NaNoWriMo – two months on

Regular readers may recall (and are perhaps a little tired of reading about), my participation in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last November, in which I managed to complete the goal of writing a 50,000 novel by month’s end. My continued posts on this topic are indicative of two things — one, it’s not entirely over; and two, as a prompt, my winner’s T shirt recently arrived.

The Winner's T-Shirt

The Winner’s T-Shirt

My original plan to write a follow-up post in December failed to eventuate. Simply put, I needed a break from the whole thing. So now, in the official NaNoWriMo “Now What?” months of revision, editing and publishing, it is time for me to revisit the story.

Upon taking a break, I am now looking forward to hopefully improving on the original draft. Achieving the goal of 50,00 words did not come without a few learnings and realisations along the way, some of which I thought worth sharing.

The Tools

I won’t go into any great detail here, as both the Digital and Analogue tools I used were covered in two previous posts. That said, a few other points I would add:

  • there is nothing like attempting a 50,000 word novel to become acquainted with an app you’ve not used before, and Ulysses III was a standout here;
  • a hat tip to author David Hewson (Twitter, Web), whose tips (particularly the story bible and keyword filters) from his ebook Writing a Novel With Ulysses III were invaluable in assisting my efforts;
  • although unrelated, using the Ulysses iPad app (currently in beta) for a month or so would suggest developer The Soulmen will also be on a winner for those wishing to write on iOS
  • conversely, when struggling with a scene or plot idea, more often than not, pen and paper sparked an idea to pull me through1

The Ideas – or lack thereof

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A milestone

Upon starting on November 1, I had ideas. In my mind (and transferred to a mind map) was a basic plot outline and the semblance of characters. Exactly where they would take me as the story progressed was another matter entirely. There were many times I ran into an idea block, however found the following to be of assistance:

  • a written summary or debrief at the end of a writing session often generated a flurry of ideas about the next few scenes or the overall progression of the story (a what just happened generating a what will or should happen of sorts);
  • when stuck for ideas, progression was often made through either a break from writing, or brainstorming with pen and paper — the frustrating part being I never pinned down which would necessarily work on a particular day;
  • my best ideas (as always) tended to strike at random times, so a quick entry in my Field Notes or the Drafts app on my phone was essential to avoid losing them, for even a minute or two later I often had a hard time remembering that “killer” idea.

Participating in a Creative Writing Challenge

I still do not have the answer to what made me think I had enough creative ability to undertake such a project. The argument here being anybody could — the difference? Quality of the output I imagine. In my case for the past 25 years, my writing has centred around the following:

  • University papers and reports (science/medical/allied health based);
  • treatment reports and correspondence (as above);
  • file notations and forensic analysis of medical reports;
  • management, financial, and general business reporting
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Getting there

As you can probably guess, my career progression has followed down the list, with my current role involving the last two points on a daily basis. Nothing in the list above strikes me as being overly creative in nature, however in some respects it is all writing, and involves planning, organisation, structure, and clarity of both thought and delivery.

The chance to write more creatively was likely one of the reasons I committed to the attempt. I am certainly not of the belief I have a “killer novel” somewhere inside me. I simply enjoy writing, and hopefully have a little talent, that with some practice, research and patience, I may be able to develop further.

Some additional points on this:

  • who knew that working for my entire adult life in “non creative” writing would leave me so deficient in knowledge around punctuation, sentence structure, and many other things real writers simply know (I was actually quite appalled at the number of things incorrect or required clarification before proceeding);
  • I am currently at a loss as to where to even begin to re-learn many of these aspects from my schooling;
  • it was around the 42,000 word mark I felt I really found my creative voice, making it difficult to wrap up the story, and resulting in the finished draft coming in at 55,000 words;
  • for someone who has not attempted such a challenge before, 50,000 words (or the magical 1,667 per day) is a great length — achievable though certainly not easy;
  • deadlines are good, otherwise I would never have finished;
  • deadlines are bad, as I definitely got less sleep, less physical activity, and spent less time with my (thankfully very understanding) family members during November

People Care

Although I posted a few word count updates to Twitter, and wrote the blog posts I mentioned above, in my physical world, only my family and a very small number of friends were aware of my participation as it was underway.

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That would be – relief

The support received from my family was expected — to a degree, however went above and beyond, through extensive and unwavering words of encouragement; understanding at my constant desk-bound position; the expert editorial services provided by my ex-schoolteacher mother (a constant source of advice around some of those appalling gaps in my knowledge I mentioned earlier); and general excitement at the prospect of reading the finished product.

