Introducing Manuskript

I’ve started testing a new writing program for Linux users called, Manuskript. This is a very promising first draft tool along the lines of Plume Creator or Scrivener. If you want to give the program a shot, I suggest you use the develop GIT version, instead of the pre-release. But if the terminal causes you anxiety then just wait for it to go out of beta, because this one is still unstable and going through rapid development.

I started outlining my latest novel using Manuskript and found it quite nice to use. Unfortunately, I was not able to recover from a file system location change and wound up losing some of my outline. For this reason I’ve returned operations to Plume Creator and will be coming back to Manuskript to test and play around with it as I write Corvette. What this means is I’ll be cutting and pasting my completed scenes into Manuskript after I create them in Plume. Then I won’t freak out if something happens to them.

But if you want to install and play around with Manuskript I highly encourage it! It’s a pretty slick tool already and as it becomes more stable it will be another welcome addition to the Linux writing tool set. While I was using Manuskript I introduced the program’s developer to Plume Creator’s developer, hoping the two of them could share experiences and ideas. I’m pretty sure this will help improve both tools and give us Linux writers a huge productivity boost.

As time permits, I’ll be doing more posts about Manuskript and showing you some of the features I really enjoy. If you have any program testing chops, this is the perfect opportunity to help a new project out. Download the develop version from GIT and let the developer know about the issues you find. That’s called giving back to the community and I believe it’s an essential part of being a writer. Very few folks use Linux to write books, but those of us who do, have the unique ability to help developers make our products better. Something users of proprietary programs like Scrivener, and Word, can not do.

How I Use Plume Creator to Write a Novel


When you are first starting out writing a novel and are not set in your ways, you tend to look closely at how other writers ply their craft. This includes how they structure their novels and what software programs they use. Every writer is different and we all have our own way of doing things. The only way you are going to discover what works for you is to try the methods that others use and see if you like them. This post is not designed to be a tutorial on how to use Plume Creator, it is intended to show you how I use Plume Creator. Your mileage my vary and your methods may be completely different.

For this post I’m showing screen shots of my actual Works In Progress (WIP), the Space Opera novel, The Blood Empress and a future SF novel, Betweos. There may be spoilers in the images. If you are a reader and don’t want to have the stories ruined for you, perhaps you should skip this post. I’ll do my best to not show critical moments, but if you study these images, you could glean quite a bit about the stories. You have been warned. This is a bit like Dorthy looking behind the curtain and seeing how the Wizard works his magic. There will be inside baseball talk for writers ahead. Oh, and all images are clickable for larger versions.

Plume Creator

Last year I switched from using Mac OS to Linux. The move was not difficult but it did leave me without a decent writing program. I had been using Scrivener, but they don’t officially support Linux so I started looking for something like Scrivener for Linux. That’s when I discovered Plume Creator. Plume is an Open Source program written by an excellent programmer who also happens to be a writer. I started using it and realized that it was a diamond in the rough. I offered to help test the program and over time, several other writers did the same. In the past year Plume has progressed to be a world class piece of software that might soon be challenging Scrivener for the hearts and minds of writers. Especially those of us on Linux.

You can download Plume Creator from their website here:

There is a Mac port of Plume Creator and it’s maintained by a user. You can find it here, under Recent Releases:

There are some excellent video tutorials available here:

Getting Started


Plume has a default theme on the left and a dark theme known as Space Opera on the right. I mostly use the dark theme because it matches my OS, Ubuntu. For these posts I’ll be sticking to the dark theme, I just wanted to let you know that there is an alternative. You can also create your own custom theme using the Settings Dialogue shown in the picture on the right above.

To start a new project go to the top menu of Plume called Project and select New Project (ctrl+n). This brings up the New Project Assistant. This is the most efficient way to create a new novel in Plume.

Specify the new project name and the location you wish to save it.

I put all my projects on DropBox a web based, version controlled file system. If you just put your project on your local drive, you won’t have version control which is a way to recover previous saves of your project. Also, if your hard drive crashes, you will be out of luck entirely. Saving to DropBox creates a local drive version and auto-magically backs it up to the cloud. This has saved my butt many times. Do it.

The final screen of this assistant lets you select how many Books, Acts, Chapters and Scenes you want to include in your Project. Normally, if you are just doing one book, then you won’t need multiple books in one project, but if you were doing a trilogy, you’d want to have three similar books in one project.

Nobody knows how long their book will be in the end so this is really just an educated guess. You’ll be able to add or subtract chapters and scenes later as you outline or just plow through your novel pantser style.  I usually format my novels into four Acts each act contains about four chapters and each chapter contains about four scenes. Again, this is just a guideline. Something to get you started with. You can add and subtract anything at a later date.

Here’s a closeup of the assistant. You can see it adding things on the right as you change the numbers under Count.

