starts on page 2. Page numbering is not done for aesthetic purposes; as I repeat over and over, it's a functional marker that allows a dropped manuscript to be reassembled in the proper order.

But my final (and most insistent) answer is to ask you why you feel you need a table of contents in the first place. Is this a novel or a non-fiction manuscript? Certain types of non-fiction manuscript, particularly those where you need to create a detailed outline as part of your book proposal, may benefit from a table of contents, but for a novel or a memoir there probably isn't much point to including one. I would strongly advise omitting the table of contents altogether.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader writes to ask:

I just wanted to know if you still include a header on the first page of your chapters, and if you still use Courier 12 in your manuscripts - as shown in your venerable novel manuscript format example template?

Is there a way to set headers to recognize the first page of chapters, and delete headers from these pages, if we wanted to?



To answer your first question, if I didn't still format my book manuscripts that way, I wouldn't still format my sample novel manuscript that way. What you see on that page is what I still do, and what I will continue to do until I see a compelling reason not to.

And speaking of compelling reasons not to, why on earth would you want to eliminate page headers from the first pages of new chapters? For aesthetic reasons? A book manuscript is a functional document. It has a job it needs to do, and part of that job is to have a header at the top of every page. The manuscript is supposed to be a blueprint for the finished product, not to look like the finished product. Just because published books usually don't have headers on the first pages of chapters doesn't mean the same should be true for your manuscript, no matter how weird it looks to you.

You don't know what an editor might do with your manuscript. Even if he receives it electronically, he may print it out before he reads it, in which case those page headers will be important when two manuscripts accidentally get knocked off his desk together.

Now, to answer your actual second question, yes, there is a way to remove the headers from specific pages, but in Microsoft Word it's hideously complicated. (You have to put invisible section breaks at the beginning and end of the page, and then remove the header from the section containing that page.) In WordPerfect it's much easier: you simply put a Suppress Header code at the top of the page, which is one of the many reasons I still use it.

But for the love of God, don't do it. That is all.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader writes to ask:

Please could you explain how, using MS word, I can use a header like the one on your manuscript of The Normal Guy? Each time I try it will only let me have EITHER the name of the book OR automatic page numbering, not both.


I suspect the problem you're having is because you're trying to create the header and set the page numbering separately. when they need to be done together. Follow along with the steps below and we'll get it straightened out for you.

(By the way, these instructions will work for Microsoft Word 2010. Word 2007 works in a somewhat similar fashion, but earlier versions of Word will be quite different.)

To create your header, the first thing to do is to place your cursor somewhere on the second page of your document. (This is important because we don't want the header showing up on the first page of the manuscript.)

Click Insert from the top menu to switch to the Insert ribbon. Click the Header item, then click Edit Header way down at the bottom of the pull-down menu that appears. This will open the Header & Footer Tools ribbon.

In this ribbon, click the checkbox labelled Different First Page. This prevents your header from displaying on the first page of the manuscript. In the box labeled Header from Top, you can also set the header to display 1.0" from the top edge of the page, if you like.

Now you're ready to create the content of your header. Hit the Tab key twice to set your header flush to the left margin. Type "Surname / Keyword / " (though you should of course type your own surname and a keyword from the title of your work). With the cursor still at the very end of that line, click the Page Number item in the ribbon. Click Current Position in the pull-down menu, then click Plain Number from the submenu that opens. This inserts the current page number into your header for every page on which it displays.

Finally, click the big red X in the ribbon to close the Header & Footer Tools ribbon, and you're done!

At least, you're done if this is a short story manuscript. For a novel manuscript that has a separate title page, there's still one more step. Click Insert again to switch to the Insert ribbon (if you're not already there). Click the Page Number item, then click Format Page Numbers from the pull-down menu. A dialog box will pop up. Click the Start at radio button to set the number for the title page. Enter 0 in the box and click OK.

This sets the number of the title page to 0 so that the first page of your text will display a page number of 1.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader writes to ask:

Quick question - as a new/aspiring writer, starting a manuscript, I'm curious to know if *you know* of a way to make it double spaced after each sentence. I'm used to writing documents that have only one space between sentences, but I perfectly understand the need for two for a submission manuscript.