A little unexpected was the level of enthusiasm shown by the few friends also following along as the month progressed. Requests for word count updates; the “have you written today?” queries; genuine excitement at my synopsis and various plot “leaks”; and sincere requests for a copy to read once I was done.

It would be disrespectful to those involved to say the above was a complete surprise, however the enthusiasm shown by those supporting me (both family and friends) was touching to say the least.

What Next?

Now that I have that first draft in my hand, it is time to revise and edit, taking into account feedback from those who have read the draft (and in my teenage daughter’s case, kindly made extensive margin notes — and I mean a lot!).

I am also in the process of taking advantage of the deals on offer through the winners page on the NaNoWriMo site, including a printed copy of the novel through Blurb, which is a nice bonus. Also, catching a glimpse of the online writing community was also an eye-opener, and from what I saw, it is a pretty impressive one.

Conclusion

I certainly have a reinvigorated respect for those I consider real writers. As far as I am concerned, I wrote the draft of a novel here, however most certainly do not consider myself any sort of creative writer — however one may be defined. This is perhaps something I need to think a little more about, and work a little more on, however on current form, my mind keeps returning to the following from a book review in The Guardian recently shared by Matt Gemmell (one of the real writers) on Twitter:

He is probably a nice man. He obviously cares deeply about these great historical movements and has done a great deal of research — my God, he has researched and researched and researched. But on the evidence of The Book of Kings, he could not write ‘Bum’ on a wall.

Finally, NaNoWriMo provided me with a fantastic opportunity to learn a lot about my creative talents, workflows, and how my tools work (or don’t) for me, in a deadline driven, fairly intense challenge. Learning just as much about myself in the process, I highly recommend NaNoWriMo if you even have half an inkling to undertake such a project — and perhaps you do have that killer novel inside you.

After all, it is for a great cause, and remember, although many are — you don’t even need to be a real writer.

  1. Although the benefits of using pen and paper for brainstorming ideas are well documented, I cannot help but think this very common occurrence in my writing was also due to my inexperience in producing such a large body of work (for me) in a digital format

 

NaNoWriMo – My Digital Tools

So far, my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) journey continues as we come to the middle of November. My note taking, outlining, and general scribbling continues with the analogue tools I wrote about last week. How has the actual writing (as well as a bit more planning) occurred? With a few digital tools, which I thought I would share below.

Planning and Outlining

MindNode
Although I should no doubt use the technique more, I do find mind mapping incredibly useful. In the past I have used iThoughts, however for 6 months or so, it has been MindNode on iOS, and MindNode Pro on the Mac.

Specifically in relation to NaNoWriMo, MindNode has kept organised the general outline of the four overarching plot lines to the story, which I find particularly useful for referring back to in relation to names and relationships.

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The initial map itself was constructed just prior to beginning writing, however it is now largely an evolving document which develops alongside the story. I’ve found it extremely helpful when adding components, to then sit and review the story as a whole, as it is outlined on the map.

You will also see a timeline running across the top of the map which I have created on a separate node, which will most likely be split into a second node directly below the current one as the story proceeds and the timeline lengthens.

Why MindNode? It’s simplicity is the main drawcard.

Tapping a node allows the creation of child node by pressing the ‘+’ icon which appears, with a double tap to edit text. The nodes can be ‘folded’ down or expanded; detached to create another node, or attached to an existing node by tapping, holding and dragging. The same can be achieved through the contextual menus.

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Of course there are the usual style and formatting options for the background, text and nodes themselves, with a ‘smart layout’ toggle which, if on, will align nodes and branches uniformly throughout the map.

Although not it’s intended purpose, I’ve also created a ‘location map’ …map, if you will, which has been perfect for getting my head around where the characters have been, currently are, or are going to, geographically in the story.

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It does not have the advanced attachment options of say iThoughts, however I simply don’t require those. In organising my ideas, it is the content of what I get down, plain and simple. Oh, and I do love the outline view.

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Syncing is through iCloud Drive or Dropbox, with exporting options including Freemind and OPML file formats, along with text, PDF and image formatting.

Drafts 4
Although iOS only, I have been using Drafts for some time, recently upgrading to version 4.

