for the Writers

How I made my book look like a book

In a timeline of things to be done in the journey of self-publishing, on one end is the writing and editing. And on the other end is the selling and marketing.

But there’s a whole lot of in between that doesn’t really get talked about.

If you type a jumble of words into a Word document, that doesn’t look like a book. And so once I finished my 6 steps of editing, I moved on to researching how to make my book look like a book.

You can of course hire a book designer. And you probably should. But I wanted it to look book-ish for my beta readers, and I wasn’t about to pay for that. Plus I thought it’d be fun to figure out what all goes into it.

Disclaimer: I probably don’t have it all right, and I certainly don’t have it all here. This is just the steps I took after alot of research but without knowing everything professionally. Heck, I could even be completely wrong on something. This is more to give you an idea of what goes into it, what to think about, and what to research. This is certainly not a complete how-to.

 

Turning a manuscript into something that looks more book-ish

1) Fonts

There’s only certain fonts that work for books. Visually pleasing and easy for long reads. Plus you have to make sure the fonts you choose actually work well together, not just alone.

Serif is recommended for body text, and sans serif is recommended for other content. Also, Times New Roman is bad! Baaaad! Like it’s designed for newspapers to squish words together to fit on the page and it’s not great for long reads. That’s the main points I got out of my research.

Beyond that, you need to actually research which fonts play well on a page together. It’s kind of a toss-up if you’re not a graphic designer or at least more experienced with typography.

After some research, I chose to go with Corbel for the chapter titles, Palatino Linotype for the non-story content (page numbers, table of contents, etc.), and I went with Bookman Old Style for the story.

2) Spacing and Indents

I went with font 11pt with a 15 pt spacing. I indented at 12 pt.

From what I found, fonts are usually 11 or 12pt. Spacing is debated; some recommend single, and some slightly more than single. Indenting should be less than the amount of spacing.

Also, with Bookman Old Style I found the spacing between letters to be a tad close. I adjusted the font spacing to .5″.

3) Justify the text

Once you do this, you got to watch out for weird formatting. A huge space in a certain line. You may need to adjust spacing, indents, or minor edits to make that work well. The font spacing also helped with this.

4) Make mirror margins

Each page of a book has a side that goes into the center of the book where its bound, and a side that is on the edge. The bound side needs more space, but which side (left or right) that’s on depends on what page number you’re on (odd or even.) So you have to go into settings and select “Mirror Margins” for it to know you’re switching sides for each page number.

I found it was recommended to do .5″ outer margin with .8″ inner margin, and the top and bottom are 1″.

5) Page and section breaks

I inserted a page break before each chapter. Then I entered a section break (odd page).

The “odd page” option means that the next chapter always starts on the right side page, not a left side page. So there’s a blank page if needed there. Some books do that, some don’t, and I couldn’t find a particular reason of one over the other, so I just chose what I liked best for this book.

Psst! The section break helps with page numbering. Don’t skip that part. 

6) Header & Footer content

Here was the tricky part. I actually had to do this 3 times to figure out, because you have to watch the “Link to Previous” button. You don’t want it linked to previous for the stuff before the story or the stuff after the story, because you usually don’t put page numbers there.

Next you make sure you have “Different first page” and “Different odd & even pages” checked also.

You can of course copy whatever book you like with what you want style-wise.

For the first page, I put just the page number in the center of the footer. No header, which detracts from the Chapter title.

Then for the other pages, I had no footer, only the header. Odd pages had the page number and my name on the right side (the edge of the book), and even pages had the page number and the book title on the left side (the other edge of the book).

7) Make chapter names style the Header style

Those Style options in Word aren’t just handy dandy ideas for you to use. You can actually change them to be whatever style you want. So change the Header style to be whatever your Chapter titles formatting will be. Then make all your chapters that Header style. That will allow for the chapter titles to automatically be pulled into the Table of Contents page.

8) Make proper spacing between chapter title and story content

It’s not like the chapter title is actually at the tippy-top of the page and the story content right underneath. There’s a whole chunk of space to make the title stand out and give the reader some breathing room. Once again, look at some books and see what seems right to you. I just played around with it until it looked right.

Psst! This is another item you can play around with to get rid of lonesome words or lines on the last page of a chapter.

9) Insert Table of Contents

This should be more or less as simple as choosing Insert Table of Contents and deciding what that formatting will be. The chapters should automatically drop in from the above steps. And then make sure you choose the option to update page numbers if you make any changes to the document after inserting the Table of Contents, because it won’t automatically update. It won’t do anything until you click the button for it to update.

