More than 50 writers have now contributed to The Undercover Soundtrack and plenty more are on the way. Today it’s my turn at Authors Electric, more properly known as Do Authors Dream of Electric Books – and I’m celebrating the way we use music to dream of other worlds, people and their lives… Come on over
Where do you write? Post at Authors Electric
I’m addicted to those pieces in Saturday newspapers where writers show us round their writing rooms. The walls for Post-Its, the arcane but essential talisman on the desk, the flop-and-read area…. even if we all know that half our work probably happens in snatched scribbles at the Tube station, or in our heads while half-watching a film. Anyway, today I’m at Authors Electric giving the guided tour of my study, for those who are as nosy as I am.
Where are your special writing places? Tell me, in the comments here or at AE – and if you’ve posted about it, share the links!
How long should a book be? Just right – guest post at Do Authors Dream of Electric Books
I don’t do waffle. We magazine sub-editors are Jedis of the delete key. We fillet flabby stories until they’re sharp and focussed. We know readers are busy and we don’t tolerate anyone who takes five paragraphs to explain something when one will do. I’ve always felt that books should be as long – or short – as the material deserves, but economic considerations have often forced authors to pad or to curtail artificially.
So today I’m at Authors Electric, happy to celebrate the emancipation of length… and books that are, like Goldilocks’s third porridge, just right.
I made you up. Honest. Red-faced guest post at Do Authors Dream of Electric Books
That dingy, dowdy town in My Memories of a Future Life? Nowhere that really existed was horrid enough so I made it up. I gave it a name that loosely rhymed with ‘Hell-on-earth’. And do you know what? A friend has emailed me to say Vellonoweth, give or take an o, really exists.
So today I’m red-faced at Do Authors Dream of Electric Books, grovelling. Do come along and save me from the residents’ pitchforks.
Should you serialise your novel on Kindle… like I did? The results of my launch experiment
About a month ago, I launched My Memories of a Future Life on Kindle in 4 parts. A Dickensian adventure in serialisation, rekindled for the ebook generation.
I had great fun and plenty of hair-tearing. For instance, it was never clear exactly how long the Kindle store would take to make the episodes live, so I had to publish days in advance and keep them quiet until the witching hour. (Some of you still seemed to find them…) My computer was starting to look like a duplication hallucination with multiple covers, textfiles and whatnot.
But was it a good idea? If you’re releasing an ebook, should you serialise too? Today Jane Friedman has invited me to her blog to tell all.
Not that Jane?
Jane is a former publisher at Writer’s Digest and a prolific and respected speaker on writing, publishing, and the future of media, including South by Southwest, BookExpo America, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Her expertise has been featured by sources such as NPR’s Morning Edition, Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat, PBS, The Huffington Post, and Mr. Media. She has consulted with a range of nonprofits, businesses, and creative professionals, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Creative Work Fund, and the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. It says it all that one of her nicknames is ‘Not-that Jane’.
Before I started, I wondered in a blog post if serialising my novel would be genius or plain dumb. Come to Jane’s blog, where I confess all…
3 ways to try My Memories of a Future Life: Read a sample on Kindle, or on Bookbuzzr – or I can read it to you
Writing literary fiction – podcast and video interview with Joanna Penn
Today – roughly 24 hours ahead of schedule if you saw the note on the red blog – I’m at Joanna Penn’s online home, The Creative Penn. Joanna’s one of my favourite podcasters and her interviewees run the gamut of book marketing specialists to fiction authors to creativity consultants to anyone else you never knew you needed to know. A recent podcast of hers is on how to write fight scenes – which is cued up on my Creative Muvo to accompany my run today. (If you meet me, don’t get in my way.)
Earlier this year, when she was writing her best-selling religious thriller Pentecost, she interviewed me about my book Nail Your Novel. Now she’s invited me back to quiz me about writing My Memories of a Future Life – and we discuss the differences between literary and genre fiction, developing characters, using research and honing prose style. We also laughed rather a lot.
