Monthly Archives: July 2015

To write good titles channel a newspaperman

PRIDE’S CHILDREN IS RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES

Part of the background of the novel I’m working so hard to get ready for publication is my fascination with celebrities, a tiny but life-long sideline of mine: in Mexico growing up, we read HOLA – which told you everything going on with anyone who was anyone, including the royal houses of Europe.

In the States, as an adult, I indulge this by reading People and similar magazines – at the dentist/doctor’s office. There is so much repetition, that once you have a good base, keeping up isn’t as hard as you think – you just tuck each new bit (which will probably recapitulate everything that ever happen in the celeb’s life) into your matrix of ‘data,’ and come back to it in a couple of months.

Life is a Soap Opera

I may have mentioned at some point that I have serialized Pride’s Children, Book 1, on several sites – to make connections in the online indie world, meet people, get new readers and their feedback.

One of these sites is VentureGalleries, and one of the two guys who runs it, Caleb Pritle, III, has been putting up chunks several times a week.

He chooses a 1000-1200 piece at a time, adds an episode title, and puts it up on the site.

He has the most outrageous episode titles, but the interesting thing to me has been that every one of them is lifted from somewhere in the episode.

When in the world did I write THAT?

The episodes aren’t quite scenes – his choice of divisions is to give serial readers a predictable size and approximate time-length piece, to be read on things like mobile phones.

So, for the fun of it, I’m going to go through the episodes he’s put up, and list them with their titles, and you’ll see what I mean.

One important bit: Caleb is an old newspaperman (I mean ‘experienced,’ not ‘agèd,’ when I say ‘old’) – and headlines have to grab. And he has a sensationalist turn of mind anyway – check out some of his books.

I honestly can’t remember writing some of these gems (the titles), but they are always IN the episode.

I’ve learned a lot about titles and grabbing attention from reading what he has been doing with my own words.

Thanks, Caleb!

Some ‘interesting’ episode titles:

3 – To hell with safe choices. She was going for…

6 – Did he have an affair with his co-star?

13 – Whatever the cost, her beauty was worth it.

14 – Love them, leave them, you never get to keep them.

24 – He liked living in the lap of luxury.

27 – It might be better posting an armed guard.

35 – For a writer, she was woefully inarticulate.

47 – She was jail bait, a child playing dress-up.

68 – Seeking sanctuary in the middle of the night.

74 – He sulked away like the coward he was.

86 – A woman who doesn’t gossip is a rare…

93 – Sincere flattery almost always worked.

99 – Sex changed everything and could never be undone.

109 – She had planned to expend her sexual tension.

116 – Why had she revealed her sordid secret?

128 – Would they fight a duel over a movie role?

136 – Hell’s deadline for tips was midnight.

144 – Was her mother sleeping around with movie stars?

152 – The most erotic thing a woman could do for a man.

158 – Why did she pray for the unborn baby to die.

163 – Was he on his way to hell?

He’s not done yet, so there will be more for me to shake my head at

They have ebooks and regular books and blog posts – always something going on.

This isn’t the full list – it’s not all posted there yet – but I can remember shaking my head at his ability to turn my simple words into lurid headlines when a particularly good one came across my desk.

How do you title your work, and what grabs your attention?

Thanks to Quozio.com for the ability to make quotes.

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DEAR BRAIN: stop protecting me from finishing

DEAR DIARY:

I’m having trouble getting started after a day away, because of roofers hammering on the roof all day yesterday – and because I have to stop and think at a scene I thought was done.

It is easy to lose faith when it’s been a long slog, it seems I’m no closer to the end than I was three months ago (I honestly believed I’d be published by now), and I run into what turns out to be a minor rethinking in a scene that was hard to write.

It’s not the scene.

I think I know what to do, and it’s a minor set of corrections to make reality and fiction overlap somewhere in the middle. The rule is: if you’re going to use the real world, either do it accurately, or CHOOSE to do it differently.

I don’t know why it seems necessary to me to anchor this book in the real world and time – I think it has something to do with making the implausible seem eminently possible at the end.

It isn’t even a requirement – fiction does NOT have to make sense.

But I’ve chosen to anchor many parts in the real world (for my values of ‘real’), so it threw me when I thought I had done so, and Google Earth showed me I had not.

Why blame Google Earth?

Well, because there was a car trip in there (during which some serious thinking is going on), and it went from a slightly fuzzy place (Kary’s house) to a very real place where I’ve been myself, and which is the reason this part of the story got set in New Hampshire.