 

I think that covers all or at least most of how I designed the book.

  • Anything I missed or did wrong?
  • Anything you’re doing differently?
  • What are you currently researching for your book design?

Let me know in the comments below.

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for the Writers

My 6 step process to editing a book

 

I passed the writing phase for “I Know You Like a Murder” and was on to the editing phase. When asking writers further along in the writing journey, I found that most don’t have a step-by-step system for their editing, they just read through and edit whatever they see needs fixed.

I collected a list of editing resources for everyone who might need it, and then I set out on figuring out my editing system. This isn’t necessarily the best system and it’s not necessarily the one that will work for you, but this is a first step for me – and maybe for you – to finding the system that works for us as individuals.

Note: The items I link to in this post are free online resources. Though some have paid options, I used the free version and it was very helpful. 

1) Edit what I already know needs fixing

When we’re writing, we’re supposed to just keep writing. Not stop and edit as we go. And inevitably as I go I realize there’s something that doesn’t work for the story that I need to change a couple chapters back or whatever. So while I write, I make note of it on my Trello board (a great free task manager system, check it out). So my first step in the editing process is going to that Trello board and seeing what needs done, then doing it. Easy peasy.

2) Edit what’s boring

It’s more than just what’s boring, but that’s what I’ve found is easiest to track what I’m wanting to change. I read through the story and think – where am I bored? Where does the plot fall flat, or the characters get annoying, or the wording just not interest me? Those parts I change, or even remove. Then I re-read through the story again with this new draft and ask again – where am I bored?

3) Get rid of blehh words

Then I look at my list of most frequently used words. I do this right in my Scrivener software (this costs money, but you can do this step for free with this online text analyzer).

You’ll see “the” “and” and “a” used alot of course. But look for other boring words, words that suggest lazy writing. For me, “was”, “get”, and “here”, were much overused and I found myself changing those sentences alot. But I spent an entire day going through the list of boring words to see which ones were actually problematic. Besides that, look for words you overuse that maybe you don’t want to – maybe you describe everything as “glorious” and you should switch it up to “magnificent” or “stunning.” Or maybe you just need to find some way to show it’s glorious without telling the reader 😉

Another thing to look for is something your narrator or protagonist wouldn’t use personality-wise. For instance, my narrator used “maybe” alot in her sentences. Only, that’s not the narrator’s character at all. My narrator is actually very forceful, hyperbole, over-the-top, absolute. Not wishy-washy “maybe”ing around the statements. So I took out alot of “maybe” too.

4) Hemingway Editor time

This may have been my favorite tool I found. I check the readability grade isn’t ridiculously high for some obscure word. And I see all these potential sentence-level problems color-coded that I can look through and change as needed.

5) Use that program spell-checker

Hey, I might miss something. In fact, I say “alot” alot instead of “a lot.” You probably noticed 😉 That’s where Scrivener or Microsoft Word’s spell-checker comes in handy. I quickly run through it and make sure I didn’t miss anything grammar or spelling related.

6) Hear someone else read it

Maybe you don’t have a person to read it, and that’s fine, because you can have a robot read it. It’s like Siri but for your book 🙂 Maybe this step should have come earlier, but I wanted to save this as my final fail-safe type step. I think it’s perfect, now let’s see if it is. Let’s hear someone else read it. Let’s see where it sounds awkward or jumbled, and let’s see what I wouldn’t want to hear someone else reading. Then of course I changed whatever felt weird there.


 

And that’s it. After that, I got ready to send the book to beta readers. I’ll do a post about that “got ready” part, because that wasn’t particularly simple.

What’s your steps for editing or resources you use? Would love to hear in the comments below.

Central IL

Ignite Peoria & 500 wishes

Ignite Peoria is a creative arts event in my city. It’s happened a few years now, but this was my first year attending.

Of course I had to dress creatively for the event, and had to get a picture of my fun outfit:

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It’s not quite like most creative arts fairs where you attend and look at artists booths and buy so many beautiful things. It has that aspect, but it’s more interactive.  There’s speakers and performances. My friend Kim and I enjoyed learning about whips – and of course discussed how to implement that into our stories 🙂

I don’t actually know how many people attended and hung wishes on the tree, but about 1000 were “Interested” in the event on Facebook, and about 500 clicked “Attending” on the Facebook event. So I figure 500 is a good estimate.

