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.

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 book title that got the least votes, but wins

Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with politics. Let’s not go there 🙂

If you don’t follow me on other social media, you missed out on a survey to vote on the title of my short story. (I’m sorry, I actually planned on posting it here, because you’re some of my greatest fans, but I suddenly had an unplanned deadline of 24 hours, so…)

And wouldn’t you know it, the title that got fewer votes wins. 

How’s that possible you ask? In short:

Reader responses….

If you ever plan on surveying your reader base, having an open comment section can make it take more of your time, but that time may be important.

If I only had the multiple choice options, here’s what I would have seen:

 

 

The image on the left is a “Select All” question of which titles the reader might purchase. The image on the right is the “Select One” question of which title I should name my book.

Either way, that light blue color is definitely not the “winner.” I would obviously name my story off the dark blue title. Right? 

But I’d made the decision to ask the voters to plead their cause. “Why that book? Why NOT the others?” and that’s where things got interesting.

First off, I found out the Yellow title – which off the bat was actually winning the “race” – a voter informed me that title was very similar to a title of a different story. Mine sounded like a spin-off. So I deleted that option right away. (Thanks voter!)

So what were the two competing titles, you ask?

Dark blue: Memoir of a Murderer

Light blue: I Know You Like a Murder

How did I Know You Like a Murder win without winning?

Reason #1: The response of those who chose I Know You Like a Murder

You probably knew this was one of the reasons. Check it out!

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To sum up, the readers who voted for I Know You Like a Murder got it! It made them think. They’re my type of reader. “Quirky, personality, weird, unusual”, they get the vibe of my story. If you voted for this title, this may be the story you’re looking for 🙂

 

But there was another reason that pushed me to choosing I Know You Like a Murder.

Reason #2: The response of those who chose Memoir of a Murderer

Maybe you didn’t see that one coming. But first off, those who picked this title were looking for a deep internal look at a murderer. And my story isn’t that story – though that’d be a great story for someone 🙂

More than that though, their responses about I Know You Like a Murder and why they didn’t vote for it, just made me want to pick it even more. 

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  1. My protagonist is definitely patronizing
  2. Doesn’t that “I’m not sure about buying it because I don’t want people to think I like murder comment” just make you want to name the title that?
  3. “Odd.” Uhmm, yeah. If everyone thought the title was odd and wouldn’t buy it, sure, I’d want to take that into consideration. But the fact it’s odd reaches a niche audience that we’ve already seen want odd, and that’s what I’m going for, so this just confirms that THIS reader isn’t MY reader. And that’s fine 🙂
  4. My protagonist is definitely presumptuous, and this is hilarious.
  5. “I don’t like murder.” Uhmm, yes you do, in the first sentence of your response you said you found it intriguing 😉 hehe once again, doesn’t this just make you want to name it I Know You Like a Murder?

The responses showed me that if I named the story Memoir of  a Murderer, more readers might pick it up, but they’d be the wrong readers. They’d start reading and hate the story and I’d have missed my audience.

But if I named my book I Know You Like a Murder, it’ll be a smaller audience, but it’d be the right audience, that audience looking for a story like mine, that would like a story like mine. It’s my niche, my tribe, my people who get me 😉

 

Do You Like Murder [Mysteries or Writing]?

And so, that’s how it was determined that my story will be titled I Know You Like a Murder.

  • Sound interesting? Stay tuned to get your hands on it.
    Sound horrible? Mehh okay, it’s not for you. Sound off in the comments below – don’t worry, we’re still buds 🙂

Think I made the right choice, or wrong choice?

And hey, are you interested in writing Memoir of a Murderer, because it sounds like a cool story that people want to read 🙂 Have at it!

for the Writers

13 tools for editing your book

As I began editing my story, I asked a bunch of writers – either that I personally know or through Facebook writers groups – what tools they use when editing their book.

I was shocked that most didn’t have a plan or a tool…they just wing it!

I’m sure most of us would like a plan of attack. And so I give you:

Tools to edit your book

Best part: Most of these are free!

Disclaimer: I have not used most of these. This is what either other authors have recommended to me or I have found through extensive googling.  But they look great! Take what you can use and make your plan of attack. Less willy nilly…but don’t ditch the willy nilly….We all need that too 😉

 

1) Microsoft Word shortcuts – ❤ My favvie!

This writer was thoughtful enough to list out each step of her editing process and all the shortcuts or steps she takes in Word to find and fix these common errors. This is the most practical item I’ve found in my search. Use it!

2) 25 editing tips – checklist

Woohoo, I love checklists. I know where to start, what to do, and when I’m finished 🙂

3 & 4) Developmental edits – list of questions here or here

These are called checklists, but more like a list of questions to ask as you edit. Includes questions on plot, character, dialogue, style, etc. Very thorough, so if you want to catch every nuance, this is the list for you. I think I’d read my manuscript 50 times to catch all these questions haha 🙂

5) Proofreading checklist – PDF

I list editing software below, but you want to check things yourself too. For readability, grammar, punctuation, spelling – here’s that checklist.