So I thought I was on solid ground and had planned this out – and that the hard part was giving a framework to the thinking going on, NOT the car trip it is inserted into.

(BTW, notice that I’m not mentioning WHICH trip I’m referring to – don’t want to spoil the magic if there is any.)

I think this is more symptomatic of FINISHING than of any small flaw in the plot or writing.

It’s the EXCUSE

The reason why this long effort can simply not be finished, ever.

And once I stop and write this, thus taking all these horrifying doubts from the inside of my brain, where I am incapable of sorting them out (CFS brain fog redux!) to the cold hard (okay, hot hard – it was over 100°F here yesterday – those poor roofers!) light of day, then I see its size (not so big) instead of its shadow (humongous), and I can think of getting back to work.

Steven Pressfield (Turning Pro and others) calls this ‘Resistance’ and reminds us that the apparent size of Resistance is related to the success possible just around the corner. As you get closer to your goal, the Resistance grows (because, I think, your self is trying to protect you from the negative consequences of success such as NOT having success or having success that is too big for your britches or whatever). So you won’t get hurt.

This is getting a little boring.

So I take all this garbage out of my head, put it on the page (thus proving I am NOT blocked, at least not in writing to you, Dear Diary), and can examine it dispassionately.

It’s just a small bump in the editing.

It is easily fixable.

When it’s fixed, the next bump will appear on the horizon, and I will deal with it.

And there will be more.

And then, just as in all the tasks before, from writing to cover to formatting to, well editing), it will be over.

The TO DO list is FINITE.

Thanks for listening, Dear Diary.

Love,

Alicia

PS Stories of similar will be commiserated with, encourgament  met with great approval, and will accept chocolate (virtual if that’s all you got)

Drastic change in writer habits during final editing

PRIDE'S CHILDREN, Chapter 1, Scene 1 final editing changes.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 1, Scene 1 final editing changes.

DIY PROBLEMS OF THE FINAL EDIT BEFORE PUBLICATION: DAS INTERNET

I need my brain ON to edit.

That’s basically it.

I can’t edit with my regular brain (CFS brain fog galore) – too many tiny critical decisions to make. And every one of those edits/changes/corrections has to be RIGHT, because that’s what I mean by ‘FINAL EDIT.’

I’m not doing this again, unless one of my hardy beta readers or proofreaders points out that I’ve made another dum-dum. FACTUAL errors WILL be corrected. Stylistic ones NOT. This is it, folks, get your digs in now or forever hold your PIECE.

In Chapter 1, Scene 1, I made over 50 edits. None of them major (no plot or character changes), I am happy to say, but all of them necessary. That is a lot of decisions for someone decision-challenged at the best of times.

I’m writing this post as I go about the complete change in working patterns, and how it affects the writer, ME. In case it helps someone else, or merely for the entertainment value.

So, just block the internet and proceed in a nice quiet environment?

The hardest part right now is that I have to leave the internet unblocked: I’m fact checking, getting quotes right, and using my editing software (over and over and over after changes). My editing software is online. Sigh.

I need to be able to get to my blog and Wattpad to collect comments.

All those critical words left as I posted scenes I am now mining for gold: if something bothered ONE reader enough to mention it in the comments, you can be sure it bothered others – who didn’t take the time to notice, analyze, and write to me about it. Thanks, commenters! You rock.

I’m happy to say it’s been POSSIBLE. Have you noticed a dearth of posts by regulars lately? Summer? I don’t remember from previous years, but it seems I have to surf harder to find anything acceptable to read, and then I dump it more easily because there ISN’T any, and get to work in spite of the distractions. So ‘surfing the internet’ isn’t the distraction it could be.

Reading and storing critiques (and I must admit, some of the lovely positive comments) is taking a fair amount of time. I might have done it as I posted, but then Pride’s Children would probably never have happened – you’re not supposed to put too much time into fixing minutiae as you write, or you get bogged down in far worse questions about native intelligence, ability, and the suitability of the WIP.

[I’m looking into Anti-Social, a little brother of Freedom which blocks only social sites – and any others you add to its list. Possibly I could add everything else I regularly surf – and see if that was good enough.]

Best ways to use editing software

I use AutoCrit, because, although it is online (I think they’re tinkering with it and making it better, though I’d rather have a standalone on my computer), it has the most and the easiest-to-use features for fiction I’ve found in all the software I tried.

