Creating your own Assets in Quoll Writer

Version 2.6 of Quoll Writer introduces the ability to create your own Assets.  An Asset is any type of thing that may relate to your story that you want to keep track of.  For example I am currently writing a science fiction story set in spaaaaace and I want to keep track of the planets I’m creating, now I can.  Additionally I can record as many fields or bits of information about my new type of Asset as I need.

Note, these new “user customizable fields” as I call them also apply to the standard, existing Quoll Writer Asset types of Characters, Locations, Research Items and Items.  Everything that applies to new types of Assets also applies to them.

Any new types of Asset you create will be available in all of your projects.

Creating a new type of Asset

To add a new type of Asset right click on an existing section in the Project sidebar (or right click on the background of the sidebar) and select Add new type of Object.  You’ll see the following popup.

new-object-add

As should be clear this first step sets up some basic things about your object.  Things are pre-filled in to get you started.

Clicking Next > takes you to the next step where you can add fields.

Adding fields to the Asset

new-object-add-fields

A couple of “standard” fields will be automatically setup for you, this is to allow you to quickly get going by clicking Next a few times.

There are a number of different types of field you can add.  To add a new field click on the + icon above the fields.  A few of the field types are described below.

You’ll notice I named my new type of object “Planet”.

Adding a single line text field

To add a single line text field to the object, click on the add field button then select Text from the drop down list (it’s the default).  You need to give the field a name, remember I’ve already got a “Name” field which would be for the name of the planet.  In this case I want to record what the main spaceport is for the planet is so I call my field “Major Spaceport”.  You can change the name later.  Click on Save to add the field.

Note: if you want to have aliases or other names for the object check the Is other names/aliases for the planet, any values you enter in the field will be assumed to be an alias for the object and thus identify the object.  You can have as many fields marked as aliases as you want.

new-object-add-field-text.png

Adding a multi-line text field

To add a multi-line text field (think more than one line) select Multi-line text from the drop down list on the add field form.  Here you have the option to display the text entered as bullet points and it can also be aliases/other names.

In this case, I want to record the main imports/exports for the planet and have them displayed as bullet points.

new-object-add-field-multiline-text.png

Adding a number field

Finally I add a number field and you guessed it I need to select Number from the drop down list.

In this case I want to record the population of the planet, you can specify a maximum and minimum value for the field (this can be useful if you want to record a value that usually has well known limits, for example the age of a human).  The maximum/minimum are optional to complete though so you can ignore them if they don’t interest you.

new-object-add-field-number.png

Other types of fields

The fields above are just some examples to get you going, but you can also add:

  • Web links
  • Lists of things
  • Images
  • Dates

A future version will also add the ability to link different objects together, so I might create a “Spaceport” object and then have a field in the “Planet” object to directly refer to the specific Spaceport object.  Other improvements will be to have an image “gallery” that allows you to have one field for multiple images.  I also have plans to move the existing “Documents” section to be just another field.  I wanted to do all these things in version 2.6 but I just ran out of time.  If you would really like to have these things added, or have ideas for other fields then let me know.

Moving fields around

Some of the field layouts, which are discussed in the next section, take the order of the fields into account.  You can move the fields up and down in the list by using drag-n-drop.

Selecting how the information is displayed

So you’ve selected the name of your object and added some fields about it.  Now it’s time to decide how the fields/information should be displayed.

Shown below is the layout selector.  By default the fields will just be shown in a single column.  Once created you can change the layout as much as you like and the display of the object will be updated.

new-object-layout

The layout you choose will affect how the fields are displayed and how they are shown when you are adding new instances of the object or editing them.  Some examples of layouts are shown below.

layout-3-view-example.png

A layout with the description on the left hand side, other fields on the right

 

layout-3-edit-example.png

The same layout as the previous example but this time for editing the Planet.

 

layout-3a-view-example.png

In this layout no field is given any special prominence and they are displayed in two equal columns

 

layout-3a-edit-example.png

Same layout as above but you’ll notice that the name field is given special prominence.  This is because you don’t want to have to try and find the name at the bottom of a column

Changing the layout is easy and I would encourage you to experiment to find the layout that suits your needs the best.  In general the name of the object, the description and its image are all classed as special fields for the layouts and are treated in special ways.  For example, the layouts that give the object description special relevance will try and make that field as big as possible, the object image is also shown in a specific place.