You can read a text summary, listen to a podcast, or even watch us on video. Whatever your pleasure, come and join us for a jolly discussion.
How to write the right blurb for your novel – guest post at Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?
Ooh, a TARDIS. Because a novel is like one, which you realise when you have to condense its loveliness into a 150-word blurb. From the inside, it’s enormous, labyrinthine. From the outside – a virtual bookshelf, a description to a prospective agent or publisher, or a casual chat at a dinner party – it’s got to look manageable.
Today, at Do Authors Dream of Electric Books, I’m explaining how I squeezed my novel’s multiple dimensions into a convenient, transportable box.
The making of My Memories of a Future Life – interview at Victoria Mixon’s
You remember Victoria? Possibly the world’s maddest, funniest, warmest, wisest book doctor. Earlier this year we had a mighty time goofing around writerly subjects and talking about our long years of experience honing fiction. Her blog was rightly voted one of the top 10 writing sites in the Write To Done awards this year (in which Nail Your Novel was a runner-up). She’s the author of The Art & Craft of Fiction, A Practitioner’s Manual, which is a book I buy for every friend who ventures to say they might one day pen a novel. She’s also about to release its follow-up, The Art & Craft of Story, which you’ll be able to get at Amazon sometime soon.
Anyway, she’s given me a good grilling about My Memories of a Future Life. Was I ever hypnotised? Who were the characters based on? What does it all mean, without spoilers? Come to the other side and see me struggle to explain myself.
For those of you who find the four-episode format too much of a faff, I’m releasing a Kindle edition of the full novel in the next few days. The price of the individual episodes will stay at the launch offer of 0.99c until 15 October, and will then go to their full price of USD$2.99. They’ll always be available, but if you want to get them at the launch price, hie on over to your Amazon of choice (UK, DE, rest of world) now.
Like Ruby – Episode 3 is here
‘Is it the 12th yet?’ ‘What do I have to do to get episodes 3 and 4 right now?’
Thank you, lovely readers and reincarnation time travellers. You can’t have episode 4 yet. Not for another week. But you can have episode 3.
Download My Memories of a Future Life: Like Ruby here (UK) and here (USA and everywhere else)
You can find episode 1 here, episode 2 here and you can try the first four chapters on a free audio here
How to prepare your Kindle text for a print edition – Part 2: chapter head styles and cleaning up the text
Yesterday I discussed how to choose the size of your book and the typeface. Today, we finish your book’s interior
Fancy stuff like chapter heads
You can leave the chapter title in the same font as your body copy, or you might want something eye catching to draw the reader to the first line – maybe a motif or a drop capital. (Designing this deserves whole posts by itself; there are trillions of ways to do it, but the short answer is to find a book you like the look of in a similar genre and copy that). You might want a different font (not too fancy, please). I used Copperplate Goth BT.
Unless you have a fantastically good artistic reason, don’t use more than one heading font besides your body copy. Books look better if typefaces are inconspicuous and style is uniform. A little contrast is allowable in chapter headings, but if you have more than two typefaces it looks like it was made by someone under a responsible age.
Chapter titles don’t usually begin at the very top of the page. You’ll want to add line spaces, both above the chapter heading and afterwards, before the actual text starts. Experiment until you find an arrangement you like. Then write down exactly what it is – eg 3 carriage returns above and 2 below. You need to do it exactly the same in all the chapters. Properly typeset books are consistent about everything.
Similarly between sections that aren’t chapter breaks you’ll need a gap. How many lines do you want them to be? Do you want a little motif in the middle to delineate them? What about the paragraphs? Do you want them full out after a section break? Full out (ie not indented) is the usual option but I have seen indents work nicely as well. Make your decision, write it down – and do the same thing every time.
Then go through the manuscript and put them in.
If you formatted for Kindle you probably put page breaks in for chapter endings. If you formatted for other strains of epub you probably didn’t use page breaks. Go and put page breaks in for chapter endings now. If you try to split the book with carriage returns instead of page breaks, the next stage will do your head in. And make you resort to far more flabbergasted language.
