m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

More on LyX

I’ve been posting in the NaNoWriMo Technology Forum again instead of writing. Here’s today’s dissertation on sffms:

Memoir is a very popular LaTeX class, and I’d certainly agree that, like LyX, it makes the creation of professionally typeset documents easier than basic LaTeX does. But this is in several ways beside the point. The problems that sffms addresses are not the problems that memoir addresses.

Sffms is a class for people who want to (1) write fiction, (2) submit documents in manuscript format to publishers without having to create the layout themselves, and (3) use the power of LaTeX for other purposes—as a plain-text format that’s easy to put under version control; as a way to produce camera-ready text, as a way to produce indexed PDFs with hyperref; for the typesetting power of numerous other LaTeX classes; to download any Metafont font, type pdflatex, and have a PDF in your chosen font seconds later; or just to take advantage of prior knowledge of LaTeX.

LyX, memoir, and various other tools can all give you #3, if that’s all you want. Sffms exists for the sake of #1 and #2, which are not as simple as they might sound.

LaTeX is understandably reluctant to do the hard-core Courier butchery involved in creating output in traditional mock-typewriter manuscript format, most notably the extra information and formatting required for a manuscript title page. LaTeX is geared towards highly-structured academic text, but fiction has minimal structure—usually just chapters and scenes, and of those two LaTeX understands only chapters. Fiction also involves dialogue punctuation and abbreviated forms of address for which LaTeX instinctively inserts the wrong spacing.

None of this is to say you shouldn’t use LyX, memoir, or other LaTeX tools for writing fiction. But you should be aware of what you’re getting into. That memoir can do many of these things for you does not mean that you will type \documentclass{memoir} and have them happen. That LyX (possibly) can do the same things for you does not mean that you will just open LyX and see what you mean.

I haven’t looked at Jacques' LyX layout file yet, so I can’t tell you how much it will do for you. I can say that the manual for the memoir class (ftp://tug.ctan.org/pub/tex-archive/macros/latex/contrib/memoir/memman.pdf) is not going to tell you about fiction manuscripts; it’s going to tell you how to write markup code to design and typeset the sorts of things people usually typeset in LaTeX. The manual for the sffms class (http://www.mcdemarco.net/sffms/class/sffms.pdf) is going to tell you exactly what to type in order to end up with fiction in standard manuscript format—if that’s the format you’re looking for.