Tag Archives: formatting

Waiting for print? Pride’s Children has achieved ignition

 

PC1 3D frontPRINT BOOKS HAVE VOLUME – AND FRONTS AND BACKS

The print edition is up. Links below, if you were waiting for it.

‘Achieved ignition’ is my little joke. Hard to set ebooks on fire. Though I hope if you get one, you will read it first. Passing print books on to other people is also a good way of getting them off your shelves if you don’t want them any more.

But don’t lend them. The books I lend never come back.

I’ve finally learned not to lend them

PC1 3D back3D FREE Images courtesy Boxshot (high quality renderings available)

Looks like a book, doesn’t it?

You store these ideas in your bookmarks because they are neat – and eventually, you get to the place where you USE them.

IF you remember that you have them. (I need to go through that whole bookmarks list labeled ‘EBOOK,’ which is where I’ve been storing these things, some literally for years, in anticipation of this day.)

Thanks, Boxshot. This time it was very quick to go into Pixelmator, cut out the appropriate images from the full cover (anyone with sharp eyes will notice it’s MY original version – CreateSpace hasn’t put the bar code on the back cover yet), save them as separate images (back, front, spine) trimmed of all excess blank space (Trim Canvas command – but don’t save!). My first attempt looked very odd as a book because I forgot to trim the pixels down to just the piece I needed – the spine image was a tiny sliver down the ‘book’ spine.

Pride’s Children: PURGATORY (Book 1 of the Trilogy) is in PRINT

Amazon kindly links everything up for you on the product page, but here are a couple of the links for your convenience:

Amazon print product page

Amazon.UK product page

Amazon.MEX product page  (Hola, familia)

Amazon ebook product page

In this day and age of ebooks, I don’t expect to sell as many in paper (okay, except maybe to myself), but I’m glad to have that publishing milestone checked off the list. I do have lovely people who have been waiting for the print edition.

AMAZON HAD A SALE COUPON ON MY PAGE, VALID UNTIL DEC. 14.

Hope it is available to customers – I don’t control it. But it IS a limited time coupon if it’s there.

MATCHBOOK: Amazon sells you an inexpensive ebook of Pride’s Children

…if you buy the print edition. I’ve kept that at the 0.99 setting for now.

Check out their conditions – I don’t know what you can and cannot do with the ebook.

Still having fun. Over to you.

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Formatting with Word following Scrivener requires nerves of steel

Chapter One sample pageIT’S LATE, BUT I’M WINNING THE PAPER WAR!

Here I am, 2:20 A.M. the night before Thanksgiving (a holiday we celebrate by making homemade pizza, one per customer, exactly as required – and which will not be shared), having reached a good place in the battle to turn Scrivener’s .doc output into a pdf for a POD at CreateSpace, the next step in the publishing journey.

Software Tools determine workflow

I HAVE Scrivener, and I HAVE Word. I know how to use them, more or less, and I am still hooked on the general plan of keeping only ONE master file in Scrivener, and producing the various output formats from there WITHOUT changing anything but the front and back matter (ebooks generally get a shorter version, print books get the full glorious everything).

[That reminds me – don’t forget the ISBN – it has to go on the back cover and the Copyright page.]

Anyhoo, Scrivener, plus a tiny bit of assistance from TextWrangler and an epub unzip/zip Applescript (in my one-click method of producing epubs, which then get folded into mobi files by Amazon), was perfectly adequate, nay wonderful, for the ebook.

But print books are made of sterner stuff.

Scrivener is NOT a word-processor

It comes pretty darn close if you have a simple book, and will go straight to pdf if you want it to.

But, since it isn’t a word-processor, it won’t do widow and orphan control, and it won’t do hyphenation, and they tell you that right up front. Neither of these things were important for the ebook, which was lucky for me: I get to learn these things in stages.

But Scrivener produces the .doc file for Word to work on

And this is where my cunning methods came as close as I could manage to having Scrivener pass almost-finished work to the next stage of processing.

This is the stage at which the Compile pane shines.

Set up for .doc output, and then remember to save your changes (update the preset) every single time you put some work into the Compile selections, or you will remember I said this: the minute you finish a Compile, Scrivener forgets anything you didn’t save.