Its best feature is a VERY light hand on suggestions – and those based more on a database of similar fiction. Some of the editing software out there thinks it’s an English teacher. And the grammar editors, such as the one included with Word, are painful. Especially for writers of fiction, but just painful.

Problem areas in my writing

My repeated sins are those of a tired or lazy brain: I find myself using the same words, often with different meanings, because a particular word, once used, leaves some kind of mental trace that gives it preference the next time I need a word. A halo, if you please.

Just in the image that starts this post, you see an example: the original has ‘quiet little book signing’ and ‘he lay so quiet.’ On the first page. Within paragraphs of each other. Eeek!

And in something that’s been up for years – nobody ever mentioned this! C’mon people, I ASKED for critique! I meant it!

But the almost-final version of that scene was written either before I purchased AutoCrit, or somewhere within my first months of having it, and didn’t go through the extensive vetting I do now (and am re-doing for every scene before I let them out to paying customers).

I guess you might say it’s a testament to my writing skills and beautiful storytelling that I got away with this – in a story that’s been read here and on Wattpad AT LEAST a hundred times all the way through.

BTW, that’s no excuse.

Other problems in my writing

I think I’ll keep the rest of them quiet for now; there are many, many are fixable, and I would rather seem like a polished writer than completely let you all down!

RELEVANCE to the final DIY product

The remainder of this post is about USING the editing software – but once I get into a working loop, I can usually forget most of the distractions of the net at least for a while, so it’s been worth it.

DO NOTE that you lose all your italics when you paste things into AC, which sometimes makes for oddities.

But it has also been a complete disruption of ‘the way I write.’

And useful to find out that, if I have to, I can.

I don’t like it; the freedom feels uncomfortably like lack of boundaries between the writing world and the real one.

And note that I don’t apply AC to writing until I’M finished with writing AND editing on my own. I don’t use AC to write; only for final revision – and then VERY thoroughly.

And afterward I let the computer read it to me – and I listen.

 So which AutoCrit features are my most useful ones?

All of them. I use every single one of the tabs at least part of the time. Oh, except for Pacing. I don’t get why that one picks certain paragraphs to flag.

I’m often quite surprised at what it turns up in a ‘finished’ scene.

AC’s little grammar lessons on each topic are a quick review of good practices. (Click on How do I use… link).

Other than that, here’s the list of features for subscribers, underlined (the free version lets you check 500 words max, and only gives you access to a couple of the features):

Pacing and Momentum:

The feature I use here is Sentence Variation. It shows you a bar graph of EVERY sentence in your text in order, and summarizes how many of each you have. I use it especially to check my LONG sentences – click on the bar, and they are highlighted in the text – to make sure they parse correctly into chunks and don’t FEEL long.

Dialogue:

Dialogue Tags – I use as few as possible, so it’s nice to have them flag the ‘saids,’ which I use mainly to keep groups scenes moving well. In group scenes, more creative dialogue tags may interfere with just keeping the reader clear as to who’s speaking, so ‘said’ is my go to. Otherwise, such as in the example above where I replaced

“You seemed startled,” said Elise Carter, her face a study in tact, “and then you went further into that head of yours.”

with

“You seemed alarmed.” Elise’s face was a study in tact. “Then you went further into that head of yours.”

To me, the second is more like Kary’s perception than the first, which sounds like a narrator, so I like the second one better. Plus why would she think of Elise’s last name? So I arranged for you to find out Elise’s last name a bit later in the scene in a more natural way, and one more edit DONE.

Adverbs in Dialogue – I rarely use ‘said quietly’ instead of ‘whispered’ unless there is a real distinction there, but often those adverb/weak verb combinations CAN be replaced with a single stronger verb, and it’s a good idea to check what on Earth your brain was thinking when you wrote the thing.

Strong writing:

I check Adverbs, Cliches, Redundancies, and Unnecessary filler words. Each is a quick judgement call. For some characters, the cliches are on purpose.

I mostly ignore Passive Voice and Showing vs. Telling, as I don’t do those things accidentally.

Word choice:

Initial Pronouns and Names and Sentence Starters are useful if you have a habit of clunky sentences, all starting with a name, pronoun, conjunction (And, But…), or ‘ing’ construction.

Generic descriptions flags things like ‘very’ and ‘great.’ I use those mostly in sarcastic comments in direct internal monologue, ie the character talking to herself, or in dialogue to show a character’s speech patterns. But it IS useful to do a quick check to see if you really need ‘really’ in that sentence.