Any tricks you've found with Office Word that make it automatically two spaces for a single hit of the space bar?



I'm not aware of any feature in Word, or in any other word processor, that would do what you want. Most word processors can easily be set to perform the opposite conversion—two spaces collapsed automatically to one—but determining where the end of a sentence falls is a very tricky programming problem that would fall prey to frequent errors.

More to the point, though, why on earth would you want a feature like that? Yes, two spaces after a sentence are still acceptable in most manuscript submissions, as I've endlessly argued, but that convention is quickly going the way of the dodo. If you're not already in the habit of putting two manual spaces at the end of each sentence, there's no reason for you to go out of your way to do it. Stop worrying about spaces and just focus on your writing.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
First, let me say that most of you aren't going to care about this.

To the few of you who do, let me say that my long LiveJournal nightmare is over.

Not that I have as bad an opinion of LiveJournal as some, but the fact that it had been my primary blogging platform for so long was holding me back from bringing all my blogs together under one roof. As I posted on Saturday, I'd written scripts a long time ago to let me crosspost my LiveJournal entries to my Movable Type blog, but now I wanted to switch that around and go the other direction. I wanted to be able to use Movable Type's superior content management system to work on more than one entry at a time, and to schedule them for automatic posting at future dates. It was only once I began looking into my options that I realized finding a solution would mean I could crosspost to LiveJournal from all my blogs. Bonus.

Interestingly, it was people I know who led me to the answer. My very first Google search led me to this 2008 post from Ben Rosenbaum, who was looking for a similar solution, and Tempest Bradford served it up in the very first comment. She pointed me toward a Movable Type plugin by Chip Marshall called ljcrosspost that sounded perfect. Several other sites praised it highly. The only problem was, site where the source code was archived no longer existed.

I tried a couple of other plugins I ran across, but when I tested them they were kind of iffy. I kept coming back to ljcrosspost in my Google searches, but was frustrated by the elusiveness of the source archive. If only I'd embarked on this project in 2008!

But then I realized I could probably get the code from the Wayback Machine. Bingo! There it was.

So finally I made some time today to familiarize myself with the code and to write a few test scripts. The ljcrosspost plugin works by communicating with LiveJournal.com via XML-RPC, and that makes it startlingly easy to post LiveJournal entries from a Perl script. (In fact, I probably annoyed the hell out of my LJ friends with all the placeholder entries I posted then deleted this afternoon.) Once I had the basic concepts down, I made some tweaks of my own to Mr. Marshall's code, and I was off to the races.

The cool thing about ljcrosspost (and forgive me if I get too geeky) is that it not only lets you crosspost but also crossedit. When you first publish a blog entry on the Movable Type end, the plugin opens an RPC channel to LiveJournal, posts the entry there, and gets back a couple of unique identifiers which it then stores with the Movable Type entry's metadata. If you should ever go back and edit that entry, Movable Type sees from the metadata that a copy already exists at LiveJournal, so it posts an RPC request to update the LiveJournal entry with the altered text. Very slick.

Another consequence of ljcrosspost's design is that, once you've installed it, if you republish your entire Movable Type blog, all the existing entries will get posted to LiveJournal. I actually did that with my Proper Manuscript Format and Signs of Yesteryear blogs, which you can now see neatly mirrored here and here.

Of course, as you might guess, I made some of my own little tweaks to ljcrosspost. First, I enabled the list of categories associated with a Movable Type entry to be translated into LiveJournal tags and passed to the remote server.

I also extended the <MTLJCrosspost> tag so I can pass it an explicit list of categories to be added to all entries mirrored from a given blog. (This is how, for instance, I can give all the entries from my formatting blog the LiveJournal tag "manuscript format," even though that's not a category associated with any of the original Movable Type entries.)

And finally I inserted a little message at the end of each mirrored entry which incorporates the name of the originating blog and links back to the original version of the post.

You might think that's a lot of trouble to go to just to be able to send content to a site that doesn't entirely suit me anymore, and you'd be right. But the fact is, I still have a lot of great friends at LiveJournal, and I like interacting with them there even if the other aspects of the site aren't what they used to be. We've got a lot of history, and I'm glad I'll finally be able to put some of my other content in front of them without a lot of annoying crosslinking.