This ‘feature’ allows you to make a change and try it out with no effect beyond a new version of the exported file, but I don’t tend to make versions: I know what I want, and I keep twitching the little switches until I have what I want, and then I save and back that one up compulsively.

What choices do you make in Scrivener BEFORE compiling?

Every single one you can.

Fonts: if you want, as I did, Goudy Serial Xbold 24, for your book title, it is far easier to pick it in the Compile Formatting pane, than to go into a nice fresh Word doc and start from scratch, EVEN IF you remembered to create a Style to save that font selection.

Vertical spacing: if you look at the little editor pane that comes up in Formatting, you will notice that over on the right side there is a line-spacing widget on the ruler. That holds the key to making headers like mine with several parts (Kary, Sanctuary, 8 PM) look exactly the way you want them. Do NOT do vertical line spacing with returns! You are not a typist any more. Use your paragraph spacing, cleverly labeled ‘other.’ You will thank me.

Keep with: Another wonderful little doohickey. It’s under the Format>formatting tab in Scrivener, and, if you use it on both parts of the header, you are telling it to keep the header line with the date/time/place line, and that one with the first paragraph of the scene. Which entirely removes the problem of header separated from their subheading and/or text.

Margins, and facing pages: I tried doing this in Word. It bit me. It was much easier to set it up in Scrivener and pass it on. This is the dialogue in the Compile page setup. I’m using a left and right margin of 0.5″, PLUS .25″ for the gutter margin. The image below shows the way the page will be laid out if there is only one page, with the extra margin on the left; if you choose the ‘facing pages’ option, you will get the mirror page on the left, with the extra gutter margin on its right.

Gutter margin setupThis is backward in my mind, but that’s how it works. YOU don’t do that part, Scrivener does after you check ‘facing pages.’ Which means in a standard book, you create the right hand side page of a two-page spread BEFORE the left hand page.

The page at the top of this post IS a right hand page. If you look, you can see the gutter margin extra space on its LEFT side. I prefer all my chapter to start on the right – I think it looks nicer, even though it wastes a few pages where you need a blank page on the left.

Table of contents: to do that in Word, you have to select each piece you want to be in it (front matter, chapter headings), apply a heading Style, and then use Word’s elaborate setup. Or you can use Scrivener, get the Binder to look the way you want the ToC to look, Copy Special (as ToC), and paste it where you want it. Then, as you compile, somewhere between the two programs they put the page numbers in. If you do it that way, you may have to update page numbers manually; and Word will fight you like a possessed man for control, but that’s what delete buttons are for. And Undo. Scrivener was easier. Neither was easy. I have one.

Justification: left, right, ragged, justified – but not right indent. Sigh. After the ebooks wouldn’t, I was hoping Scrivener could pass a right indent on to Word. Nope. So I generated a Style in Word which will indent anything I apply it to equally on BOTH sides, and that is now done.

Paper size and pdf size: Scrivener for the win. Once set up though, Word keeps trying to put you back on 8.5 x 11 paper; keep and eye on it when you create your 6 x 9 pdf.

Choices to make in Word

Formatting of headers and footers beyond the basics you get from Scrivener with the content and the page numbers; restart at number 1 on the first page of the story.

I also formatted the footers with a paragraph style which put a few points of space above them – otherwise it looked as if the text were sitting on the footer. Ditto for the headers: 4 pts of space after the paragraph with the name of the book and the chapter on alternating sides – and it didn’t look as if the header was sitting on the text.

Sections: I wanted my prologue AND my chapters, my Title page, and my Part page (Book 1 of the trilogy), to be right hand pages; I put my cursor on each page, chose Format Document, selected ‘odd page’ for them, and let it apply just to the section. Voila – everything tidy on the right, and the gutter margins in the right places.

Widows and orphans: Finally – Word does a magnificent job on its own (though, as you would suppose, it is hard to handle a lot of short paragraphs – dialogue – and not end up with parts of paragraphs: a 3 line paragraph at the end of a page can end up with two of its lines on one page, and the other on the next. If you REALLY want to keep lines together, you will have to do manual control with Keep together, or use my backup trick: there are 8 lines of padding at the beginning of each chapter (from the top of the page to the first line), but it one goes missing or I add one, you’d never know.