Blank pages and front matter
Use page breaks to make blank pages too. And strip off the folio on blank pages if your program allows, or change the text colour to white so it doesn’t print.
Where do you want blank pages? Certain parts of your book must begin on right-hand pages, so you might have to put blanks in to achieve this – especially at the front.
Before you get to the text proper you need a few bits of set-up copy, known as front matter. Look in any published book and you’ll see. Usually these are:
- half title (right-hand page) – where you can put biographical info too
- copyright notice and ISBN etc (left-hand page)
- full title (right-hand)
- either blank or acknowledgements (left-hand page)
- start of book (right-hand page) or part 1/section 1 title page (right-hand page, then blank, then text proper on right-hand page)
Widows, orphans – the mysterious faffing I was leaving until last
Now you have the biggest, dreariest task of all. You have to look for bad breaks at the tops of pages – widows, orphans and stumps.
Widows and orphans are short lines in places you don’t want them – at the very bottom of a page or the very top. Stumps are words broken by a hyphen so that the first half of the word is on one page and the second half is on the next. All these can look ugly, although sometimes you can get away with one if there’s enough text on the rest of the page – it’s very much a matter of personal taste what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
You also have to look for section breaks in awkward places. If you have a section break, you want more than one line below it or it looks weird. And you don’t want a page with just 1 or 2 lines hanging in mid air and then the chapter end.
NB – most word processing programs have auto settings to get rid of these pesky widows and orphans. Turn it off. It results in short pages, which in a text-heavy book like a novel looks dreadful. Yes, you have to do this bit by hand.
NOT by squeezing the fonts together – that looks awful. NOT by sneakily changing the point size or the leading – it shows. You have to alter the text itself.
Remember when I said this isn’t about the text any more, it’s about how it looks? That’s what I mean.
Close up paragraphs, make new ones, cut out extraneous words to pull a line back, add a few to push one over. If you have sub-headings (weird in novels but de rigeur in non-fiction) put one in or take one out. If there’s no scope to edit on the page you’re on, go back a page and see if you can do it there. Sometimes you may have to go back a few. And keep checking the results.
This is the drudge. You have to do this for every single page. It’s fiddly. And this is why you want to have established all your other design decisions before you get here. Because you don’t want to have to do it all over again. And this is why you need to separate your chapters with page breaks, so that any change you make is confined to just a few pages. If you use carriage returns instead of page breaks, every change you make will affect the rest of the entire book.
You might wonder how you spot all these things. I do it automatically because I’ve done it for years. I can read the text and see all these things at the same time. (Hell, I scan for them when I’m reading other people’s books.) I can adjust the text so that it’s true to what I want to say and also looks typographically acceptable. In fact, because I knew I’d have to do this, I made my last major edits of My Memories of a Future Life in PagePlus so that the text would be identical to the Kindle version.
If you’re not practised at this it’s best to do several passes through the book, looking for one problem each time, until you get your eye in. And this exhaustive level of nit-picking might be one of the reasons you decide to hand this part of the project over to someone who can do it much faster than you can, and more thoroughly.
Once each of your pages looks typographically beautiful, proof-read it one last time, remembering to check that your chapter breaks are consistent – and your text is ready to go.
If you have a Kindle book you’ll have a front cover but you won’t yet have a back one. And you’ve probably got quite enough to do for now – so I’ll tell you how I designed mine in a future post.
Have you released one of your books in print form? Did you do the production yourself? If you have any tips to add or nightmares to share, I’d love to hear them!
HELP IS AT HAND… If reading all this has given you an intolerable migraine, I can format your book for you! Email me on RozMorrisWriter at gmail dotcom.
My Memories of a Future Life: episodes 1 and 2 available now. Episode 3 on 12th September. Print edition end September. Do you like podcasts? You can listen to or download, free, the first 4 chapters