So anyway, I've tested my new setup pretty thoroughly, but this will be the first real new entry that I post with it. I'm going to schedule it to go live just before midnight. Then I'm going to cross my fingers and hope it gets to you LiveJournal folks.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
A reader writes to ask:

I am using 2010 microsoft office for my novel manuscript. I need to change the titles of movies from italics to underlines. Any quick way?


It's a bit tricky, but there is a way to convert all the italics in your document to underlines. This technique will work in Microsoft Word 2010 and in a couple of the older versions of Word that I tested. (Other word processors may have similar features.) I should emphasize that this is an all-or-nothing proposition.

First, find an instance of italics in your document. Select an italicized word by double-clicking on it or by highlighting it with your mouse. Now right-click on the selected word. Click the Styles option in the pop-up menu. You should get an option in the resulting menu that says Select Text with Similar Formatting. Click that. (In older versions of Word, this option will be in the main pop-up menu, not in a submenu.)

Word may take a little time to process this command depending on the length of your document, but when it's finished all the italicized text in your document will be highlighted. Now simply click on the I icon in the formatting bar to toggle italics off, and click the U icon to toggle underlining on. That's all there is to it.

And of course, if you're trying to convert underlines to italics you can modify this same technique.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader writes to demand:

Setting everything according to the various suggestions for Word to lay out my pages for writing a book, I find it impossible to get 25 lines on an 8½ by 11 when double spaced. Explain.


"Explain"? That's a rather imperious imperative sentence, but I'll do my psychic best to satisfy your command without your Word document in front of me for reference.

I'll summarize what I assume your problem is, though I've covered this issue in much greater detail elsewhere. But let me preface my summary by emphasizing that the number of lines per page probably doesn't even matter. As I try repeatedly to make clear, formatting your manuscript is about following general guidelines, not about breaking out your protractor and slide rule. It's an art, not a science. It's cooking, not baking. As long as your formatting falls in the general neighborhood of correctness, you'll be fine. Don't get so caught up in refining the finest details of your formatting that it bogs you down and distracts you from what's most important: writing the best novel you can.

That said, the issue that's reducing the number of lines you can fit on a page is probably related to line height (the amount of vertical space that each line takes up on the page). By default, Microsoft Word sets a line height that's a little greater than the standard for 12-point type. This results in fewer lines per page. If you're getting 23 or 24 lines per page, I wouldn't worry too much about. If you're getting even fewer than that, you might be doing something else wrong, like more-than-double-spacing your lines or using a text style that puts extra space between paragraphs.

If you're determined to make things precise, though, please see my fuller explanation of line height in the blog post I referenced above, "How line height relates to word count."


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader writes to ask:

When sending stories via email attachment, some markets insist on RTF, so I'll go to my Open Office files, where all my stories are .DOC, formatted in Standard Manuscript Format (SMF), and save the .DOC as RTF. Opened as RTF, the first paragraph is lined double spaced and then everything else is single spaced between lines. Then every once in awhile, a market will send it back saying they want it SMF. They've called for RTF, but then they say SMF. Okay, so what should I do, go back to .DOC and send it? or is there something I can do to get the RTF to be double spaced between lines??


You are confusing file format with manuscript format. When a market asks for an RTF file, they are only talking about the file format (in this case, Rich Text Format), which has to do with how your document is actually stored on your computer disk and what word processors can read it. You still have to make sure that the contents of your RTF file are formatted according to standard manuscript format, and that means making sure it's all double-spaced.

Fortunately, that's easy to fix. After you export the document, open the new RTF file in Open Office. Hit CTRL-A to highlight the full document. Then go into the formatting menu and change the line spacing from single to double. That should get the full document double-spaced for you. Save it again and send.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
I wrote the original version of my manuscript formatting guide in 1993, modeling it after a much older two-page guide I received from Damon Knight in 1985. Back in those days, even for those who'd made the switch to composing prose on computers, the goal of formatting was to produce a document for submission that looked as much as possible like it had sprung to life rolling through the platen of a typewriter, offspring of holy intercourse between paper, typebar, and ink ribbon.

