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.

Writing Update Mid-September 2015

I just got the edits for the Devon’s Blade novella back and I’m already deep into them. There seem to be fewer issues with this one than previous books I’ve written. If I can get this one corrected and proofed in the next few weeks, it could be the first to market as the cover is already finished.

Devons Blade Cover 4-26-15

I’m using a plugin for LibreOffice that lets me export my manuscript to epub format. Then I simply open it in Sigil and add the pages and styles that make it a GB Press ebook. I’m standardizing all my novels with a new format that is cleaner than the old one.

In other writing news, I’m still outlining the next trilogy of the Star Saga. This time I’ll have a pretty good set of outlines, one for each book, before I start writing them. Hopefully I can knock out one novel and one novella per year for the next two years. Faster if I can manage it. All of this work is being done in Plume Creator, still the best program for series writing available on Linux.

I’m also teaming up with my brother, Byron, to map out a stand alone SF novel. We’re using a new web based app called Novelize to write it. If you haven’t heard of Novelize you should go and sign up for the free version to check it out. Sort of like a simplified Plume Creator or Scrivener as a web application. It’s still in active development but you can definitely start using it right away. I’ll have an in depth review in a few weeks.

The current publishing plan is to release all the Starforgers Trilogy books after the first of next year. Probably one after the other every couple of weeks, to build momentum. Starforgers will get the new cover and interior updates, then I’ll drop Devon’s Blade followed by The Rising, The Blood Empress and finally, Counterattack.  That’s five books hitting the digital shelves within a month or two. Hopefully that will make a splash and gain some sales momentum.

Well, I’d better get back to my edits.


My New Writing Workflow

I’ve been changing my writing workflow this week. What follows is how I draft, edit and build my Indie novel ebooks. I’m admittedly an extreme corner case here, but I think no matter which OS you use, these tools are available. You may have to tailor some programs to your specific OS (Operating System).

I start with Plume Creator. Plume is a first draft writing program similar to Scrivener. Since I write on Ubuntu, I can’t use Scrivener and for the last three novels I’ve used Plume with great success. Plume is Open Source and can be downloaded for Linux and Windows. There is a Mac version, but it’s a few releases behind.

I then export to .odt and import the book into Libre Office’s Write. Then I send it to my editor and he marks it up using Write’s commenting features. When we get the manuscript perfect, I’m ready to build my epub. Write is Open Source and can be used on Linux, Mac and Windows. After all my edits are made, I clean up the document removing tabs and extra spaces.

I now use Jutoh to import my .odt document and divide it up into separate chapter files and add front and back matter pages. I use Jutoh to set my style sheet and import special fonts. When done, I unzip the epub and look it over in the fourth program – Sublime Text 2. Jutoh is NOT Open Source but is available for Linux, Mac and Windows.

Sublime Text is an editor used by programmers. It lets me manually tweak the XML in the epub. Sublime Text is NOT Open Source and is available for Linux, Mac and Windows. Reminder – you must unzip an .epub directory to get at the raw XML files. As you can see below, Jutoh leaves a nice clean base to work with.

You can probably substitute Scrivener for Plume and Word for Write on both Mac and Windows OS. There are many other programming editor tools available on Mac and Windows that are free or low cost.

Plume Creator Update

Regular readers of this blog know that I volunteer as a software tester for the writing program – Plume Creator. If you are a writer you should give it a try. Plume is Open Source and available on all three platforms for free. The 1.0 version of the program is pretty much done as of this writing. There may be a few maintenance releases in the weeks ahead, but basically the features are frozen.

However, Cyril, the program’s creator is working on a second version, a 2.o version that will continue forward with new features. The reason he’s halting work on the 1.0 version is because for the 2.0 version, he’s essentially starting over with a new code base and some bold new ideas for the program. There’s not much to say about the new version yet as we’re working out the specs at this time. But what I can tell you is that Plume Creator is going to be the premier Open Source Writing software for years to come. It will continue to look and act much like it does now but it will also be innovative and helpful to writers of all kinds.

Some of the upcoming features in discussion are: using Mark Down under the hood which will mean the user can export cleanly to HTML or EPUB formats, internal storage of images and notes possibly in a Wiki format, the ability to alter your text from outside of Plume Creator as in from your tablet, and finally, a Screenplay template for writers.

It’s not too late to jump in and help the Plume Creator team develop the kind of writing software that you want to have. So if you’re a programmer, designer or a tester and want to help out, I’m sure Cyril would love to have you join us. Drop him an email and let him know how you can contribute.

If you’ve recently tried out Plume and have some user based experiences with it, please let us know what you liked and what you didn’t like about it.


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.


Weekend Update 6 Oct 2013


Well, my son’s team won the Clash of the Titans, Part 2. Both teams being named Titans. Jack had a good game, got a few nice tackles. His team put up 14 points in first quarter with an all passing, all the time offense. Pretty fun to watch a QB that can throw that good at age 12.

That shadow is me taking the picture. Jack is gray player in background with the runner’s legs wrapped up. Yes, that’s frost on the ground. Also dully noted, the kid with the green socks is a lineman, hustling into the play.

Meanwhile, my Bears lost, the Seahawks lost and the Broncos won. On the college front, my Broncos had a bi week. They play Utah State next Saturday night. Feeling better about that one now that their QB is out for the season. Tough break for them. My wife’s Seminoles rolled this weekend to.

Wood Floors

We continue to clean and move furniture for the big wood floor operation to take place this week. Hope to get some baseboards to paint tomorrow night. Didn’t do much writing or anything this weekend due to the floor operation.

