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Re: Book writing mode?

From: address@hidden
Subject: Re: Book writing mode?
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004 12:44:19 -0400
User-agent: KNode/0.7.1

address@hidden wrote:

> Is there any more then me out there who write articles, books or longer
> storys and uses Emacs? If so what mode do you use for easy editing and
> do write your text using HTML, DocBook etc or so for easy publishing?
> /juman

That's exactly what I do. I'm a free-lance news reporter (local government 
and features) in the U.S. who works from home. I figure Emacs makes me at 
least a third more productive, at least I like to think so. I'm also 
working on my third book.

For news stories, which are short, I write in paragraph-indent-text-mode 
generally with refill-mode turned on. I use the block style, which is what 
you see here, because I don't need to tab so I don't have problems hitting 
the caps lock key. Plus it just seems to me more natural and quicker.

I have a macro to convert the blocks to tabbed paragraphs and long-lines 
when I'm done. This is because Emacs' hard carriage return method of line 
breaking is not what newspapers want. No editor is going to want to 
assemble lines by hand. Also it facilitates searching my old articles by 
grep, which I do daily, since for many news stories I need background 
material, or at least a small fact, like how to spell the copy machine 
company's name.

Another reason to use block style is that Emacs' tabbing is more set up for 
programmers than writers.

I have tons of words programmed into flyspell-mode to fix frequent typos, to 
capitalize uncapitalized proper nouns and to expand personal abbreviations 
I take on the fly like "gonna" for "going to" or "hs" for "high school."

I use dired after I've completed and saved my story to remove the write 
permissions for archival purposes. Faster than using an outside file 
manager. I have an index with the entire pathway to the files for which I 
have a macro that copies the name into the find-file function and pops up 
that file at the push of a button. Yup. I don't work hard.

I have a large file with phone numbers, names and titles that I always have 
going in a buffer. It's bookmarked so I can get to it easily. Since it has 
the names I can use M-/ for completion of names that tangle my fingers and 
for which I don't have flyspelled. I always have a minimum of five buffers 
going: the list of phone numbers, my schedule, notes, my current work and 
list of people I have to call.

I suspect we're getting into "More than you really wanted to know" here. But 
I think that writers that use Emacs are a little underrepresented and maybe 
we should trade productivity ideas. For example, I made a macro to take a 
date of birth (I write about criminal sentencings also), delete it and 
replace it with the proper age. Also another to perform simple addition.

I have three old Tandy 102 portables (only 32K, not Emacs compatible) that I 
use to take notes when I'm covering events and meetings. They're great for 
this. Obviously when typing furiously I make typos. Also to save time I 
take notes all in lowercase. When I get back I feed the raw notes into the 
Linux box by modem. After that I take a sed script with Emacs which fixes 
many of the typos and capitalizes many of the words. That means I have less 
fixing when cutting and pasting quotations.

When I originally started with Emacs I worked with auto-fill off so I could 
tab. Now that I don't tab I use either auto-fill on with 
auto-capitalization or with refill on without auto-capitalization. The 
refill sometimes fools the auto-capitalization and capitalizes in the wrong 
place. Since I don't really have a problem with not capitalizing words at 
the start of sentences, in the last few weeks I've been switching back to 
refill mode so I don't have to M-q.

Yeah, I switch back and forth on a lot of things.

I have refill and auto-fill modes bound to function keys so I can switch 
them on and off as the occasion demands. They're both toggles.

As you can see from my signature I've written two books. I'm working on a 
third. I wrote them using LaTeX using Auctex mode. It's quite handy (Thanks 
David Kastrup). It colors the tags and even puts in some of them using 
keyboard shortcuts. There's are even shortcuts for processing (compiling) 
the LaTeX file and popping up the viewer. Emacs and Auctex make LaTeX 
fiendishly efficient. Its only drawback is it doesn't seem to like refill 
mode so you're back to M-qing again. For printing on paper, or for making 
PDFs, LaTeX is the best.

So I've come to the conclusion that for people that spend a lot of time 
writing--professional writers and probably secretaries--Emacs is the way to 
go. The problem is that so few people want to learn something new even if 
in the long run they're working less.

I already thanked David Kastrup but there are many others, including some in 
this group, that have worked on Emacs, including the person that started it 
all, Richard Stallman. Just two more I know of are Kai Grossjohann and 
Kevin Rogers. Obviously there are many more and I would name them if I knew 
all of them. But again, thank all of you for for helping make the greatest 
writing tool in the world.



Author of "Linux for Non-Geeks--Clear-eyed Answers for Practical Consumers" 
and "Boring Stories from Uncle Rod." Both are available at

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