I don’t like the way Homonyms is executed. I get the impression they don’t want to show their actual list, or it is too long to show conveniently, but it shows ALL possible homonyms at the same time, with no way to just check the versions of ‘your’ – so I find it quite useless. There is no way I’m going to write ‘ewe’ when I mean ‘you,’ so having it flagged doesn’t help me at all.

Those I have problems with I do on my own with the Find function in Scrivener, and I’ve tried adding them to the Personal Words selection, but there is a problem there I’ve asked them to look into when a word has an apostrophe. So I know darn well there are ‘yours’ in there, and I can’t find them in AC. Otherwise, Personal Words can be useful – if you think you have a bad habit of overusing certain uncommon words (I have ‘autopilot’ in there), you can add it to your personal list, and AC will flag them for you. I seem to have broken this feature, so I’ve sent in a question about what to do, and haven’t gotten a response yet. The words I put in before I got cute and tried to add some of the homonyms I have trouble with (so I can see just them) still work.

Repetition:

Repeated Words, Repeated Uncommon Words, and Repeated phrases help you notice when you’ve used the same thing within a paragraph or two. Word frequency and Phrase frequency examine the whole text you inserted into the Editor, to give you a total count. Both are quite handy.

I use this one a lot, and examine what it highlights very carefully before I decide whether to leave a repeat or use a synonym – and then I have to rerun the analysis with the new text, because I have the habit of repeating a different word when I change a duplicate.

Sometimes editing repetition feels like chasing my tail, but IF I use it, I want it to be by choice, not accident – for a specific purpose, rather than because my brain is lazy or fogged. Another set of judgment calls, supported by a program which shows me what I actually did, rather than what I think I did.

Compare to fiction:

This last tab has two selections – Overused Words and Combination Report. The latter does Overused Words, Repeated Words and Phrases, and Personal Words in a clickable format so you can check all these things quickly in one place if you wish to.

But the main point is to compare YOUR work to a database consisting of: fiction (default), YA fiction, SFF, or Romance, and to show you how your choice of words stacks up to a wide variety of works in these categories. This is new – there used to be just fiction and non-fiction (I think – it seems to have disappeared, and I may be remembering incorrectly as I never used AC for non-fiction like blog posts).

All comments welcome – editing is a perennial.

Scrivener one-click ebook for busy writers

image of the first two pages of Pride's Children, Book 1, Chapter 1

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, BOOK ONE

SUCCESS! EBOOK IN 10 SECONDS AFTER EDITING CHANGES

The proof is in the pudding.

I have:

  • Chapter headings
  • Chapter titles
  • Epigraphs
  • Epigraph attributions
  • Scene descriptor (the point of view character)
  • Date/time/place stamp
  • Left justified first paragraphs
  • The first few words in capitals

Shown below, I also have:

  • the ability to set off text inserts WITHIN scenes (an email message, a scene from a movie, a different format to mark that the text is from an audience WATCHING the scene as a background).
PRIDE'S CHILDREN, Chapter 1, Scene 4

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 1, Scene 4

This page shows a pov change within the chapter to a different character, the continuing date/time/place setting to orient the reader (previous scene was in California), and the audience reaction to the TV interview going on (indicated by a set-off italicized text line).

This ‘look’ for my chapters and scenes now happens automatically – which was my goal before editing.

This capability, which takes a bit of learning how to set it up (not hard) in Scrivener, gives me the one-click functionality I was looking for before heading into the final editing round. I can make a change to my source files, click Compile, and in about ten seconds have a completely ready ebook (.epub and .mobi) with NO hand-coding at all.

If I want to have that pesky right indent (so my block quotes are set off nicely on BOTH sides, I will have to go the one extra step I talked about, making a MINOR one or two line change to the CSS, and putting the .epub back together, then using KINDLEGEN or the Kindle Previewer to generate a .mobi from the .epub (really, really simple), I can take the extra time.

What does it take to set up?

The main benefit is that, while I have a LOT of special formatting in Pride’s Children, the changes to the source text were fairly minimal. Here is what my Scrivener Binder looks like:

SCRIVENER LAYOUT OF BINDER, PRIDE'S CHILDREN, BOOK 1

SCRIVENER LAYOUT OF BINDER, PRIDE’S CHILDREN, BOOK 1

The ONLY thing I ended up having to change in my original Binder was that each scene is now a folder with the text as a text file in the folder. This allows the Scene FOLDER to have the name of the pov character (which is what appears on the transitions to the next scene), and, within the folder, the date/time/place line.