As you entered the event, there was a breathtaking display with a Wishing Tree and tables and tables of trinkets to create a visual representation of your hopes and dreams:

 

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Kim and I created our trinkets and hung them, but the end result of so many Peoria wishes was stunning:

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All in all, we had a blast and can’t wait til next year. We met some great people and had a great time exploring so many of the art forms:

 

Oh, and of course there was this gorgeous floral backdrop, and Kim insisted “We have to get a picture of the back of your head there!” She knows my brand, and let that be a branding lesson for you all 😉 haha

 

Mental Health

For the ones who cry too much, even if that’s only me

Let me tell you a story.

Credit: It’s a short story within “The Nobodies Album.” That book itself is a novel, with a small collection of short stories throughout that build on the theme of the actual novel. And I’m going to completely go all spoiler on one of the short stories, but there is no spoiler for the novel as a whole. This short story alone is really a great look at humanity, and worth the entire cost of the book I promise.

It’s called “The Human Slice”, about a world where everyone forgets all the unhappy memories. No one knows why. But the rare few who remember, those people are called The Heavies, because they’re such downers! Why would anyone want to bring up the unhappy past?

One family had a trauma just before the memories were taken – a toddler dying. But the family forgets, and only the grandma remembers, the only Heavy. The grandma reminds them of their past, and they all have various feelings of hearing it – some wanting to live in blissful ignorance, some wanting to know like really know their own past as their own. As this short story progresses, we find out a lone granddaughter remembers too, and is simply pretending to be like everybody else. Happy. Blissful. Forgetful.

When they visit the scene of the accident, the grandma finds the girl in tears. It’s almost like a reuniting for them. They are once again together to suffer their grief, no longer in it alone. It’s hopeful. They can finally chat about the memories together, work through it together. And then, the ending. The granddaughter wakes up to breakfast and asks grandma – “Will you take me to put flowers on Jonah’s grave?” and grandma says, “Who’s Jonah?”

Boom! What an ending! She forgot, ya’ll! I rarely have the urge to throw a book across the room, but I was so close with that. SO GOOD! and so terrifying. The granddaughter finally admits her secret and has a companion to grieve with, and the memories are taken from yet another! Which leads us to think “poor granddaughter” of course, but also what is going on in the world and will it not stop until no sad memory is left?


 

So why am I telling you this tragically beautiful story? Because sometimes I forget that pain isn’t the end. That sorrow being taken away isn’t the answer.

The story brings up so many quandaries, of people no longer knowing what dangers they have encountered. Kids punch other kids and say “It’s okay, they won’t remember it later.” Students don’t remember the sad parts of history to take the test, but obviously repercussions go further than that. An abused wife would never remember to hide from her husband and call 911. A teenager would consider getting back together with the boyfriend who cheated on her.

Sometimes sorrow is a protector.

But also, sometimes sorrow is proof you’re living, proof you’re human.

The mother in the above story kept asking to be retold the story of her toddler, because she couldn’t remember her own son. Every morning she’d awake having forgotten again. She’d forgotten something so much a part of her. She couldn’t move on, because she didn’t have a memory to return to.


 

I’m an introspective, intuitive, analytical, and emotional person. I cry too easily, I hurt too easily. And sometimes I just want a break.

I once apologized to my boyfriend – “Sorry. Most people wouldn’t cry over something so little.” I don’t remember what it was I was crying about then, but I’m sure it was true. I’ve cried over him having only refrigerated butter instead of room temperature, so case in point.

You know what he said? “Maybe other people should. Maybe you’re supposed to feel this much and you’ve got it right.”

I don’t necessarily agree with him – I remember quite distinctly thinking “No, absolutely no one should cry because [insert ridiculous reason here.]” But he was thoughtful, and he did have a point.

That it’s okay to feel, even alot. And I shouldn’t wish it away for the world, because it’s a part of living.

for the Creatives

The super simple way to build your creative community

Sure, some of it is luck and location, but most of it is YOU.

There are creatives out there, I guarantee it. They just need someone to call them out and make it happen. That someone can be you.

That someone has been me. Unintentionally, I just kind of stumbled upon it.

This is simple, but it is not instantaneous. Each step is important, and it’s kind of a snowball effect.

The more you do this, the more it grows until you have your avalanche of an arts community.

But it’s so simple,  you can get started today, I promise.

(I’ll be taking this from the angle of writing, since that’s my experience, but this applies to any type of creativity.)