Right indent/margin: I WILL have my epigraphs indented on both sides, or die trying! They just LOOK wrong indented only on one side.

FONTS: There’s a reason God invented fonts. Because sometimes you just need to make things stand out, such as your name at the bottom of the title page, or the chapter title. These are aesthetic choices, and if you are designing your own interior, you get to make them. I hope it’s not a horror show when I get the proof copy back. My one little excursion into the fun of fonts is the Prothalamion/prologue, which I had great fun making look like The New Yorker at quick glance.

I’ve gotten far enough to have solved all the problems

Good for the brain, and slow with brain fog.

Front matter, back matter, the prologue, title, and part pages – and ONE chapter complete with headers and footers, and my methods are done.

All I have to do is finish the remaining 19 chapters, update the page numbers for the chapters in the table of contents, check everything – and upload.

Methodology is hard – this part is just work. And it shall be done soon, and I can go back to writing, with the paper version of Pride’s Children sitting on Amazon’s shelves.

By the way – all this fuss, and it doesn’t look that different from the ebook. Sigh.

Now aren’t you glad you asked?

 

 

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.

 

Rules for punctuating consistently: a writer’s unique style

Readers of fiction are flexible folk. You can guide them into your story in a number of ways, as long as YOU, once they’ve learned YOUR system, stick with it. This is part of the contract we make with readers: I may confuse you a bit at the beginning as I get all this started, but trust me, I am doing all these things deliberately, and I will get you well started, and I won’t change things arbitrarily after you’ve made the effort to go along for the story.

By system I mean that most writers start with standard punctuation and formatting. Then we make subtle (some of us) or not so subtle variations.

These are not WRONG if they’re stylistic CHOICES. For example, Cormac McCarthy gets away with not using quotation marks around dialogue. It drives me crazy to read, and I probably won’t read anything else he has written, but I read All The Pretty Horses: after a longer-than-usual start (I really do miss knowing which pieces are dialogue), I got used to his system, tucked it in the back of my mind, and survived the read. Wikipedia discusses ATPH and makes his system somewhat clearer. It helped a lot that I grew up in Mexico, and all my history from school comes from the Mexican history textbooks, so that I appreciated parts of the story most people wouldn’t have knowledge of, and that I wanted to find out what happened – because it was woven in with the history so well.

So, when Janice Hardy (http://blog.janicehardy.com/2013/04/how-to-format-remembered-dialog.html#more) asked the question: ‘What style (for remembered dialogue) is your favorite?’ I located chunks of my deathless prose to examine how I do it. (If you can’t wait for the answer, skip to the bottom. I talk too much.)

I ask a lot of my readers. The novel I’m working on is complex, has a lot of characters, and uses different kinds of internal monologue depending on the depth of the thoughts of the point of view (POV) character: general mental rambling, actual words, and even ‘remembered dialogue.’ (More on that in a bit.)

In some chapters there is a need to provide background reactions from an audience.

There are snippets of movies, and songs, and novels written by one of the main characters.

The outside world of entertainment, TV, and internet puts its two cents’ worth in, formatted as epigraphs (at the beginnings of chapters) or text insertions. The prologue is a longish quotation from a faux New Yorker article.

But don’t worry. I actually have a system for understanding what’s what, and I am CONSISTENT about it. In this post I use ALL CAPS not to shout at you, but to emphasize something. I know it’s non-standard for internet, but the form of emphasis with something like *word emphasized* or _phrase emphasized_ doesn’t do it for me. I try not to use caps too much.

And it’s all combined in a consistent way with POV. I’m writing it here not to show that I somehow feel qualified to ‘teach’ other writers anything, but because I have figured it out for myself, and haven’t seen anything quite as I do it.

