Saturday, April 13, 2013

Solving the Scrivener Em Dash Smart Quote Problem

Warning: we're about to get into a little bit of writing nerdery here.

I don't know if I've actually gone through my actual writing process on the blog before--if not, I'll happily do so when I'm out of ideas regarding anything else to write about in a future post.

When I wrote the first draft of the Debt of Souls books, I used Word as my word processor.

It was awful.

Word simply isn't designed to handle anything over about forty pages or so. It took forever to load, it was impossible to find chapters, the interface is clunky; in short, it was a mess.

Not to mention that the finished product was still in .docx format, which meant that I was looking at shelling out another $100 or so for a formatter to convert the manuscript to the two major file formats for ebooks: .mobi (for Kindle) and .epub (for everything else).

I looked high and low for a word processor that would handle my work-in-progress better, and output in a variety of acceptable formats. After a number of painstaking google searches, I stumbled upon Scrivener.

If I could embed the "Love at First Sight" noise, I would absolutely do so here.

Scrivener is awesome for too many reasons to count. I could go through a long list of the features I love about it, but that's the thing; its main benefit is its customization. Whatever tips and tricks and quirks I use are probably different than anyone else's.

With one exception: the dreaded quotation mark after an em-dash.

"The who after the what now?"

I'm going out on a limb and assuming that you know what a quotation mark is.

An em-dash is one of those long dashes that people use at the end of sentences to indicate that they've been interrupt--

See, kind of like that, only it's one long line.

I use a fair number of em-dashes in my writing since my characters tend to be impatient jerks and are always jumping over each other in dialogue.

Scrivener uses a common system for quotation marks known as "smart quotes." It's what makes the quotes "open" at the beginning of a word or phrase, and "close" at the end. 

Unfortunately for Mac users, Scrivener does a great many things flawlessly, but some code embedded deep within Apple laptops makes it so that after an em-dash, the closing quote looks like an open quote. How unprofessional! I mean, you don't see that kind of stuff from the big, New York publishers, right?

Imagine my embarrassment when I realized that all of the em dash-quotes are like that in Jesus Was a Time Traveler and the Hack books!

So I spent a Saturday tracking down a fix to the problem. After scouring the Literature & Latte Scrivener forums for a while (big thanks to all the folks over there who provided their various solutions--this is the best of a surprisingly creative lot of them), I came across an easy fix for Mac users. Windows users, I don't quite know what to tell you, other than Windows 8 totally sucks and makes me feel like an old person when I try to use it.

It just takes Eight Easy Steps:

1. Somewhere in Scrivener, type "Hi--a" (quotation mark-H-i-dash-dash-a-quotation mark) (Notice that the second quote is closed. It doesn't have to be an "a", just some character that the smart quotes will recognize)

2. Delete the Hi and the a and copy the shiny, new, correct --" to your clipboard (the double-hyphen should've turned into an em-dash on its own. If not, the shortcut keys for an em-dash are option+shift+hyphen).

3. Open "System Preferences."

4. Click on "Language and Text."

5. Click on the "Text" tab.

6. Hit the "+" box under the list of fractions and other replacements.

7. In the left column, put --" (dash-dash-quotation mark)

8. Paste your correct em-dash/closing quotation mark in the right column

Voila! From now on, your characters can interrupt each other at will without fear of a totally unprofessional-looking open quote on the end.

Hope this helps some folks out there--I know it was driving me crazy. Happy writing.

D.J. Gelner is a fiction and freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri. Check out his books, available at his Amazon Author Page and on Nook, iBooks, and Kobo. Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here). E-mail him at

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How to Robot-Proof Your Career

I'll get the next Power Seven up sometime today or tomorrow. In the meantime, I wrote a new article for Scribd entitled "How to Robot-Proof Your Career." Take a look if it sounds intriguing; if nothing else, you can't beat the price!

D.J. Gelner is a freelance and fiction writer based in St. Louis, Missouri. Check out the books D.J.’s written on his Amazon Author Page. E-mail him at, and follow him on twitter @djgelner.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Big "Hack" Opening Day Giveaway!

It's finally here.

Your chance to read a story that I'm very proud of, for absolutely NOTHING.

I'm giving away my book, Hack: Innings 1-3, FREE, today and tomorrow, in honor of Opening Day.

I guess technically it was available for free yesterday, too--thanks to all of you who have already downloaded it, and made Hack: Innings 1-3 the #2 ranked free sports fiction book on all of Amazon.

But unlike Jimmy Clausen, I'm not content to settle for number two.

I've spread the word to some sites that will do the same in kind, but I could use your help.

Here's a few ways you can pitch in:

1. Download the giveaway

I mean, it's FREE. No catch. No risk. Absolutely FREE. If you have a Kindle, download it today and take a look.

2. Share the post on my Author Facebook Page.

Did I mention that I have an author Facebook page now? Well I do. It's right here. I made a post to help spread the word, and if you click the "Share" button, I'll enter you in a drawing for a free $20 Amazon gift card. Not bad, eh? Who would've thought you could profit from reading this blog? So share the post on the Facebook page, be entered to win $20...also for ABSOLUTELY FREE!

3. Review the Book on Amazon

Let's say you download the book and read it. First of all, thanks! Very grateful that folks even do that much.

But if you really want to help out, you'll leave a review on Amazon. All I can ask is that you leave your honest opinion, but folks who really enjoyed the book would be much appreciated.

4. Add/Review the book on Goodreads

Goodreads has been in the news recently because Amazon just bought them, and a lot of indie authors are running around saying the sky is falling because of it.

I still think it's fine, and if you enjoy reading, it's a cool way to connect with other like-minded folks.

For authors, it's come to my attention that once a book gets a little over 100 ratings on Goodreads, the site starts recommending it to others more easily.

You can see where this is going.

If you do download the book, add/rate it on Goodreads. Reviews are also always appreciated, but it's my understanding that the rating is the key thing. And if you've read my other stuff (namely Jesus Was a Time Traveler), feel free to rate it, as well. Again, looking for your honest opinion, but every rating/review helps.

5. Spread the word

More than any form of entertainment, books rely most on word-of-mouth. If you like what I'm writing, tell a few like-minded friends. If they don't get in on the giveaway, I'm planning on lowering the price to $0.99 afterward, so the risk is still minimal. Or if they really want to try before they buy, direct them to this blog, which remains (and will always remain) absolutely FREE.

So there you have it. Check out the giveaway. Forward it to your friends, neighbors, and enemies.

And, by all means, enjoy Opening Day!

 D.J. Gelner is a fiction and freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri. His novel, Jesus Was a Time Traveler, is available on AmazonNook, Kobo, iBooks and in Paperback. The first two installments of his second series, the Hack trilogy, are now available for Kindle (here's the sequel). Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here). E-mail him at

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