Dark Themed Plume Creator

Another updated screenshot of the dark theme for Plume Creator. It’s coming along nicely. You may also notice the toolbar in this image. It’s a new feature that we are testing now. It will only appear when you hover over the top left margin of the active scene.


Plume Creator Dark Theme Preview

Those of you writers out there using the fantastic writing tool – Plume Creator are in for a treat in an upcoming release. Plume is getting themes and that means a dark version is in the works. I’ve been helping the developer, Cyril, work out a dark theme for the Linux version of Plume. Below is an early screenshot showing the unfinished theme.

So what do you think? Are we on the right track?

If you have any UI or design experience please leave a comment with your constructive criticism. We aim to please!

Weekend Update 08 Sep 2013

Special Birthday edition of the Weekend Update. Today I am forty-eight years old.


My son’s team got shut out by a group of kids that have been playing for each other for four years and were really good. But they shut out the other team in the second half, so they were making adjustments good. We have two key players injured. Hopefully they will be back for next week’s game.

My BSU Broncos had a big day on The Blue, destroying Tennessee Martin. Not sure if this means the Broncos are still good, or just good against lesser teams. Time will tell.

Testing Plume Creator

A big week for testing Plume Creator, the writing software I use. Cyril, the programmer served up a new stable build that fixed a bug in how the main text was displayed and in turn created a new customization tool for it. It has been such a pleasure working with Cyril and the other software testers that work on Plume over the past year. The program has come a long way and now I can finally say that I no longer miss Scrivener. In a month or so I will have finished my first novel using Plume Creator and I can honestly say that I love writing with it. I first started using Scrivener when it was in beta years ago but I never had a relationship with the developer. Chiefly because Scrivener is closed source and therefor not open to the kinds of suggestions that an Open Source project like Plume Creator is. So while you can suggest that Apple, Microsoft or Scrivener add a feature to their software, unless thousands of users agree, it ain’t happening. Meanwhile, everyone who uses Plume Creator can have a voice in what features are added even how they get implemented if you know how to program.

If you take the time to download and actually use Plume Creator, we encourage you to send the programmer emails when you find a bug or if you can think of a better way to accomplish something. Cyril appreciates all input and everyone will benefit from it in the end. One of the things I always preach when it comes to writing is giving back to the art and craft. If you have success, help lift others up. If you have a skill, pass it on to others. If you use a tool, help the developer make it better. It’s more than just good karma, you may actually learn something about yourself and your tools. And that will make you a better person and a better writer.

Writing Tools

I ordered a new laptop stand and a seven port USB 2.0 hub. They both arrived this week and below you see them in action on my home writing desk. I’m happy with both products now that I slid the hub under the stand to hide its high intensity green power light. Why do companies make such bright lights on appliances? Don’t their designers actually live with their products? I think not.



I also found a shorter HDMI cable to use for connecting the laptop to the monitor. Be nice if dongle makers would cater to non-Apple devices and make black HDMI adapters. White is a horrible color for a computer accessory. The two outside ports on the USB hub are power chargers for my phone and tablet. The first two slots are taken up by the wireless keyboard and mouse, which is why I needed USB 2.0 instead of going with the 3.0 version. Apparently USB 3.0 interferes with wireless signals. The Cooler Master fan stand seems to be doing the trick in keeping my CPU happy while attached to the external monitor. I’ve been monitoring the CPU temp and it seems about ten to fifteen degrees cooler than without the fan.

Now I need to work on wire management and see if I can clean up this desk a bit.

Plume Beta Sneak Peek

Thought I’d offer my audience a look at the latest Plume Beta, since it’s really not for public consumption yet. This being Beta software, things are not final and are subject to change. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s see what’s cooking for the next Plume Creator release.

Cyril has been giving the Project Tree an overhaul in an effort to make drag and drop smoother and faster. All his hard work is beginning to pay off, because in the limited testing I’ve done, it’s working great. Another new addition to the Tree is icons for Books, Acts, Chapters and Scenes. Yes, you read that right. Acts is new. As you can see in the screenshot below, your novel or book can now have Acts. Very cool. Kudos to Tushant Mirchandani, the new icons look clean and sharp. Again, things are in flux in this area, so the icons may change before the next release. Tushant is also responsible for the new layout options of the main screen.


Below is a screen shot of the Outliner which is now called the Workbench. This is where you are supposed to create your book in outline form. All changes to this Workbench outline immediately show up on the main screen shown above.


There are more new features planned and I’ll let you guys in on them as I test them. Rest assured that Plume Creator is still very much in development and is getting better with every release.


I’ve put my latest novel, The Rising, on GitHub. For the non-programmers out there, GitHub is a web based front end for the most popular Open Source code repository. Translated, that means that my novel is now being backed up in a version control system that you can browse from the web.

What was I thinking? Well, a couple of things. First of all, it’s a great way to back up your writing off-site and in the cloud. I already save my files in DropBox. But using a version controlled system is just another way to record my changes while I back it up. Git is a  open source program written by Linux Torvalds, that guy who wrote Linux. You may have heard of that Operating System.

Secondly, a side benefit of using GitHub is that the public can check out what you’ve been doing. The file that I commit is actually a text dump of all my notes, synopsis and actual chapters. All of that is combined into one, slightly lumpy, slightly more information than you may need file.

I use the program, Plume Creator for my writing. Plume lets me outline and keep notes on each chapter and each scene that I write. This text dump includes it all in a single file. If you plan on following along as I write, good luck to you. But if anyone wants a record of how I write a novel, this Git repository will have it all. I plan on uploading it every week.

At this time I’m just committing this file manually, but in the future, I’ll be making a python update script.