Note: I also use as few dialogue tags (she said, George whispered) as I can get away with. I’m far more likely to use the real estate to give you a short action, as in:

Example:
The producer darted to the door. “Phew! Now you won’t have to rush.” Quick peek at her watch, head shake. “Cutting it awfully close. I gotta run.” Hesitation. “Is there anything you need? Dana insisted—”

Without further ado, here are the rules I’ve cobbled together to write by, my stylistic choices:

1. Dialogue: If it has double quotes around it, it is being said RIGHT NOW in front of you, the reader, in an active scene. Period. Sort of like you watching TV.

Example:
“You okay, babe? You haven’t said a word.”

2. Marking a word or phrase: If it has single quotes around it, and is a word or short phrase, the quotation marks carry the standard meaning: this word or phrase is slightly off, not quite right, ironic, or other not-literal meaning.

Example:
I thought his ‘ride’ – a camel – was more of a disaster waiting to happen than a mode of transportation.

3. Internal Monologue: If it’s in italics, NOT within double quotation marks, the words are tight internal monologue, i.e., the pov character is thinking that exact set of words, right now. If it isn’t in italics, NOT within double quotation marks, but is clearly something in the pov’s thoughts, it is more general internal monologue – the character is thinking that, but without quite those exact words.

Example:
A ghost house. Everything I’ve worked for is a dream.

4. Italics: I only use this form of emphasis by choice* for several distinct, but clearly obvious from context, occasions:

4a) Close internal monologue (see 3, above)

4b) Audience reaction when the characters are talking in front of a studio audience (because the are not participants in the conversation the way the host of the show and her guest are – but they are present:

Example:
From the far side of the stage where his band lounged, George squawked the bass.
Laughter and applause.
“Any plans to take one home?”

4c) Standard emphasis of a single word or short phrase within dialogue:

Example:
“Living in a castle, using a privy in winter…?”

4d) Ditto in pov’s thoughts (if the sentence were all italics, I’d make the emphasized word NOT italics for the same kind of contrast):

Example:
Stage fright? Prayer? What did she have to hide?

4e) To mark the name of a show, book, or movie:

Example:
“Now, tell us about your band, the Deadly Nightshades.”
Night Talk (TV talk show)
Roland, Dodgson (movie titles)
Prairie Fires (book title)

The answer to formatting remembered dialogue:

With my rules explained, I can now answer Janice Hardy’s question – because I format remembered dialogue DIFFERENTLY from all her examples. For remembered dialogue (essentially dialogue remembered in its exact wording WITHIN a pov’s thoughts), I use SINGLE QUOTES:

Example:
Bianca glanced at the frame on the nightstand with its ridiculous school-photo background of autumn leaves. ‘Bird in hand, princess,’ Daddy said. Thank God the house was hers, and an untouchable trust kept it that way forever. “We’ve had this discussion, Michael. I’d lose half my fans.”

My reasons? That using the single quotes makes it clear that it is not ACTUAL dialogue (see 1 above). Note that it ALSO gets italics because she thinks the EXACT words. Clear as mud?

These are all stylistic choices, and different writers, editors, and publishers  make them differently, even in traditionally published books of fiction in the US. They are not WRONG – the only wrong is when a single book or a single author forgets to keep punctuation consistent – readers DO get confused. They may not know exactly WHY, but they will notice, and they don’t like it.

Thanks to Janice for this interesting blog topic. Except for Example 2, all of the examples come from the text of the scenes I have posted on the Pride’s Children tab of this blog.

This nitpicking is too technical for most people, and I hope I guide readers of my fiction into understanding these ‘rules’ (especially multiple italics use) in such a way that it is transparent to them by a few scenes into the story. I apologize to non-US readers – I can only handle one system without going completely nuts. I have read tons of British stuff, and it is all punctuated differently – and when I read their stuff, I read by their rules.

*Wordpress – and the free 2012 theme – allows me very limited control over how things appear on this blog. So I have to use the Block Quote feature to set off the epigraphs at the beginnings of chapters, and snippets of movies embedded within the scenes (meant to give the impression you are seeing a bit of the movie). When I self-publish, the ebook will allow much more formatting control, and, of course, the print book will look exactly as I want it to look, because otherwise it doesn’t go out. A very real benefit to the opinionated author with complicated control issues.

Comments? Do you do something different from what Janice or I do? And why?