Changing things around

Once you’ve saved the information about your new object, you can easily change things around to fit what you need.  Just right click on the type of object in the sidebar or right click on an instance of the object when viewing it (in its own tab) and select Edit the Object information/fields.  Any changes you make will be immediately reflected in the object tab.  You can change the icons, the name of the Asset, add new fields, remove fields, change them, move them around, go wild 🙂

However, I recommend creating your own type of Asset first and learning how to add fields/move them around and so on before changing any of the standard QW Asset types (i.e. Characters, Locations and so on).  Bear in mind that if you remove any fields from those standard objects you may lose information, so take care!

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Using Tags to group things together in Quoll Writer

Another of the new features added in the 2.6 update is the ability to “tag” objects to bring them together in a single group.

So let’s say you are writing a story about The Red Hand Gang, you’ve added all your characters but want to group the core characters together under one section.  It’s now easy just add a new tag called “The Red Hand Gang” (or whatever name you want to give it) and then either drag-n-drop the characters onto the section, or right click on the character and select the tag from the “Tags” menu.

Here’s what it looks like:

tag-example.png

(Anyone else remember The Red Hand Gang or am I just old… actually don’t answer that!)

Any tags you add will be available to all of your projects.  I’m still on the fence about per-project tags, but if you have a strong view on it, let me know.

So let’s go through the management/adding of tags in detail.

Adding a new tag from an object

First off we need to add a new tag.  Probably the easiest way is to add the tag from the object.  In this case we are talking about characters so right click on the character in the characters list in the sidebar and from the Tags menu select Add New Tag(s).  You’ll be shown the following popup:

add-tag.png

You can add as many tags as you like, just separate each with commas (,) and semi-colons (;).

The tags will be added/applied to character Lil’ Bill immediately.  Note however that the sections associated with each of the tags won’t be added to the sidebar.  To make the tags available you need to add them individually, right click on a current section and select Add section below or right click on the background of the sidebar and select Add section.  Then select the tag you want to add.

Adding/managing tags in general

If you want to manage the tags in general, i.e. all at once.  Then either right click on the background of the sidebar and select Add/Manage the Tag(s) or, in the Options panel, go to section Assets & Tags and click the Manage the Tags button.

Whichever you choose you’ll see the following popup:

manage-tags.png

An important thing to note here is that if you remove any tags using this popup then they will be removed from all of your projects.

While you can rename a tag from this popup by double clicking on the item and changing it you can also rename a tag from the tag section in the sidebar, right click on the tag name and select Rename.

Remove a tag from the current project

To remove a tag from just the current project, right click on the tag section in the sidebar and select Delete this Tag, you’ll then be shown the following popup:

remove-tag.png

As you can see this gives you the choice of removing the tag from all projects or just the current project.

Removing tags/adding existing tags to an object

To quickly remove tags or add existing tags to an object just right click on the object in the sidebar and in the Tags menu check/uncheck the tags that you want to apply/remove.

apply-tag-quick.png

Please note I am aware of the annoying bug that makes the highlighted text in the menu white.  This is an “other people’s software problem” (which is the bane of my life btw).  I have contacted the developer responsible for this issue a couple of times and he has ignored me.  QW3 will remove the need for his software altogether thus solving the issue.

About QW: The Problem Finder… neither friend nor enemy

With version 2.4 now out the door I can turn my attention to certain aspects of QW that I think people should know more about.  First up, the Problem Finder.

What is it?

The Problem Finder is a tool tucked away in the tools menu of a chapter (you can also use Ctrl+Shift+P to access it while editing a chapter). It looks for problems in your text, such as overlong sentences, the use of certain words or phrases or readability of paragraphs.  When it finds a problem it highlights the text at fault and gives you a description of what it found.

It is not designed to be used frequently.  It is akin to a vacuum cleaner, you probably need to use it (hey I’m a man!) but not that often.

So what isn’t it?

In short, the Problem Finder isn’t your friend but it isn’t your enemy either. Think of it as guard railings for your writing or warning lights that flash when you are going off course.  If a sentence or paragraph breaks one rule, two or even three that’s probably ok, we are talking about creative writing with the emphasis on “creative”, your text can and will do anything you damn well want it to.  However, if a sentence breaks five rules then it probably needs to be examined and potentially tweeked or reworked. But that choice is yours, you can choose to ignore all the problems it finds, you don’t have to take notice, but you probably should.