The world of writing and publishing has changed plenty in these past seventeen, or twenty-five, or God knows how many years. A manuscript used to be the mere blueprint for a printed book or story, instructions in a coded language to the typesetter who would laboriously rework the entire thing into clean, finished type. Now the gap between manuscript and book has shrunk to the size of a computer file. Electronic submissions mean that the only physical keystroke in the life history of a given letter in a published work may well be the one executed by the author himself.

The accepted and acceptable standards of manuscript formatting have evolved to reflect this. Proportional fonts are used more and more in manuscripts, while typographical tricks that were necessary on typewriters now no longer make sense. More and more writers are submitting manuscripts that would have looked unacceptable a decade ago, and more and more editors don't mind this one bit. With the almost complete dominance of the word processor, topics like word-count approximation and end-of-line hyphenation are no longer relevant to most of us. It was long past time to update my format guide to reflect this new reality.

You old-school writers and editors, don't worry. I won't abandon my Courier font and double sentence spacing (more on that topic in a future post) without a fight. If I have my way, the manuscripts I produce fifty years from now will look the same as the ones I produce today. But I did want to acknowledge that mores are changing, and that not everyone agrees anymore about what proper manuscript format even means.

The basics still remain, even if some of the details continue to evolve. To those hundreds of sites that have linked to my format guide over the years, I hope you still find it useful and relevant, if not more so than before. To those who've disagreed with it in the past, sometimes vehemently, I hope you find more common ground here now. And to those stumbling across it for the first time? God help you poor kids for wanting to be writers.

Please let me know what you think of the revised and updated version of "Proper Manuscript Format," and best of luck with your writing.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader writes to ask:

I've been writing in Microsoft Works, which I believe is similar but not identical to Word. When I type an ellipse by typing three periods in succession, the program automatically compresses them together, rendering the ellipse almost illegible. Instead, I've been choosing an ellipse from the "insert special character" option, but it still looks squashed to me. Is there any way to turn off the compression, or is the special character acceptable?


The special character is probably acceptable, but I hate the way it looks at least as much as you do. Let's see if we can't help you disable that annoying feature.

Assuming that Microsoft Works works similarly to Word, there's a feature called "AutoCorrect" that's enabled by default. Besides converting three periods to a single squished ellipsis character, AutoCorrect is automatically configured to make a lot of other corrections to your typing, all of which you can choose to turn off individually.

To get to the AutoCorrect console in Word 2007, click the big MS Word logo button in the upper left corner. Click the Word Options button at the bottom of the menu, then Proofing in the sidebar, then the AutoCorrect Options button. (In older versions of Word, simply choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu.)

On the AutoCorrect tab in the dialog window that comes up, look under the Replace text as you type section. You'll see a lot of useful auto-corrections listed, not to mention some not-so-useful ones. If you highlight the list item containing the ellipsis correction, which should be about three or four lines down, you can click Delete to make that annoying replacement stop happening.

And now that squished ellipsis will never darken your tab stop again!

(By the way, on the AutoFormat tab, you can also turn off the option to change straight quotes to curly quotes, which is another automatic correction that drives me crazy. But I'm old-school that way.)


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader writes to ask:

I read somewhere that if you format properly you should get 25 lines per page, but I consistantly get 24. So when I use Word to give me a word count on 141 pages, I get 28k, but when I do it the way I think publishers want a word count for novels, which is by multiplying the number of pages times 250, I get 35k. That's a big difference.

I followed all of your rules, so I don't understand what I'm doing wrong.



Indulge me a moment, please, while I review a couple of standard typographical measures. The smallest unit in typography is called the point, which measures exactly 1/72 of an inch. Twelve points equals 1 pica. Therefore, we have 72 points per inch, and 6 picas per inch.

A standard typewriter uses 12-point type, which is a measure of the height of the metal block on which each individual letter is cast. This also equals the height of a each line of printed type the typewriter produces, meaning that a typewritten line is 12 points high, or 1 pica, or 1/6 of an inch. Single-spaced, this means you can fit six lines of type per inch. Double-spaced, you get three lines per inch.

Working from this basis, we see that the essential definition of a 12-point font is one that prints in a line exactly 1 pica high. You would think that a word processor would follow that definition and default to a line height of exactly 1/6 of an inch for a 12-point font, but MS Word doesn't. For whatever reason, its default line height is slightly more than that—about 0.185" as opposed to the expected 0.167".

