Smooth Integration

I've been spending my time building a detailed timeline of the Galactic Alliance universe. While doing so, a few timing errors have been revealed. Luckily, I have complete control over the content of my books and fixing the issue is as easy as a quick update to Amazon. I will be making those adjustments before I finish Peacekeeper 3 – Pathogen. The program I’m using for the Timeline – Aeon Timeline – is easy to use and a wonderful addition to every writer’s toolbox. For a more in-depth review, see last week’s post.

My wife is in the final chapters of her review of Dragonverse Origins and I’m hoping to begin my final formatting very soon. It’s been taking her a long time but after looking at her calendar (more on that in a moment) I can see why – she’s been very busy!

Smooth Integration
As a computer programmer, a heavy user of computer applications, and a science fiction author, I often wonder why computer applications don’t integrate well with each other. Things are slowly getting better, but the user must choose their applications very carefully if smooth integration is something you want.

Computers, like novels, should just "feel right" when properly designed. A glitchy computer program or one that uses an odd way of doing something will quickly become a pain in the neck to use instead of being a helpful tool. A novel that expresses things differently than what is expected, jumps around too fast, or presents the story in poor prose will quickly be set aside. 

All of the Microsoft Office applications seem to work together more or less seamlessly but that’s because they’re all part of the same family and it’s expected they work together. Aeon Timeline integrates smoothly with Scrivener allowing writers to build their timelines as they write the story. For some, this would be a huge help.

Google’s calendar application is an example of a program that works seamlessly across multiple platforms and devices. It’s why I use it as my sole calendar application. The other day, I was decided to put my wife’s calendar on my own. She's a heavy user of her calendar and it is used to remind her of everything from having to call a friend to sending out birthday cards and going to appointments. When I need to make plans, it would be nice to reference my own calendar as well as hers. Putting her calendar on mine was a snap.

When I looked at it though, I noticed that a large number of items were missing. Investigating, I discovered she had somehow began making entries using something called “HTC Sync Manager (Outlook)”. There’s not a lot of information about what this application does but I’m assuming its purpose is to sync your calendar with Microsoft Outlook. Since these events and reminders are not stored as part of Google’s calendar, they’re not displayed on the computer or on a shared version of the calendar. That’s a problem!

One of the reasons I put my wife on Google calendar was to prevent a loss of all her events and reminders if she needed to replace her phone. When she moved from her old Samsung to the HTC, I had to resort to a third-party program to move her calendar data. Never again! I found that HTC Sync Manager is installed by default and somehow my wife had begun using it. Although her events showed up on her phone, they did not appear on any other device – bad news. This told me her reminders and events would be lost if her phone needed replaced.

I spent a few hours manually copying her events to Google calendar and deleting the HTC Sync events. I then I disabled the HTC Synch Manager. Now, when I look at her calendar on my account all her events are there and I know they’re backed up and available anywhere from any device.

This goes to show you that you might have things on your phone that vanish forever if your phone needs to be replaced. I automatically backup my phone’s data to the cloud – one never knows when your phone is going to stop working, get dropped in the water, or stolen. Some people (like my wife) carry their entire life around in their pocket. If you do, make sure your life remains intact if something catastrophic happens to your phone.

Technology should do this automatically. Because it doesn’t, people lose all sorts of important information every day. Not just on cell phones, but on computer hard drives as well as the internet. Never rely on a single storage location. Back up your work – back it up automatically – back it up in multiple locations if you can. Someday, you’re going to thank yourself for doing so.

You should use the same rigor when writing. If the story is not flowing, clashes internally, or is a pain in the neck to simply read – then something's not right and it must be fixed. A story should have a flow to it and read as if it's a natural extension of your mind. If you have beta readers and they consistently tell you the story is good but something seems a bit off about how it's presented – listen to them! Find the problem, dig deeper into their feedback, and then fix your story. Your readers will appreciate it.