  1. Talk about your creating ALOT.
  2. But not like spammy, sales-pitchy, or over-excessive. It’s not all about you.
  3. Examples:
    • “How are you?” “Great, I had a breakthrough in my writing last night and am excited for my story!”
    • “Sorry, I can’t make it that day. That’s my writing day. Can we do Thursday?”
    • “What ya got going on this weekend?” “Trying to figure out the next part of my story… Here’s where I’m stuck. Any ideas?”
    • “Nice to meet you! What do you do in your free time?” “I enjoy writing. I blog and I’m working on a novel I hope to one day publish.”
  4. See, non-spammy, normal conversation. Don’t get too chatty about it unless they keep prodding.
  5. (Psst! You can do this in person or on social media.)

Your results from this will vary, but here’s a few responses you’ll encounter:

  • The more you do this, the more you’ll find people who say: “How cool, I like to write, I just never have the time” – or insert some other excuse…. Not quite your writing community you’re looking for, I know.
  • Occasionally you may get lucky and find a committed writer too.
  • You’ll also stumble upon people who bring up their non-writing creative pursuits. More creative community, woohoo!
  • And you’ll also stumble upon people who say, “Oh cool, I know my sister/son/friend/acquaintance writes too.” Let them know they’ll have to introduce you sometime so you can chat writing with each other.

So the next step for all of these responses you get:

  1. Talk about THEIR creative pursuits. 
  2. (Psst! This can also be in person or on social media.)
  3. You just got them to open up about their creativity, whether it’s consistent or not.
  4. Ask what they’re working on.
  5. Ask how it’s going.
  6. If they “don’t have time”, ask how they can make time.
  7. Ask them what their goal is for this week – can they write for 15 minutes tonight? Tomorrow? this weekend?
  8. Come up with a joint goal – “Tell you what – I’ll write 15 minutes tonight and you write 15 minutes tonight; then tomorrow we have to tell each other how it went.” Or “Tell you what, let’s both write a short story this month and share it with each other next time we get coffee.”
  9. Hold them to their goals. Encourage them. Keep them going.
  10. Be fascinated about their project and their success.
  11. Listen. Most of this is listen.
  12. When relevant, bring up your work, but that’s not the point. Their work is the point. Keep them going.

And the final step. How does this help you? You’re looking for people to hold you accountable to your goals, not vise versa. You don’t need more slackers to deal with you may say.

But here’s the secrets. You know all the above stuff. It’s super simple. But the most important part is here,  your mindset.

You see, you can’t do the above stuff well without writing yourself. Here’s why:

  1. You can’t talk about writing all the time if you’re not writing to begin with.
  2. The more you talk about writing, the more people know you’re a writer and expect you to be writing. Even non-creatives may latch onto your story and want updates.
  3. The more people ask about your writing, the more accountable you are to having to write consistently.
  4. As you start encouraging and motivating other creatives to keep writing, you’ll realize you can’t tell them they should be writing this week if you’re not writing this week too.
  5. #Protip: the more you have joint goals – sharing a story in a month or writing for 15 minutes together – the more you benefit from this.
  6. If you slack off, they’ll realize they can slack off, and your encouragement and motivation will be diluted. “Oh you didn’t write this week? Me either, that’s okay, we’ll hit it next time…” Only you don’t hit it next time, because you know you’ll both slack off every so often – which turns into semi-regularly – which turns into regularly until you just stop writing all together. Stop that cycle right now! Be consistent so your motivation to others has potency.

Some of those people you’re encouraging will seep through. They’ll keep going because you’re inspiring them. And they’ll care about you. Because you know stuff and you do stuff, and you think they’re worth the time (because – reminder – THEY ARE!)

And voila – you’ve built a community of creatives that keep you going and that you keep them going. It’s a beautiful thing.

Art is happening. And now you’re a part of that.

 

Musings of a Creative

The other side of TSwift’s video

I’m not even a huge fan of Taylor Swift, and yet I find myself blogging and defending her for the second time. I should be spending this time gushing over Gaga or squealing over Sia, but no.

Lots of people – almost every Tweet or article I see – is upset with Taylor over her new song “Look What You Made Me Do.”

 

Yes, as plenty of people have brought up, there are issues with this video. We’ve probably all seen those problems spelled out multiple times, so I won’t rehash them here, but Google or Twitter it if you’re curious.

But here’s the other side of things:

1) Taylor knows what Taylor’s doin

It’s not like she released this video and was shocked by the backlash. Someone somewhere down the line saw this coming and gave the warning cry, but more than that I’d actually bet that it was intentionally planned by Taylor and her PR team to create a controversial song in the first place. Not like “Oops, we didn’t realize this was a problem, how do we fix it?”