It still looks pretty normal for a Binder for a novel.

How complicated is this to set up?

Most of all DO NO HARM was my motto. I didn’t want to do ANYTHING which might interfere with the ability of an ereader to flow text in the size and font chosen by the READER.

I am NOT using anything near Scrivener’s full available complexity. Scrivener includes group files (with separate formatting options) in the list of objects in the binder with their own levels, and which can each have separate formatting applied to the Title and Text.

I am including NO images or image placeholders in my ebooks – I am a bit leery of ebooks meant to be viewed easily on what is now hundreds of ‘devices’ from iPhone screens to an app on your desktop. I’m sure it can be done, but I don’t want, for the sake of a cute Chapter heading GIF, to have to evaluate the .epub on all kinds of devices. Not at this point.

Maybe later, if I get better at this.

And certainly for the POD from the accompanying, easy to set up pdf Compile in Scrivener – because with a pdf you can see exactly what you are sending to the printer.

What Scrivener Compile settings do you need to learn about?

  • The settings on the Contents tab
  • Separators between files and folders
  • The settings on the Formatting tab

For the basics, that’s all I used.

What changes were necessary to the source files?

Originally, I had each folder labeled something like ‘Chapter 1’ for the chapter folders, and ‘Scene 1.4’ for the scene text files.

Now I use them a bit differently, and I did all this by experimenting with the ability to take each container (folder, file, or file group) and choose different formatting for its title and its contents (text). The CHAPTER folder now has the TITLE of the chapter as its title, and the SCENE folder now has the NAME of the POV character as its TITLE.

The basic easy trick for headers

So, every time you need a different kind of formatting for a line or lines, make sure that it is the only kind of text in its container.

For each item, you choose to include its title and/or its text – in the Contents tab. So you can choose only the title if all you need is title formatting.

The easy trick for complicated formatting WITHIN the text

Here, if you want to do what I do, and include bits of song lyrics (with different formatting), for example, you need to learn TWO Scrivener features:

  • Formatting menu/Formatting/Preserve formatting
  • Formatting menu/Text/Tabs and indents…

I highly recommend reading the manual until you know exactly how these features interact with each other and with the formatting coming from the Formatting tab.

The trick is that you can set up formatting for the special pieces WITHIN your source file, and pass it through to the final ebook by EXCLUDING it from the normal formatting for that level.

CAUTION: With ebooks, be careful not to try to control the font and fontsize within these pieces, unless you’re willing to make sure the ereaders won’t have a problem with text in a different font from the one selected by the reader. It can be done, obviously, because ereaders usually have at least one serif and on sans serif font withing their available fonts. But handling embedded fonts, and pieces NOT using the automatic font choices is WAY beyond the scope of this post – you’re in for some serious HTML and CSS and font embedding if you want to try to control appearances that closely. Like electric controls on cars, the more things you want to control with electricity, the more little electric motors and control systems you have to potentially go wrong.

 An example of formatting within the scene

See the Scene 4 image above. As I mentioned before, I wanted to be able to indicate that the audience watching the TV interview was reacting to what was being said, but the host and guest would not necessarily react or converse with that audience.

I chose to select the audience reaction bit, italicize it, and prevent the scene formatting from being applied to it. Once I had the formatting the way I wanted it (an extra .25 left indent, italics), I created a Preset so I could do it more easily to the rest of the pieces with the same formatting.

This is how it looks withing my source text:

Scene 4 embedded text with Preserve formatting applied.

Scene 4 embedded text with Preserve formatting applied.

The blue box with the dashed outline shows you exactly which text pieces has Preserve formatting applied, as you normally don’t want to do ANY formatting withing the source text – because this inhibits the main Scrivener ability – to let the writer get the text out anywhichway – and then format it to look pretty in the Compile step.

Note that I also have Invisibles turned on, so you can see where the spaces and returns are – a handy feature.

 Happy formatting

I’m stopping here because the only people interested are those who can see the advantages of having such easy access to formatting your own ebook, and probably already have Scrivener, and these people will want to do their own version.

This was meant to be a taste for us DIY types – it isn’t hard to do what I did, it looks good (and can be made fancier by a LOT if you like), and there was even more information about sources in the previous post. A nod to Ed Ditto, his website, and book again, because it made me aware that it COULD be fast and easy, so I dug into the controls.