That was a long digression, but that's the explanation for why you're getting fewer lines per pages than what you expect. You can fix this, but first let me point out that, as long as you're close to the standard, your exact line height doesn't really matter. No one is going to count your number of lines per page to make sure you have exactly 25 or 26 or whatever other number you might have heard is appropriate. No editor has the time or inclination to do that. As long as it looks good at a glance, you're fine.

What seems to concern you more, though, is the discrepancy between your estimated word count and the exact count that MS Word gives you. The first thing you need to understand is that your estimated word count will always be higher than the exact word count. An estimated word count is designed to give an editor an idea of how many pages a published book will run, which depends more on the number of lines in your manuscript than on the number of words.

(A dialogue-heavy page with a lot of short, choppy paragraphs, for instance, will likely have a lot fewer words on it than a page with a couple of long, dense paragraphs of exposition. But both pages have the same number of lines, and therefore take up approximately the same amount of space in a published book.)

The next thing to understand is that your estimated word count should be based on the average number of words on one of your pages, which is not necessarily 250. There are complicated formulas you can use to derive your own average word count per page, but I think a good rule of thumb is to call it 10 words for every line. (That's for a Courier font. If you use a proportional font, your number will be higher.) Therefore, for a 24-line page, use 240 for your estimate per page instead of 250. That will shrink your word count by a good amount. It will still be higher than the true count, but you shouldn't worry about that.

In fact, before I continue to explain how to reset your line height in Word, I want to emphasize how unproductive it is to get bogged down in these kinds of details. Your first and most important job is to write the best book you can. Your second most important job is to present that book in the form of an attractive, uncluttered, professional-looking manuscript. As long as that manuscript looks reasonably close to the expected standard format, you'll be fine.

That said, here's how to set your lines in Word to exactly the proper height. If you're using MS Word 2007 or a more recent version—the version with the tool ribbons at the top instead of pull-down menus—then go to the Page Layout ribbon. In the group of tools labeled Paragraph, click the little diagonal arrow icon in the lower-right corner to pop up the Paragraph dialog box. In the Indents and Spacing tab, find the Line spacing drop-down list. Choose the "Exactly" option from the list. Under the At label, set the value to "24 pt." Click OK to exit. (The process in older versions of Word will be similar, though not exactly the same.)

What this does is set your lines to display one every 24 points, or 2 picas. This effectively gives you a double-spaced manuscript with exactly 3 lines to the inch. This way, you should get at least one more line per page than you've been getting. But like I say, that's probably not a level of detail you need or ought to be worrying about.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader writes to ask:

At the recent meeting of our local writers group we got involved in a discussion about formatting. Several of us were having problems with the header/footer and page numbering aspect of our word processing program. My problem was setting the page for "different first page" and how to begin the numbering with page 2.

Our president showed us how she set it, but the way she did it, the page numbering started on the second page but numbered it page 1. Her point was that the very first page of a manuscript was simply a "cover page" and as such should not be considered part of the numbering process. She did not have anything on her "cover page" except for name and address, word count, title and by-line.

I, on the other hand, use your format—the first page includes name, address, word count, title etc., with the story starting a third of the way down the page. Our president said that was something that would get a manuscript kicked back from an agent/editor very quickly.

This is the first time I have heard of such a thing, and I'm wondering if there have been any changes in required format that I don't know about?







You raise a couple of different issues here. The first is the question of whether or not to give your manuscript a separate title page. I suspect the confusion between you and your group president stems from the fact that novels and short stories employ slightly different formats. You may be trying to format a novel like you would a short story.

A book-length manuscript, whether for a non-fiction work or a novel, should have a separate title page. The title page will have your name and address in the upper-left corner, the title and your byline centered in the middle of the page, and an approximate word count centered at the bottom of the page. The text then starts on the second page of the manuscript, and that page should be numbered 1. You can study a portion of a sample novel manuscript here.

A manuscript for a short story or article should not have a separate title page. It should be formatted similarly to what you find here.

I would always recommend using a separate title page when submitting a novel, but I have talked to successful writers who routinely submit their novels in short story format. I doubt a manuscript would be rejected for that reason, but you should play it safe and go with standard novel format.

