Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nine Writing Things: Questions I Hate (From Non-Writers Who Mean Well)

Generally speaking, I prefer to think positive. Negative thinking has dragged me down far too much in my life and it's just easier and more pleasant to focus on nice things. However, in the year since I started this self-publishing journey in a desperate attempt to jumpstart my writing career, I've noticed a trend in questions. Specifically, I've noticed nine questions I really hate being asked. I know the askers generally mean well and I always appreciate support and interest from my family and friends... but if I never hear these questions again, it'll be too soon. In fact, I've actively avoided discussing my work with most friends and family because of these questions.

1. Where do you get your inspiration?
Where does any artist get her inspiration? From the world around her and her great big imagination. That's it. Sometimes I can narrow it to a specific thing for a specific story or scene in a story or piece of dialogue, but for the most part, it's a general mishmash of everything. Explaining this has become such a pain.

2. Do you really believe/think like Character A?
Yes. No. Maybe. I don't know. This is why writing has been called a socially-acceptable form of schizophrenia. I get to live in heads that aren't my own. Any answer I give to this question is guaranteed to get me a look like I've sprouted another head on my shoulder and the judgment can be disheartening if it comes from someone I respect.

3. How come I never knew you thought about those things?
Because it's not something I talk about, it's something I write about. Or, more negatively, because when I have tried to talk to you about those things, you blew me off because they didn't interest you. Or possibly because I didn't want to talk to you about them.

4. I'm your very conservative relative and we're not close. Tell me what your explicit book is about and where I can buy it, please.
So I wrote these books and they have a lot of sex in them. One of them even has some lesbian sex. Also I sometimes write borderline adultery. Have fun at church this Sunday! I have told my grandmother and my husband's grandmothers about my work. Awkward.

5. Where did you learn to write like that?
I read a lot and then I decided that since I liked it, I would try to write it myself. And I got pretty good at it. That's the best I can do with that question. Writing is a skill just like anything else, really.

6. How are book sales going?
It doesn't matter what I say, because you're going to give me your opinion on how to make them higher.And your opinion is probably wrong. And I really don't feel like pretending to be appreciative for your help. So I'll just mumble something and change the subject now.

7. Would you like to hear my ideas for marketing even though I don't know anything about writing/publishing/advertising?
No. No I would not. This question actually offends me. Do you think I just jumped into this without looking? Do you think I don't do research and listen to people who actually have insight? Do you think I'm not smart enough to figure it out myself? If I need your help or want your opinion, I will come ask you. But since you don't even know half of what I know about the industry (and let's face it, I don't even know very much), I think it's safe to say that I won't be asking.

8. Would you like to know what you should write next and why?
Nope. If you've got a million-dollar story idea, you write it.

9. Did you base this story on your life?
Even if I had, why would I tell you such embarrassing, intimate details? If we weren't close enough for you to know the answer to that question before you read my story, what makes you think we're close enough now?

This post has been Ellie venting. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled helpful blogging.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Miscellany: A Program, Fandom, and Work

Last week, Paperback Writer posted about Sketchup (which you can get here). I haven't really made anything with it yet, but I have played around in it, and I think once you get past the learning curve that it could be really, really useful. Probably the first "big" project I'll use it for will be to lay out the Vue de la Mer Inn, the main setting in The Guest. The free version is probably all you need if you're just going to be creating mockups for yourself/reference.

As I mentioned over the weekend, fandom has kind of taken over my free time lately. Despite the fact that I haven't gotten any "work" done, I can't complain. The thing about fandom is that it inspires creativity. It reminds you why you do what you do and what you really love and, at least for me, it helps push me back in the right direction. I remember to read the right things, watch the right things, and write the right things. If you've never thrown yourself whole-heartedly into a fandom, I recommend it.

This week here on the blog should be sort of a mish-mash. Tomorrow I have a nine things post for you and, since I really dropped the ball on reporting my book sales, you can expect two sales posts. According to my stats, a couple of regular visitors come looking for sales data, and even though my sales have been really low, transparency and help are two of the goals of this blog.

With any luck, I'll also be able to assemble the Smashwords formatting guide for OpenOffice and figure out how to offer it. Don't worry--like the official Style Guide, it'll be free.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Blog Roundup: May 21 - 27, 2012

Need a reason to quit writing? Chuck Wendig offered you 25 of them. Planning to take any?

I missed this post last time around, but Joe Konrath wrote about Agency book pricing. It's worth a read.

Missed this one, too: Starving Novelist had a post about pricing the ebook, including reasons to and not to use the $0.99 price tag.