There are many other options available such as Short Story, Short Novel and Long Novel. After you are satisfied with the overall structure of your novel click finished and your project is ready to go.

You still have to label the chapters and the scenes in your novel outline. I label chapters (Chapter 1) and I just use numbers for my scenes. I figure there is no need to write “scene” because the icon for scene is a page of paper. All the parts of a novel have their own icon in the Project tree. I label my acts, (Act 1-4). Again, you can do it however you want. As you can see from the above screenshot, you can collapse the Acts and the Chapters to better view the areas of your novel that you are interested in.

Setting badges. You can set badges on every element of the project tree. I use badges to set things like Turning Points on scene headers and word counts on chapter headers. Below you can see the right click menu where the badges are set.

Below you can see Chapter 1 has a word count set as a Badge and the first scene has Inciting Incident as a badge.


I outline my novels using the Project tree on the left and the Synopsis area to the right of the main editor. I drop a two or three sentence description of what happens in each scene and add a Badge to the scene to describe it if something significant happens like it’s a Turning Point. Below you can see a novel, The Blood Empress, that’s been outlined in the tree and the Synopsis has been filled in. This makes writing the novel much faster for me as I already have a prompt for each scene. However, this is not set in stone. You can change it and I frequently do to control pacing or flow.

If you prefer to use a spreadsheet type of outline, Plume has the Workbench. The Workbench takes whatever is in your Project tree and displays it in a spreadsheet format. It also includes the POV character. You can add and subtract columns in the Workbench to customize it.

Mise en scene

After you create the framework of your book or outline, you can go back through it and add characters, locations and other pertinent things you’d like to track. This is all done in the Mise en scene area of Plume Creator. In the screenshot below, you can see that I have set the characters and locations used in a scene. The POV character is also set. You set the POV character by highlighting the character on the Stage and clicking on the POV button which an icon that looks like an eye. To get the character you want from the bottom tree, simply drag it onto the stage area above the tree.

Taking the time to add your characters and locations to every scene is sometimes too time consuming during your first draft. After all, your mission is to get the words down, not to fiddle with it. So I try and set those things before I start to write. Again, they are easily changed as you go along.

The Mise en scene Manager is where you add and subtract things. Select the Characters area and then click on the Green Plus sign. A New character appears. Select the New character and rename it and then fill in the information. The selection boxes are slanted towards characters and not Items or Places. But I just use the big text box to write down any pertinent details about say a spaceship or a location. If you like to work out the details of your characters and keep that information at your fingertips, this is an awesome feature. In the near future it will be modified and improved upon.

In the Mise en scene dialog, you can add your own categories. For my Space Opera novels I keep track of starships this way. Below is Scene 2 from Chapter 1 of The Blood Empress. You can see the main characters, the POV character and the starship they are all on. I use this feature to keep track of who is in a scene without having to scroll up all the time to remember that alien’s name.


There’s a lot of added functionality included in Plume Creator and I only use a fraction of it. The program is not as complicated to use as Scrivener. There’s a simple elegance to it. Clean lines and the ability to show you only what you need to see are hallmarks of Plume Creator.

Wordcounts: Along the bottom of the program you have word counts for your Project, Book, Act, Chapter and Scene. You can also set a word count goal per scene before you start and it will track that with a simple green bar.

Tools Bar: On the Tools Bar you can set a timer for your writing session. I never use that feature, but I know many writers who do. So it’s there if you need it and if you don’t remove the bar for it.

Full Screen: There is a full screen mode that takes away all your distractions and lets you just focus on the writing. Sometimes I use this feature.

Workbench: One added feature on the Workbench is the ability to mark what version your manuscript is on. This is done using the drop down menu on the Status column.

Editor Features:  Most features you will need are just a right click away on the main editor. But some of them are hidden in a tool bar at the top of the page. Run your cursor over the top left corner of the page to activate this hidden formatting menu. You can also pin this menu and make it visible all the time.

Spell Check: My favorite feature because I spell like a fifth grader.

Styles: Plume does not let you format like a traditional word processor. It has Styles that you can set to format the text of your novel. In the Settings Dialog under Styles you can create your own styles to your heart’s content. I usually have an indent style and a Chapter Header style for my novels that have a character quote at the start of each chapter. The formatting for these things can be pre-set and to apply them I just highlight the text and select the Style I want.

Text: You can also change the text style in the Synopsis and Note areas under Settings Dialog -> Text tab.


After you are finished writing your novel you need to get it out of Plume and into Standard Manuscript Format. In previous versions of Plume, I exported my novel to .odt and edited it in LibreOffice. My editor used Word and made notations and all of that was able to be accessed in Write. But for my latest novel, I’m going to try and do each draft in Plume Creator. This is because my new editor also uses Plume Creator.