For NaNoWriMo, it has been my go to app to use for quick notes, without needing to pull out my Field Notes and a pen. Syncing to my iPad mini provides some scope for expanding further on these notes on a larger screen if I need to, however I rarely do this.

Currently in my ‘NaNo Notes’, I have a few thoughts around the plot, a couple of character names I had thought of, and some ideas for an elevator pitch, which only recently came up after a friend asked what the book was about, and I found myself somewhat disjointed in my resulting explanation. A catchy (I think?) tag line rounds out the note.

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For those familiar with the Drafts app, there are virtually endless actions that can be applied to any note, with many more to be found on developer Agile Tortoise Drafts Action Directory.

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As you can see from the screenshots, for anyone wishing to produce longer pieces, there is also Markdown support (with specific keys in the additional keyboard row for this purpose). At the current time, my NaNoWriMo needs only require a robust, reliable note taking app, and Drafts fits the bill nicely.

Writing

Ulysses III
All the planning and outlining in the world won’t get you very far in this challenge unless you get the words down – and a good few at that. For this, I have used Ulyssess III for Mac, which is described thus by developer, The Soulmen:

Ulysses lets you focus when you need to concentrate. It keeps all your texts neatly stuffed in its intuitive library. With a few clicks, Ulysses can create beautiful documents from your manuscripts: PDFs, web pages, even iBooks-ready ePubs. With its simple, clutter-free interface, it will turn work hours into fun time. And mere thoughts into powerful stories. If you love to write, and write a lot, Ulysses is made for you.

Indeed I have found Ulysses III to be a great tool for getting the 25k+ words down I have managed to write so far.

So, with Scrivener already on my Mac, why Ulysses? To be fair, I have not really written anything of length as yet in Scrivener (a widely known and well-loved app for many an author – not that I consider myself one), so I cannot really compare the two.

Through a sponsorship of NaNoWriMo, Ulysses offered a 30 day free trial of the app, with some email encouragement throughout the month, and a free extract from author David Hewson’s book Writng a Novel with Ulysses III.

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Given the enormity of the NaNoWriMo challenge, I was looking for something with enough structure to keep things organised, yet the simplicity to allow me to just write – a lot. As far as I am aware, Scrivener may be a little more feature packed and powerful, however Ulysses has been spot on for what I have required, namely:

  • Chapter and scene separation through separate ‘sheets’
  • Highly intuitive organisation of folders, files and keyword tags
  • Focused, full screen writing
  • Usual grammar and spell checking
  • Statistics, including word count and reading time etc
  • Effective grouping of scenes with key words so individual plot lines can be worked on in isolation, despite being mixed throughout the book
  • Markdown support
  • Exporting to other MD supported apps and also as ePub / iBooks
  • Syncing through iCloud or Dropbox via the ‘Add External Source’ option

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I have also written both this post, and last week’s on Ulysses, to try out some of the features more specific to a blogging, which has also been a great success. Incidentally, the insertion of a web link via copying a URL to the clipboard, highlighting a word in the post, and simply pasting to finish the link is a little magical.

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Ulysses is indeed a fantastic app for writing, and my initial plan to purchase it as a reward for finishing NaNoWriMo looks on track so far. I encourage you to check it out.

A final word from David Hewson:

Writing’s hard. Software should make it less so. Ulysses really does.

Daedalus Touch
Daedalus is the iOS companion app to Ulysses, also by The Soulmen, who describe it as The World’s Sexiest Writing App, and Simple, Powerful and Flat Out Georgeous.

True? Well, it is strikingly minimal writing app, with an interface considerably different to many you will find on the market. The app is designed as a series of “paper stacks” rather than document lists, and, upon entering a stack, navigation is then by swiping from L to R, or the reverse between each page.

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Pages are not limited to a standard size, and will infinitely increase in length the more you write. To retreat back out of the stacks, a simple two finger pinch is all it takes. Daedalus has an additional, customisable extra keyboard row, containing a central area which, upon tapping, will scroll to the end of the sheet. A nice touch.

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Due to my insecurity with iCloud at the moment, setting up Dropbox syncing with Ulysses was a straight forward task, and has worked flawlessly since day one.

Having had Daedalus on my iPad and iPhone for some time, I guess I really just needed a reason to give it a good run, and I’ve been impressed so far. It has been the go to app for racking up 500–1000 words over my lunchtime coffee, or writing at the kitchen bench nearer my family, rather than being stuck at my desk.

