Sunday, December 2, 2012

Formatting Blues

I love being an author.  I love being my own publisher.  Mostly. 

Except when I can't get formatting correct.

Ok.  Be prepared to bored.  Unless, of course, you are anal retentive and/or detailed oriented.  Then, this might be some exciting stuff.

See, books are more difficult to craft than they appear.  First off, finishing a story of 60,000-100,000 words or more is a massive undertaking.  Most people will tell you they have a book idea in them or have always written stories.  I did that for years.  Until I sat in the chair and did the WORK, I didn't realize how difficult it is to FINISH.

Secondly, books are not easy to get to them to appear the way they do.  Why is that?  It LOOKS easy.  I suppose, in a world where I own my own copy of Adobe InDesign, formatting a book may just be a matter of the mastering the learning curve of the software.  It is not for the faint of heart.  And, neither is formatting a print book using Microsoft Word.

I will refrain from going into the gory, boring details of all the ins and outs of publishing a book.  However, to enlighten you a smidge, allow me to use one example.  It is difficult to align the text at the bottom of page while not sending the first sentence of a paragraph to the next page or to finish a paragraph on the top line of the next page (called "Widows" and "Orphans"). 

Microsoft Word has a button you can choose that will automatically fix the widows and orphans.  However, this causes several other odd occurrences.  One thing it does is once in a while the lines at the bottom of facing pages do not line up.  So, on the left hand page, the page ends one line up from the page number (or bottom of page), and on the right hand page, it ends two or three lines up. 

This may not sound like a great big deal.  It is.  A book needs to "look" a certain way.  You may pick up a book with improper formatting and not realize what is wrong with it exactly, but you will probably be able to tell it was done by an amateur.  Like me.

So, I learned how to fix both problems.  Sometimes it requires some creative paragraphing.  Sometimes it requires some careful pruning or growing of the words used.  It makes you look back over those two facing pages and ask the fateful question.  "Is there anything here I don't need?"  Or, an equally daunting question, "Should I add more here?  What and where can I add?"

When the editing is finally finished, I want the book to look a certain way.  For DARK MOUNTAIN, I was merely tickled to have it on the bookshelf.  For my next books, I want to perfect the craft of publishing.

That goes true for my writing as well. Since I feel a greater affinity for the writing, for the cathartic process of cutting open a vein and bleeding onto the keyboard, I don't feel I am far from hitting my stride.  I have a lot of room to grow my writing, but my graphic arts and publishing skills are just starting to shed the starter feathers.  In contrast, my writing is ready to fly, I just need to get the altitude right.