Above is the Export dialogue. You can’t export to Word’s .doc, but if you select .odt, you can use OpenOffice or LibreOffice to convert to .doc.


I wanted to say a few things about multi-book series and trilogies because I write them and I’m pretty sure others of you do to. I’m writing a nine book series and I decided to break it up into three Plume Projects. This means that I will have three full size novels in one project and probably a few novellas.  This creates some interesting issues, but performance is not one of them. Plume takes all the words you throw at it from 3 Thousand to 3 Million.

The only issue I have had so far is that each book has a bunch of characters unique to it and there are also some that appear in more than one book. Eventually the Mise en Scene gets pretty full and finding a character in a list of hundreds is none trivial. This problem is being addressed now and will be ironed out in the coming year. Which leads me to the final thing I’d like to say about Plume Creator. It’s Open Source. There is currently one developer and a bunch of interested testers helping him out. We’d love to have more developers willing to help out with the project. So if you know someone who can program in C++ and who supports Open Source coding, let her know about Plume.

Part of being a writer is being willing to give back to the writing community. Helping out with a program like Plume is giving back in a huge way. Probably more so than another blog post on how to write believable bad guys.


Six Months After My Switch to Linux

Last year my Macbook finally gave up the ghost and I was forced to buy a new laptop. I elected to go with my gut and use Ubuntu instead of a new Mac. I’ve been using Ubuntu on my secondary PCs for years. But all my writing and other web-design work was performed on the old, white Macbook.

In deciding to go with Ubuntu instead of Mac, I was forfeiting the use of my primary writing tool – Scrivener. Sure you can mess with an unsupported Linux port of the program, but really I was going to have to start over with something else. Most writers would have been appalled at having to go back to Word or LibreOffice, but I had reason to believe that life after Scrivener would go on.

I purchased a new Dell 13″ XPS and booted into Ubuntu, never looking back. The computer worked great and the OS was a breeze to use. Then I found a Scrivener-like program that was designed to work on Linux. Plume Creator has proved to be a great program for writing and plotting my novels. It works enough like Scrivener to make me happy.

In the past few month lots of interesting developments are happening on Ubuntu. The OS is being used on everything from phones to computers and the acceptance level by companies not normally accepting of Linux is growing. Gaming platforms like Steam are coming to Ubuntu and developers are continuing to filter over from Apple. Mind you, its no land rush, but many folks are realizing that they can live without the Apple and Windows.

As for the Dell, it has performed really well so far. My only issue is a hardware one. The screen has developed a few bad pixels. I wonder if I can send it back and have them replace the screen with the new higher resolution one? ;-)

I don’t miss the Macbook at all. My coding and writing processes have not changed, many of the same tools I used on the Mac are available on Ubuntu, some are actually better in my opinion. Would I recommend everyone leave Apple and Windows for Ubuntu? No. Only the hardy ones, willing to use something better and take all the social abuse for being different. Mmmm, that sounds familiar.

Writing Tools on Ubuntu

When you come to Ubuntu from the Mac or Windows worlds, you start looking around for programs that you used on your old system. Sometimes you easily find versions of your favorite tools and sometimes it can be a challenge and lead to frustration. This post will help you find the programs that I use when I write fiction. They are not in any particular order.


My primary writing application is Plume Creator. It works like Scrivener, so if you use that tool, you will feel at home with it. You can get it here and just double click on the file after it downloads to bring up the Ubuntu Software Center to install it.

I also use LibreOffice and that comes pre-installed with Ubuntu. This is the equivalent of Microsoft Office for most writer’s needs. Comes with spreadsheet apps and a word processor that works just like Word.

Another great writing program is Focus Writer.

For simple and quick plain text editing, I use Scribes.


My favorite dictionary is GoldenDict and you can find that in the Ubuntu Software Center. I like it because it lets you use various online sources including the Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia. I always have this app open full screen on its own desktop.

AiksaurausGTK is a thesaurus and nothing else. Again, this baby is open when I’m writing. You can find that in the Ubuntu Software Center.

Image Manipulation

If you are like most writers, you have lots of images that you use for inspiration when you write. I store mine in my novel folder on Dropbox. When I need to view them, I use ImageViewer which is built in to the OS. When I want to modify them quickly, I use Pinta Image Manipulator. Pinta is in the Ubuntu Software Center but you should make sure you get the latest 1.4 version for best results. This is actually based on the code used for Paint Plus on Windows.

If you are serious about Photoshopping something, use Gimp. You can find that in the Ubuntu Software Center. The latest version of Gimp is pretty awesome.

Lastly, I use Inkscape to do any vector based images, like maps. You can find that in the Ubuntu Software Center.

Ebook Creation

I no longer build up my own ebooks, but when I need a quick one made, I use Sigil. I also have been known to dable with Calibre for ebook organizing on my laptop.