Reviewing and Editing

As you’d expect, a good deal of editing occurs as I go along, however given the somewhat larger word count target than I am used to, there are times when I simply need to continue writing, and the editing and revision suffers a little.

iBooks
I am a firm believer in the reviewing or re-reading work in a different format to that in which it was originally written, as I find this allows me to pick up errors or parts needing revision a little easier. For blog posts I find Marked 2 a great way to review what I have written.

For NaNoWriMo purposes, I have found that exporting the book from Ulysses (an extremely easy task) to iBooks, allows me to not only view what I have written in ‘book’ format, but more easily pick up such errors, and I have the ability to highlight and take notes in the margin, which are then tabulated in the contents section of the book, and it is a simple tap to jump back to the relevant section.

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Though I cannot edit the text directly as I read it, I have found it quite easy to edit on my Mac with my iPad in front of me showing the required revisions in iBooks.

The Hardware

There is not a great deal to say here, apart from mentioning the above Mac apps are used on a late 2012 Mac mini; the iOS apps on my iPad mini with retina display (now referred to as the iPad mini 2) or the iPhone 6, which have all performed flawlessly, and continue to do everything I ask of them. When writing on my iPad mini, I also more often than not use the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini.

Conclusion

So there you have it. My NaNoWriMo ‘digital tools’ both for Mac and iOS. You would have a strong argument in saying I was a little crazy when undertaking this challenge to try new apps as well, however I think it says a lot about the simplicity and functionality of MindNode, Ulysses III, and Daedalus, that things have run so smoothly.

In fact, I am now quite confident these tools will see me through the next 25,000 words to the end.

Lets just hope the creative side of my brain will do the same.

Recommended Reading: Raw Materials – Matt Gemmell

My favourite writer on the internet is Matt Gemmell, by far. How does a former software engineer who now writes full-time write so well? Significant talent and untold amounts of effort and hard work most likely play a large part.

61e6rBgR4sL._SL1000_Gemmell has recently published an eBook titled Raw Materials, comprising selected essays from his personal blog, updated with authors notes and includes an additional piece written specifically for this collection. After picking up (well…downloading) the book on the day of release, a rainy Saturday seemed perfect to proceed from cover to digital cover.

Many of these intensely personal essays recount memories of a childhood perhaps not unlike many others. Where the real power lies in this collection is not from the content alone, rather, the feelings which inevitably surface as you read. Some may make you squirm a little; perhaps say “ah…yes!”; some may change your entire mood – and to me, that is great writing.

Although the specific events, family situation and upbringing described in these stories could not have been further from my own, similar feelings, emotions and fears were (are) all there, somewhere, though manifest differently in adulthood.

Gemmell sure knows they are still there, as he writes in Paths:

And if you glance over your shoulder, well… you won’t see anything. But your own memories are there nonetheless.

Believe me, many times during Raw Materials, you will find yourself glancing over your shoulder. Not intentionally, but inadvertently, sometimes surprisingly so. With these glances come fear (Staying Afraid); sensory engagement through smells of “dryness and age” (Stories); and innocent optimism where your wish might just come true – just this once (Wishes). Then there is the physical or emotional pain we all feel and recall all too readily (Relative).

It’s. All. There. And this man knows exactly how to write about it. In an utterly compelling way. Every time.

It matters not that our childhoods were markedly different, a decade or so apart, on opposite sides of the world. We are not so different Matt and I, nor are we different to countless others who grow up with memories so indelibly burned into our consciousness (or subconsciousness as the case may be).

Those memories are always there, whether we allow ourselves to engage them or not.

I highly recommend this short but powerful collection of essays. They are written with such clarity and precision, you cannot help but join Gemmell on his “travels” back to those moments where these very memories were made. It is also inevitable your thoughts will turn to the end product of such memories. You. Today.

Years whip by when your back is turned, leaving you standing on familiar streets that are nevertheless unsettlingly different. We all have troubling experiences hidden inside, and they shape us more than we realise. The news brings us fresh fears every day. The future is uncertain, and it’s coming whether you like it or not.

Authors notes – Whispers

Raw Materials is available now from Amazon, though I’d suggest first visiting mattgemmell.com, adding it to your bookmarks or RSS feed, then clicking through to Amazon for your copy of the collection (AUD$3.72).

Matt Gemmell’s debut novel Changer will be published later this year, and if there were already a queue, I would be in it.

Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesdaya weekly link to posts of interest from around the web:

Study Hacks
Although specifically referring to mathematical proofs, there are enough hints here for broader applications. My favourite? Idea 1 – sometimes we just need to be specific, have clear aims, and deal with it:
How to Read Proofs Faster: A Summary of Useful Advice

1Password for iOS Tip of the Day
Along came this little gem in my Twitter feed recently – swipe right on 1Password (iOS) entries to copy the password. A cracker. It appears many others needed a little reminding about this great feature I was unaware of:
1Password Status

The Sweet Setup
As someone with less than 12 months Mac experience under my belt, tips like these come in very handy:
Quick Tip: Enable Hot Corners on OS X

Pens! Paper! Pencils!
Nothing wrong with a little tech, but where are the pens and ink? Why here for starters:
Diamine Ochre ink review

Hastily Written
Lately I’ve been drawn to the red/orange/brown spectrum of ink colours, however on the opposite side of the rainbow, am also in need of a new blue. Food for thought here:
Ink Drop: July 2014

Office Supply Geek
If a little colour in a notebook is your thing, Brian takes a look at the turquoise Rhodiarama hard cover. Same Rhodia quality – just a little louder:
Rhodiarama Notebook Review

The Atlantic
Did you read my previous post on penmanship? Maybe a slightly different tangent from such an idea (which by the way wasn’t written this quickly):
How to Write 225 Words Per Minute With a Pen

Still Drinking
Of course punctuation matters, however as much as we think it does? Need I say more:

English is a mutt of a language, inheriting ludicrously contradictory spellings and grammars from other languages.

Nobody. Understands. Punctuation.

Barista Magazine Blog
I’m all for someone having a stab at the often elusive “where did this originate?” – perhaps the Dutch Traders in the South Pacific were the lucky souls that invented out of necessity. Although this low-acidity brew is not new, and something I have written about before, I’m interested to see how the trend has caught on in the modern Cafè scene. This series might be one to follow:
Completely Cold brew: Part 1 of a series

2013 Gift Guide and Wishlist

Everywhere you look at the moment there are numerous Christmas gift guides, from software to hardware, tools and trinkets, things to eat, drink, watch or listen to. Oh, and everything in between. It is the time of year for it after all.

Writing a gift guide that doubles as a wishlist (Wishguide?), there is always a chance someone close to me may read it and … I think you get the idea. Why create a list if I can’t cross off a few items for myself along the way?

Outlined below are groups of items aligning with the categories in which I post on this site. Hopefully there is something here that interests you, or perhaps will suit someone you are buying for. Away we go…

Thoughts

A difficult category to easily slot products into, however a check of my Goodreads “To Read” bookshelf reveals a couple of titles.

On Writing by Stephen King | $11.83 Kindle Edition |

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A favourite author of mine through my late teens and early twenties, and widely acknowledged as one of the best. I have seen many positive reviews of this insight into the creative writing process from such a master of fiction. The Goodreads description:

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 – and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, “On Writing” will empower and entertain everyone who reads it – fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell | $9.99 Kindle Edition |

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I must admit to knowing less about this particular offering from Gladwell, however enjoyed immensely his work titled Blink. Whether or not you agree with what he has to say (and many don’t), there is little doubt your own thoughts will be challenged by Gladwell’s books. Again, a little background from Goodreads:

David and Goliath draws on the stories of remarkable underdogs, history, science, psychology and on Malcolm Gladwell’s unparalleled ability to make the connections others miss. It’s a brilliant, illuminating book that overturns conventional thinking about power and advantage.

Improvement

There are any number of things I could list here, however the focus is on my system for tracking tasks and projects.

Omnifocus for Mac | $84.99 AUD Mac App Store |

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Omnifocus is the ultimate App for personal productivity and task management. I have been using Omnifocus for both iPhone and iPad over the past year or so without the “Godfather” – that is, Omnifocus for Mac.
The overall App count on our new Mac mini is slowly building (especially after the recent Black Friday App store sales), however at $84.99 AUD, Omnifocus for Mac is a significant investment that will certainly be made – I simply haven’t done so yet.

Omnifocus Premium Posts | $67.00 Asian Efficiency Store |

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What I believe would be the perfect companion to the above recommendation comes from Aaron and Thanh at Asian Efficiency. Honestly, with the exception of reading Getting Things Done by David Allen, you need look no further for some fantastic advice on productivity in general, and more specifically, Omnifocus. The resources (most of which are completely free) these guys have put together to improve how you use Omnifocus are superb. Access to the Premium Posts which includes bonus content can be purchased for $67.00 through the Asian Efficiency Store.

