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 email@example.com.