The Problem Finder is an impartial advisor that does not know your text nor cares about it, it blindly follows the rules it is given. As such it does not serve the same purpose as a human editor, it can’t tell you whether a sentence makes sense or works. Again it is the warning lights in the cockpit not the co-pilot.  As such it should be heeded but not followed.

How does it work?

The Problem Finder works by applying a number of pre-defined rules to your text. The rules can range from “does a sentence contain this word” to “how complex is this paragraph”. Each word, sentence and paragraph is examined and the appropriate rule or rules applied, any rules that are broken (matched) will be displayed and the offending text highlighted in the chapter.

Some examples are shown below:

A very long sentence, but is there anything wrong with that?

A very long sentence, but is there anything wrong with that?

A complex sentence with the passive voice!  But I'm hard pressed to see anything "wrong".

A complex sentence with the passive voice, oh my! But I’m hard pressed to see anything “wrong”.

A long, complex sentence, but it's in dialogue so is this a bad thing or a trait of the person speaking?

A long, complex sentence, but it’s in dialogue so is this a bad thing or a trait of the person speaking?

All of these examples are taken from “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” but I’m struggling to see anything that needs changing.  Herein lies the strength, and weakness, of the Problem Finder.  It works on a basic principle that I follow and is embedded into all aspects of QW, “A reader can tell you where you are going wrong, they can’t tell you how to put it right.”

Types of problems

There are 3 categories of problems that QW looks for:

  1. Words/phrases
  2. Sentence Structure
  3. Paragraph Structure

See the little cog icon in the images above?  Click on that to view the Problem Finder rule editor.  It looks like this:

problem-finder-config-1

Words/Phrases

This type of rule means “look for a specific word or set of words at a particular point in a sentence.”

It can also take dialogue into account and ignore matches or look for them as needed.  For example, it’s generally not a good idea to often use “that” in your writing since it can make the reader stumble but in dialogue it’s probably ok.

You can look for words/phrases at the start, the end or anywhere within a sentence and add as many rules as you want or need.

Sentence Structure

There are 5 different sentence structure rules:

  1. Look for passive sentences (use of the passive voice).
  2. Use of an adverb as a modifier for a speech verb, he said excitedly.
  3. Sentence that are over X words in length, where you can decide what number X is.
  4. Sentences with more than X clauses, because, reading a sentence, with too many commas, or semi-colons; can be difficult.
  5. Sentence complexity where the ratio of sentence length to number of words can be defined.  This is a crude measure but has its uses.

Unfortunately you can’t add your own sentence structure rules since they need complex processing to make them work and as much as I’d like to hand you a bag of spanners and say “Enjoy”, writing “toolkit software” is often a nightmare without end.  If you have an idea for a sentence structure rule, please let me know.

Paragraph Structure

Only 2 rules here:

  1. Readability, for paragraphs 100 or more words in length check the readability against some threshold values, where you decide the thresholds.
  2. Paragraph length, where you can set the maximum number of words and/or sentences each paragraph should have.

Once again, if you have an idea for a paragraph structure rule, please let me know.

Ignoring problems/removing rules

Each problem the finder discovers can be ignored, next to each issue there is a checkbox, press that and the problem is ignored so you won’t be bugged by it next time.  If you change your mind just click the “un-ignore” link that will be displayed.

But if you aren’t finding a rule useful, for example you like long paragraphs or complex sentences then you can remove the rule from either the current project or all projects.  Either right click on the problem and select “Ignore this type of problem” or edit the rule and click on the delete button.

Sentence and paragraph structure rules can be quickly added back in if you change your mind.

When should you use the Problem Finder?

Good question, I’m glad you asked.  I’d recommend using the Problem Finder when you are happy for someone else to read the chapter, somewhere between first/second draft and beta reading (depending upon how confident you are about its quality).  The Problem Finder is there to help you smooth out the bumps, not force major changes on your text, as such you need to be confident (as much as we ever are) that someone could read and understand the text.  Just like vaccuuming the carpet, do it too often and you just make a lot of noise and fuss with little benefit, do it too little and you get bits on your feet or worse.

Overall, whatever the Problem Finder tells you don’t take its findings too seriously, it’s a tool that blindly follows the rules, it doesn’t understand what you are trying to achieve and it doesn’t care.  Don’t be afraid to ignore problems you don’t agree with and remove the rules you don’t like.  The Problem Finder is there to help not tell you what to do.