Descriptions of the Nondescript

Slogging and blogging

Gawd this is a slog! I’m at the 63% point in my manuscript, according to my text editor. This is going slowly, but I feel good about it. The revisions are valuable — I’m making this much better. And I’m finding various small (usually) errors and inconsistencies in the story telling. I needed to do this.

Some people might be interested in the tool chain I’m using to finish this book. Most of the book has been written using these tools, although I started out — years ago, now — using what used to be called StarOffice back in the day.

I have always used Linux from the beginning. I hate Windows, and I didn’t get a Macbook until recently, and that is the property of my employer anyway. So, Linux it is. I use KDE on Ubuntu, and I’m pretty happy with it. I have eschewed fancy and distracting WYSIWYG word processors for something simpler and more contained.

The GNU Emacs logo I use GNU Emacs for editing the text itself, a GNU Makefile to drive the tools to transform this into the finished PDF and EBOOK formats, and various other tools as they’re needed. I couldn’t live without Emacs’ ispell package, and I have made good use of ediff to merge versions of the manuscript when I screwed up and edited them on two different computers and had to recover from that.

I have an ARM based Samsung Chromebook for when I’m working on the train or out and about. ChromeOS is wonderful for many things, but I wanted my Linux tools, so I installed crouton to get emacs and the other Linux goodies. I use a desktop PC (built it myself!) at home for the really heavy editing when I’m there.

After editing the text form, which is in Markdown format by the way, I pass the whole thing through pandoc to get HTML for one version and EPUB for another. The HTML goes through LibreOffice using an unfortunately still mostly manual process to create a PDF for someone who needs dead-trees copy to write on.

The EPUB version goes through Calibre to be transformed into the various eBook formats required by Google, Amazon, Apple, and SmashWords. These conversions are still somewhat buggy. Before I publish this thing I’m going to have to make them bullet-proof. I already have a very nice book design and cover, but getting the tools to generate a form that each of these eBook vendors can gobble up and feed to the various eBook readers while retaining some semblance of the original formatting is hard.

I’m learning by doing. I have new respect for the publishing houses and the companies that do all of these things as a service. When I’m rich someday I might ask someone else to do these jobs for me. For now, my time is free.