Now, to the second issue you raise. How do you prevent a page number from appearing on the title page of your manuscript? And, in the case of a novel manuscript, how do you adjust the numbering so that the second page of the manuscript gets numbered 1?

Before we get started, if you need instruction in creating page headers in the first place, see my earlier entry "Automatic page numbers in Word." Up to speed? Let's continue.

If you're using MS Word 2007 or a more recent version—the version with the tool ribbons at the top instead of pull-down menus—then go to the Page Layout ribbon. In the group of tools labeled Page Setup, click the little diagonal arrow icon in the lower-right corner to pop up the Page Setup dialog box. Click the Layout tab, then check the box labeled Different first page. Click OK to close the dialog. This will cause your page header to not appear on the first page of the manuscript.

For a short story manuscript, you're done. The header will not appear on the first page, and the second page will be numbered 2. If it's a novel manuscript, though, you need to go through one more step to make the second page numbered 1.

Set your cursor on the title page of the manuscript. Select the Insert ribbon. In the group of tools labeled Header & Footer, click Page Number. Choose Format page numbers from the menu that appears. A Page Number Format dialog box will pop up. In the Page numbering section, click the radio button labeled Start at. Set the number in the adjacent box to 0. Click OK to close the dialog. This will set the title page's number to zero, causing the second page of your manuscript to show up as 1.

You should find similar options in other word processors.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A reader writes to ask:

I had a quick question for you regarding header formatting for novel manuscripts.

I'm trying to customize the autotext feature for headers to follow the example you gave:

Author / Book Title / Page #

I had some luck with the author and book title, but can't seem to customize auto-formatting of the page #. Do you know how to do this in MS Word?







If you're using MS Word 2007 or a more recent version—the version with the tool ribbons at the top instead of pull-down menus—then go to the Insert ribbon. In the group of tools labeled Header & Footer, there is a Page Number option. Click Page Number → Current Position → Plain Number and Word will insert a code that prints the current page number.

In older versions of Word, the process will be similar. Just find the Header & Footer item in the pull-down menus and go from there.


Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
A technical question for you techie writer types out there. Do you use version-control software to keep a repository of your work? If so, what? What platform do you run it on? What do you like? What don't you? I know CVS pretty well from my programmer days, but I'm not sure that's what I want to use for my writing. Maybe Subversion? SVK? I've just started looking into this, and there are a whole lot of options.

I used to just use the Windows Briefcase to keep my writing in sync between machines, but my new laptop with Vista doesn't seem to implement Briefcase in a way that's entirely compatible with older versions, and anyway it doesn't do squat to keep copies of older drafts around. I'd like to start doing something a little more sophisticated than that.
Sorting through piles and piles and piles of old stuff as we packed, I found a poignantly evocative photocopy I thought had been lost to the mists of time. It went back to 1992 or so, when, as you may know, I was developer on the WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS team. You may not realize this, children, but the word-processor market used to be rather more hotly contended than it is today,
and the leading product out there was WordPerfect. The rivalry between us WordPerfect developers and our opposite numbers at Microsoft was fierce, and as we sat in our comfy offices that looked out on the Wasatch mountain range and pounded out code, or even as we sat enjoying a subsidized lunch at our campus eatery, the Hard Disk Cafe, we could feel the hot breath of those Word developers on the backs of our necks.

We were right to feel the pressure. Not only was Microsoft poised to soon crush us in the marketplace—aided and abetted by our own failure to get a decent Windows product out in timely fashion—but those Redmondites were nasty pieces of work. It was with delighted horror one day that out of our fax machine scrolled a fourth-or-more generation photocopy, transmitted from an anonymous source. Soon a copy of the WordPerfect Fanatic Point-and-Shoot Program ad, with its chiaroscuroed Cary Grant still, was tacked up in every office in our building.

So, this memento of a time when Microsoft might actually have been a little frightened of a wretch like me. Sometimes it does a body proud to be a marked man.
Raise your hand if AOL automatically added an "AIM Bots" groups to your IM client, with MovieFone and ShoppingBuddy as members.

Fucking AOL. I switched to Trillian to get away from this shit. I guess the only way to escape is to stop using the AIM network altogether.

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