And my hat’s off to Scrivener – the whole ability to create an ebook after I set it up with ONE CLICK is built into their amazing program.

 

Boosting the signal: SSA, lawyers, disabled constituents

GOOD READING FOR THE FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND

And, IF that IS what has happened, ripping off disabled clients (allegedly – must maintain proper form here) is the lowest of the low.

The case of the SSA, the disability lawyer who is under investigation, and the 900 families affected by having their benefits summarily canceled (and then temporarily restored) as a result, is ongoing.

There are better places than here to read about it, but here are the latest links to The Disabled Cyclist’s blog, and he has the rest of the links:

https://thdcblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/ssa-fiasco-6-27-15/

https://thdcblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/ssa-fiasco-6-29-15/

https://thdcblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/ssa-fiasco-update-6-30-15/

https://thdcblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/ssa-fiasco-update-6-30-15/

https://thdcblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/ssa-fiasco-7-2-15-2/

Please note I have nothing against lawyers – one of my best friends is a lawyer!

The point is that bad lawyers give ALL lawyers a bad name.

Happy Fourth of July, all!

Self-publishing writers have too many choices!

Chapter 1 sampleINTERIOR FORMATTING ALMOST DONE!

It constantly amazes me, this ability the human brain has to make choices – and the vast number of them available to those of us in the developed world.

Professional cover designer Dane Low put up a video of the process of creating a cookbook cover over on Joel Friedlander’s blog today. A billion choices out of a sea of images.

Mine wasn’t that elaborate, and yet it took me three months (and I promise to show it first here when I’m a bit closer to publication – one wants to save the Ta Das! for when they will do some marketing good).

I had several goals for the interior formatting of my first book, Pride’s Children:

  • I wanted to make it as simple as possible to do updates – like fix typos.
  • I wanted to avoid as much hand-coding as possible – because that always takes a lot of time, and sometimes that effort makes me settle for less than I really want. Plus it’s a really great way to introduce typos.
  • I did NOT want to spend a lot of time doing the things Jaye Manus recommends on her blog for writers who work with Word (sorry, Jaye!), as I’d long ago tired of using Word for writing fiction and keeping it looking good, even though I’ve mastered styles, and have used them successfully before to make the manuscript look the way I wanted it to. Note: I still use Word all the time for other stuff, like letters.
  • I wanted to set up a uniform look for the two other books of the Pride’s Children trilogy.
  • I wanted to make the READING experience as transparent as possible for the reader, so I don’t want anything that might get in the way of a reader choosing her font, or font sizes, or other text-flow options.
  • I wanted it to look, as much as possible, like a ‘real’ (ie, ‘printed’) book. You know, like the old ones on my bookshelves?
  • I wanted typographical niceties: indented quotes set in a slightly smaller type-size, navigational headings, ALL CAPS and no indent to start paragraphs, a decent table of contents.
  • And I wanted it to be a good model for the eventual printed version, not a completely different animal.

In other words, my standards have been set by all the books I’ve read in my lifetime, and I want all those features in my books.

Scrivener to the rescue

When I bought Scrivener (several years ago now – where DOES the time go?), I did it partly because of its ability to create an ebook from your text in both .epub and .mobi formats – regardless of how you typed the stuff in.

A look through my source files in my .scriv project file shows a shocking number of different formats. It would have taken me either a lot of paying attention to keep it looking uniform as I wrote in Word, or a lot of processing at the end – a word-processing file per chapter seemed as much as I could manage at a time, and combining files to make a whole book is WORK in Word.

None of this is to say anything at all about other writers’ workflow or software choices.

But with my usually fogged CFS brain, the command to self to KISS was imperative: I can focus on things intensely for a while sometimes, but don’t do nearly as well when I have to keep it up over months and years.

So. I’ve spent the last two weeks learning Compile in Scrivener (the word they’ve selected to mean: put all this junk together into a unified document), feeding it my text, and adjusting the Compile options until it looked the way I wanted it to.

I have it down to the target: I choose Compile, click ONE button, and I have a new ebook instantly, which will open properly in my Kindle viewers or Adobe Digital Editions, and complains not at all when I make it reformat the whole thing for one tiny change. Three chapters takes under 5 SECONDS.