Instead of boycotting her, people hear it’s a problematic song and what do they do? They watch it, they talk about it, Tweet about it, blog about it (case in point 🙂 ).  And even bad press is good press. There’s more hype about her new CD than if she had released a cutesy song like “You Belong with Me” or even “Blank Space”.

Taylor even alludes to this in her song. That you can do what you want, even talk crap about her, but she’ll only always come out on top. She knows this. She’s calculated this when she created the song. The backlash only delivers more proof that her song is true.

2) Don’t even think this is about Kanye

I mean, it is about Kanye, but he’s only a small small piece of this. She’s talking to all the people who have trashtalked her and will trashtalk her. She’s saying she’s come out on top no matter what reputation we’ve given her. Kanye wasn’t a problem with all of those previous renditions of Taylor. Kanye wasn’t the one who mocked those identities of hers. This song is more big than any one person, it’s an anthem of hers. Like Katy Perry’s “Roar”:

“I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath / Scared to rock the boat and make a mess / So I sat quietly, agreed politely….You held me down, but I got up / Already brushing off the dust.” Sound familiar?

3) I see the lyrics “Look what you made me do” differently

One of the biggest objections to the song is the refrain “Look what you made me do”, a common phrase for victim blaming. Not exactly appropriate for playing the victim or for taking responsibility for your own actions. Kind of manipulative.

I see that side of it. But the side I first saw was this:

I thought Taylor was taking back her voice in the “narrative”, taking back that line so often used against victims. In essence saying, “Look what you made me do” is usually said after doing damage. But I’m choosing to be better than that. “Look what you made me do,” as in I just keep reinventing myself and becoming better and not letting you get to me. That’s why you see in the video all the different Taylors, all the different insults thrown their way, and how she just keeps morphing into a different Taylor and has withstood the mockeries.

We’ve seen lots of songs with that anthem, of not letting what others have done to hurt us get to us. I immediately thought of “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera.

There’s also “Stronger”, and just look at the video similarities.

 

I saw Taylor’s video as a message of empowerment and agency. Saying “I can handle the backlash. I will grow, I will improve, I will come out stronger no matter what you throw at me.”

She wasn’t physically attacking Kanye or any person in the video – she simply was transforming herself to improve and overcome. For an abuser, “Look what you made me do” usually refers to damage of some sort. But for Taylor’s video, “Look what you made me do” seems to be simply this – become better, become stronger.

Did she deliver that message successfully? Maybe or maybe not, but I think that was what she was going for. I will admit that the vandalism detracts from that message a bit, so I could be wrong.

4) We make Taylor out to be too emotional for doing what others are applauded for

Taylor’s video director Tweeted this in response to the backlash:

and I think he’s a little bit right. But it’s more than that, too. Even more than the guy/girl dynamic.

  • We applaud Adele for her emotional vulnerability, while accuse Taylor of being a mean girl or jilted lover for her regular songs about exes.
  • We applaud messages of female empowerment and speaking up for yourself, but when Taylor releases a response that says “I’m coming out on top of this”, we say “Tone it down, don’t be so bitter, maybe have a little forgiveness and move on.”
  • I mean, Carrie Underwood sang about vandalizing the guy’s car and that’s a popular song still, but God forbid Taylor get a little upset.

It’s funny how Taylor is simultaneously the beloved all-American girl and also she can do no right.

So yes, maybe talk about the victim blaming lyric issue or the racial dynamic of the song, but let’s not ask Taylor to be the nice girl every second when emotional depth and nuance is what we love most about songs.

 

Okay, I’m kind of nervous about responses, because I’m sure I missed something 🙂 but if you have a response I’d love to hear it in the comments. Just remember there’s a human on the other side of the computer screen. 

Musings of a Creative, Relationships

Something better than a chai latte

You might remember me telling you about my recent terrible horrible no-good very-bad day.

And it all started with a broken mug, which the chai latte warned me about but I didn’t take heed. (Yes, chai lattes talk to me. Don’t they speak to you?)

 

Question: What is better than something that warns of imminent doom?

Answer: Someone who restores the broken, replaces the ruins, brings hope anew. Okay, fine, answer is my boyfriend. 

Who scoured the Google-verse to find a mug in Scotland that would sell in $$ and ship to America.

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And that’s how I have my scunnered mug back and I’m not in the least bit scunnered about it 😉

I’m so glad to have known this man for 2 years now….