Coffee

Porlex Hand Grinder | $65.00 AUD |

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Why a hand grinder? Apart from the obvious convenience when used for travel, I plan on purchasing a hand grinder to use when brewing single origin coffees at home. Much of my brewing is done with the Hario V60, and I often use this in the evenings, with the electric grinder not a great option when some in the household are asleep.

I have also researched a little into the Hario Skerton model as well, however a couple of reviews seem to suggest the Porlex may shade the Hario in performance. Another plus being the Porlex is sold through my green bean supplier Ministry Grounds, and it may not be too difficult to accidentally click “add to cart” at some point in one my future orders.

Hario Scales | $61.00 AUD |

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As I mentioned above, much of my home coffee brewing these days is done with the V60, requiring a fairly accurate ratio of water to coffee, as determined by weight.

Although the digital scales I currently use are adequate, there is one major problem in that the auto-off interval is too short. Not so great when aiming for a specific target weight to have the scales go blank and obviously reset to zero when turned back on. I have managed to get around this by constantly pressing and releasing the scales in between pours to keep them “active”, however this is obviously less than ideal.

The inbuilt timer on the Hario model will also come in very handy.

Tools

Kaweco Ice Sport Fountain Pen | $24.95 AUD |

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A fountain pen was always going to make this list. For years I have used my faithful Mont Blanc Meisterstuck, however given its value (both sentimental and material), I have always been a little nervous carrying and using it as an everyday pen. Obviously my preference for an everyday pen still runs towards something I enjoy using, which is likely to be a fountain pen.

The choice here, a Kaweco Ice Sport in green. Something that is great value for money, has excellent build quality, and in my opinion looks pretty good too. At this price point, my mind would be at ease including this in my everyday carry.

Noodlers Ink – Apache Sunset | $22.95 AUD |

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For many years I have relied on the Mont Blanc Black and Blue-Black inks in my fountain pen. In recent times this pen has been increasingly used for reviewing and marking up documents, where a different colour is useful to easily see any markings or notations on the page (standard white copy paper with black text).

Why not go bright with a colour that will really stand out! This particular Noodlers Ink is a brilliant, rich orange – somehow I don’t think it will be hard to see my notes written in Apache Sunset.

Twelve South Hi-Rise Stand for iPhone / iPad mini | $34.95 AUD |

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Twelve South produce high quality accessories for Apple products, and are available in the Apple Stores or on-line.

This particular stand, which requires a small amount of assembly, accommodates a Lightning charger and is adjustable to allow for having a case on your iPhone or iPad. This is a stylish way of lifting the device up off the desk – very handy for using my iPad mini as a second screen whilst sitting at my Mac, and makes a perfect hands-free face time accessory.

Bonus Item

Yamazaki 12 Yr Old Japanese Whisky | $130.00 AUD |

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This one is a bolt from the blue. I am certainly no expert on golden liquid of the single malt variety, however scotch has always been my drink of choice – to the tune of relaxing with one or two on weekends my maximum intake.

There has been a bit of a buzz around Japanese whisky for a little while now, and I am keen to sample what is on offer. Why this particular maker? No specific reason, however why not start at the beginning, with Japan’s first malt whisky distillery. Australian site World of Whisky provides a little background:

Yamazaki is a Japanese whisky distillery located in Shimamoto, Osaka, owned by Suntory. In 1923, Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory and the father of Japanese whisky, built Japan’s first malt whisky distillery in the Vale of Yamazaki. Using copper pot stills, the Yamazaki distillery was the first of its kind outside of Scotland. The distillery’s location on the outskirts of Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto offered pure waters, diversity of climate and high humidity—the ideal environment for the maturation of good whisky.

The taste? Described as initially dry and herbal, becoming fruitier with smoke. According to this article in Gear Patrol, I may be onto a good thing. Cheers!

Conclusion

That concludes the Gift Guide / Wishlist for this year, and provides a little more insight into my interests and spare time pursuits. If there is nothing specifically on the list that interests you, hopefully it has at least provided a few areas to look into for similar products closer to the mark.

Most of all, best wishes to you, valuable reader. I truly appreciate the time you take to come and read these posts.

Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year to you and your family.