Yesterday, I repeated the process over THIRTY times. It took longer to VIEW my results than to create them, a very welcome reversal of the usual way it goes.

Post-production – refining after using Scrivener

I worked hard at it – you should see my marked-up copy of the Scrivener manual!

But I managed to set up the formatting in all but ONE detail to be automatic. That detail is the RIGHT INDENT.

I want to use right indents paired with left indents to set off sections of the text (a movie, an email, a quotation used for an epigraph). Scrivener (and, to be fair, the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines) does not support a right indent. Per se.

But it occurred to me that changing the MARGIN settings for indented paragraphs (as long as the change is relative from the margins, in ems, and not a hard-coded number such as 0.5″) would serve just fine.

So I set up Scrivener to create paragraph types with LEFT INDENTS.

NOTE: the above sample does NOT show this post-processing step; this is what it looks like straight out of Scrivener.

HTML, CSS, and formatting for ebooks – easy version

I had no real desire to learn HTML, and had no idea what a CSS (cascading style sheet) was, but I plunged into Paul Salvette’s book on formatting (The eBook Design and Development Guide) and Ed Ditto’s (How to format…for Kindle…in one afternoon), both of which I bought ages ago and hadn’t even opened, because I knew this day was coming.

That plus myriad other sources taught me just enough to be dangerous adventurous enough to get the free Mac text editor TextWrangler, and actually look into the files generated by Scrivener, to see if I could find the needed modification

To do this you first Unzip the .epub file (I used a tiny Applescript program ePub Zip/Unzip 3.0 I found online at nyu.edu here from instructor Fred Chasen – anything you have will work as well, I’m sure, but the web makes it appear you need to spend big bucks to get something to unzip and zip your epub files, and you don’t.)

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WARNING – It would have saved me a LOT of time had I known the following:

You can examine the files packaged into an .epub, but not into a .mobi produced by Kindlegen.

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IN the CSS files, which are quite clean (to my uneducated eye – they didn’t look THAT different to what Paul so carefully constructs in his book), I found the line showing the LEFT INDENT (as a LEFT MARGIN setting ALREADY!), and merely duplicated the number into the slot for the RIGHT MARGIN, replacing the 0.0 that was already there, marking the space for me, and that was my only change (so far).

Put the changed CSS file(s) back into the .epub bundle (ePub Zip/Unzip again – give it the folder, it produces the epub and vice versa), and you are back to where you started, but now the CSS files have the right AND left margins set for those indented paragraphs! And in a way (I think/hope) that will not affect your Kindle and Nook experiences.

I haven’t gotten so far as to test these things on actual ereaders, because that requires the additional step of sideloading the .epub or .mobi files into the devices, which I know how to do, but is not a step you want to do over and over while chasing formatting changes.

IF I have problems after the extensive testing required, I will update this post or write another.

Kindlegen rocks!

Fortunately, this didn’t turn out to actually matter, because, once you have the .epub file doing what you want, you just DRAG IT INTO KINDLEGEN, and Kindlegen turns a perfectly good .epub into a proprietary format which currently packages TWO kinds of Kindle ebooks, one for the newer Fire models (using the latest bells and whistles) plus one for the older models), with absolutely NO effort from you.

I work exclusively on the Mac, and had to start up Terminal, drag Kindlegen’s icon into Terminal, drag the .epub file into Terminal, and voilà, almost instantly a file appears with the same name as the .epub file, but with a .mobi extension, and YOU ARE COMPLETELY DONE.

So, another success for the one-click approach to ebook changes.

And that’s how the rabbit go IN the hat

Note that the file above is NOT EDITED; I just threw in the same beginning of Chapter 1 as is currently on the blog. There are minor formatting changes I’m going to do to it (mostly, reduced the number of sections set in italics, to go with what I have in the later chapters – which were revised more recently).

Comments very welcome on suggested changes, impressions of the results, anything you can think of – I’m getting closer, and the decisions’ surrounding concrete is starting to set. Specific question: I use bold in this version in the SCENE HEADINGS – is it helpful – or annoying?

I can still fix things later (isn’t the modern world fabulous?), but I’d like to go to press (hehe) with as many things finalized as I possibly can AHEAD OF TIME.

And no, I didn’t intend to write such a long post this morning, but it seemed necessary to share the process, which had a few fillips different from what I’ve seen – and gives me a very quick way to change things from now on (IF I actually know what I’m doing). I’ve been VERY busy learning, but didn’t have much new to say until I finished!