6) Natural Reader – text to speech

Does not require download, just copy and paste your words into the website to hear your story read to you – a great way to catch errors you might accidentally gloss over if you read it silently. It’s bold claim is that it reads it in a “natural” voice, hence Natural Reader.

Also available as a free download to read from PDFs, Word, and offline.

Paid version with more features also available.

7) Readable – readability grades

Free, with premium paid version also available. Copy and paste text in, then see various grade levels on the right. Also notes adverbs, passive voice, cliches, and lengthy sentences and words.

8) Hemingway app – readability and editing

Copy and paste into the website to see grade level for readability, adverbs, passive voice, and hard to read passages. Best part: all these are color-coded 🙂 Note: in my brief test-run, spelling errors got the squiggly like Word, but punctuation errors weren’t mentioned.

9) Text Analyzer – see which words you over-use

Do you constantly say everything is “glorious” in your novel? I mean, it’s a glorious word, but you don’t want to over-use it. Copy and paste your text into this website to see which words and phrases are most common in your story. Obviously “the” and “and” and major character names will be prominent, but what else do you say that may be too much?

10) Ginger – editing software & text to speech

Just download it to your device. It’ll check spelling, grammar, and more. As far as I can tell, it’s free.

11) Grammarly – editing software

This is more popular than Ginger, at least in my circle. Whether that means it’s better or not, I can’t say. This is also a free software download.

 



*The below cost money but were recommended to me by other writers. You might want to check them out 🙂 *

12) ProWriting Aid – editing software

Free version for up to 500 words at a time. Annual cost of $40-45 if you want to edit more than that at a time.

13) EDITS System – lecture

Costs $22. Lets you know what you need to edit where.


Have any recommendations of your own? Comment below with what tools, tips, or tricks help you tackle book editing 🙂

 

Fashion, My Creative Projects

Superhero divas need a cape

Unless you’re in the Incredibles of course 🙂

When my sister said it was superhero day for my Lil Niece (world, meet niece 1 of 3), it was way past halloween and she was just going to drop by the store and look for a cape the night before. Of course they don’t have a pink batman cape readily available year-round.

Auntie to the rescue! …see, some superheroes don’t wear capes 🙂 hehe.

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We found the following quite quickly:

  • shimmery pink cloth
  • a batman birthday card with a huge batman symbol to stencil
  • fabric glue (I’m not much of a seamstress)
  • black fabric paint

Then it was just a night of cutting, gluing the seams, and painting the batman symbol. Now Lil Niece is off to the rescue!

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She didn’t win for best costume because some girl wore a cop costume and said her daddy was her superhero (yeah, sweet, cheesy, and heroic, but not superheroism…mehh…) Still Lil Niece won life with a determined mama, creative auntie, and rockin’ diva cape!  She swooped around the house to save the day and loved her cape. And I have leftover material to make a matching one for Baby Niece when she gets older. Squeal! 🙂

I love finding a creative solution in everyday life. I’m no seamstress, I’m no painter, but it doesn’t turn out bad if you try.

 

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Relationships

Practical tips for a long-distance relationship

Here’s some tips from my experience with LDR. This is how we survive the distance, things we probably wouldn’t use or do if we lived closeby.

Apps that go the distance:

  • Couple – track anniversaries, draw artwork together even when apart, “thumb kiss” where both phones vibrate when your thumbs touch the same place on your phone screen
  • Final Countdown (Apple or Android) – count down to the day you see each other again
  • Glympse – track their location as they drive to meet up with you

 

Gifts that go the distance:

  • A notebook – Josh got us a notebook last Christmas! I document our life for a few weeks and what we do together & apart, and when we see each other he takes it and has his turn. It’s neat to have it all documented. Maybe don’t bring the notebook on your first date though 😉 wait a bit haha.
  • Travel-size of your cologne/perfume – once again, this is not a first date thing. But it’s nice to spray a pillow or hoodie with your S/O scent when you can’t have them around 🙂
  • Audiobooks or comedy CD’s – for the long commutes
  • Extra car chargers, bluetooth speaker, essential oil car diffuser – anything to make the car a little more ready for that roadtrip
  • Suitcase – because I’m tired of stuffing 3 duffle bags with all my luggage

 

Finally, a reminder that goes the distance:

The long-distance is difficult to the extent that the significant other is so great. It’s one of those mathematical correlation things. See, I put it in graph form so it must be true:

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So take heart! If it’s difficult to be apart for long periods of time, that probably means you’re in a great relationship 🙂

 

Bonus tidbit: I wouldn’t have these ideas without my long-distance boyfriend of course, so I asked him what his tip would be. Answer: “Communicate alot. Talk alot when you’re apart.” We couldn’t decide if that makes it easier to be apart haha, but we definitely agreed it keeps the relationship strong while we’re apart. So do that! 🙂

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