These days, I’m always using my phone to take notes. I use Evernote on that and on my Ubuntu, I sync with Evernote using EverPad. EverPad even has a lens. So be warned, Lensmen!  Okay, bad Sci-Fi joke.

Of course Dropbox is well integrated into Ubuntu and I recommend everyone use it or UbuntuOne to back up your writing.

That’s just about all the apps that I use when I write or work on author related things. If you can think of anything else to add, please leave a  comment and tell us about it.

The Humble Indie Bundle 6 for Linux

I’m not really a gamer, but I buy games on Linux sometimes to support the idea. We need more gamers on Linux. Gamers bring expectations for better graphics, hear that nVidia? Which brings better performance for desktop users, like me.

So if you’re looking for a review of the latest games in the Humble Indie Bundle, you’ll have to talk to my kids. They’ve only played a few of them so far, but they seemed entertained. I’ll put some of them on the netbook that my 9 year old uses. It’s running the latest Ubuntu right now.

Currently, the Humble games are on my Dell XPS, the fastest computer at the McConnell household. Of course this means the games run very fast and crisp. I think gamers on a modern computer using Linux will be quite pleased.

My only suggestion for Ubuntu in particular, is that they need to better integrate the bundled games into the software center. You shouldn’t get a click yes to purchase button after you have already been charged by Humble for the games. I didn’t install the first game for quite some time, as I thought it would charge me a second time. Not good.

It should be noted that the gaming engine Unity, is coming to Linux soon. So now you can build your own indie games on Linux. Very cool.  Also – watch the Indie Game documentary!

One last item of note about the Humble Bundle in particular is about the average price that Linux users are footing for these games. It’s close to $10.00 and way, way more than Mac and Windows users are choosing to pay for them. So much for Linux nerds only wanting free stuff.

Clementine on Ubuntu

Sometimes when I write, I like to listen to film soundtracks. Since I don’t own any soundtracks these days, I use Clementine and tune into They have a channel for movie soundtracks.

Clementine ties into my top bar and lets me control it from there without even opening the main program. But when I do open the program, it provides me with all kinds of cool stuff about the musician.

Clementine is one of my favorite apps on Ubuntu. Check it out!

Screenshots of the Latest Plume Creator Build

Here is the latest Plume Creator pre-release screenshot. More attention is being given to the look and feel of the program, as well as a few new features.

The best new feature is of course shown at the top and bottom of the main editor. First, you now have the option to get rid of tabs and just show one scene at a time. There is a thin line at the top and bottom of a scene in the editor when that scene has a previous and next scene already in place. If you grab that thin line and pull it up or down, you get a sneak peek at the previous or next scene. This is something I’ve wanted as a writer for years and now I have it with Plume Creator.

The way I have the side menu boxes, Notes, Tools and Attendance and even the bar that houses their buttons are all configurable to the user. This allows for typical flexibility that programmers have with their development environments.

The newly revised Full Screen mode now has icons for menu selections. Icons have found their way into the main editor too, for a more polished look and feel.

Another new feature for this version of Plume Creator is the Styles menu item. This lets you apply a Normal and a Poetry style directly to your scene. Sometimes when you are writing an Epic Fantasy novel you like to quote a poem. That bit of text needs to be styled differently than the main text. Now you can just highlight the area of the poem and apply the Poetry style to it. The result is visible in the above screenshot. Styles are configurable from the Configure Menu item.

Above is the latest Outliner for Plume Creator. It works like a tree diagram inside a spreadsheet. You can open chapters and move them around and add or delete scenes with synopsis and notes. The Outliner is in heavy development and is getting better all the time. It’s also a separate window so you could have it up on a second monitor and refer to it as you write in the main editor.

As you can see, Plume Creator keeps getting better week by week and I’m even using it to write my next novel.

Plume Creator Update

Thought I’d show off the latest look for Plume Creator, the writer’s program for Linux. It’s starting to come together nicely. I use it full time now for my next novel. Here is a list of new features and fixes in the latest version:

v 0.521
– bug fixed : when pasting plain text, line breaks weren’t pasted
– bug fixed : crash when tabs are all closed and showing previous scene
– bug fixed : notes an synopsys right margins wrong in new scenes
– New Project Manager
– Wordcount centered under the sheet.
– “Tree” dock renamed “Project” dock
– Closing Project dock is now forbidden
– Project button removed in vertical toolbar
– “Show Previous Scene”, “Outliner” and “Fullscreen” buttons are moved to the side tool bar
– Plume is now lightly styled
– added a basic spreadsheet Outliner
– removed the sheets Outliner (temporary)
– added a “View” menu
– added a few icons

I haven’t had much time to play with this new version, but I’m excited to give it a try.