Stella Deleuze wrote about challenging yourself, something all writers should do no matter how good they think they are.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

SitRep Saturday: When Fandom Attacks

I confess that once again I have made zero real progress on professional writing. See, I saw The Avengers last week and, well... I've been kind of immersed in fandom. Reading analysis of the movie and characters, tumblelogging pictures and memes, watching the prequel movies (I'd already seen The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, so I watched Captain America: The First Avenger and... I had every intention of seeing Thor and Iron Man 2, I did, but... Cap!), and generally fangirling with a couple of girlfriends who also saw the movie and were similarly affected.

I've always wanted to be a comic book fan because the stories and characters are right up my alley, but I can't actually read comics. They give me a headache. This is why I'm thrilled that Civil War is coming out as a prose novel.

The guilt is tempting, it really is, except I've sort of dipped my toe back into the writing fanfiction game. Maybe I shouldn't admit that here. But I'm going to, anyway, because it's actually helping. My work has been pretty generic and stunted lately, good but not really moving in the direction I feel I should be moving, and most of my attempts to jumpstart my creativity and force myself to get better have failed. I've been feeling kind of hopeless but I've pressed on because the only real way to beat this sort of thing is to just keep writing. Thinking about fanfiction has done wonders for my creativity.

In fact, I have real news about the next writing project. It's not going to be the anthology I thought it was. I drafted the first story and then just got stuck on the second one--which is a good story, I feel, but it wasn't working because of the blockage--and I was getting down about it. But I've figured it out. The last two stories of the anthology are going to be set aside until a later date and the first story, the one I've already drafted, is going to be expanded. There's more to tell than what I've told. I think I'd like to learn more about Lydia and Locke for that matter.

So, if all goes well, I'll be reporting progress on Lost and Found on Burano Island by next Saturday.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Self-Publishing: Basic Fiction Formatting for Smashwords in OpenOffice: Companion Post with Links to Templates

According to my blog stats, a few people have visited looking for a copyright page template and a Smashwords-ready document template. So here you go. That's a fully-downloadable Google doc without any of the formatting (detailed here, here, here, and here). All you have to do is change the details, insert your story, create your linked table of contents, and upload. Just verify that your formatting looks okay before you upload.

If you just want the copyright page template, you can get it for Smashwords here and for a non-Smashwords document here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Self-Publishing: Basic Fiction Formatting for Smashwords in OpenOffice (Part 4: Steps 10 - 11)

You can read the first three parts here, here, and here. This post should complete the Smashwords series. Since it has been fairly well-received, expect to see one for Kindle Direct Publishing and one for AllRomance, too.

Today, we're going to create our "extra" pages (the summary, the table of contents, acknowledgements, about the author, and also by) and then create a linked table of contents. As always, I strongly suggest consulting the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker and using this guide only as a program-specific supplement. Click on any photo to enlarge.

Step 10: Extras

Step 10a: Summary
In all of my books, I've included a summary first thing. I got the idea from someone on Twitter who lamented that she'd download free books and then forget what they're about when she got around to reading them. Not remembering what they were about meant she was less likely to read them. So I include a sort of "inside front flap" summary. You don't have to. If you choose not to, just skip this step.

In front of your copyright page, type up your summary, then do three carriage returns (no more).

Step 10b: Insert Manual Break

A manual page break won't affect the HTML or TXT files Smashwords creates, and it may not work on some devices, but I've always had excellent luck with this making the book look exactly as I want it to look. Even if the file doesn't break for a new page, the three carriage returns create space to separate the summary from the copyright page.

Step 10c: Table of Contents Page
After the summary page, you should have your title page and then your copyright page. For each of those, do the same thing: three carriage returns, insert page break. By this point, you should be on a fourth blank page. Here's where you create your table of contents. Give it a title (use the same style you used for your title page) and then add the contents list in default style. It should look something like this:

Step 10d: Acknowledgments, About the Author, Also by
These are all entirely optional pages, just as the Summary page is. If you'd like to keep your book super simple, just lead with the title and copyright pages, create a ToC that has only the story, and leave it at that. If, however, you'd like to give your thanks to those who helped you along, or your readers a chance to learn a bit about you and discover more, then this is the way to go. Marketing guides will tell you to add your website address (the full address; you can even try linking it, but I don't recommend it) and maybe even a sample of something else available for purchase.

At the end of your story, do the same as before: three carriage returns and insert manual break. This will be your acknowledgements page (or your About the Author, or Also by, or whatever it is.) Whatever you decide to do, be consistent in your formatting. If you have complete paragraphs, format the paragraphs with first line indent. If you're creating a list (of titles, for example) then leave them left-justified. Make sure you use the same header style as the other title headings in your book. This is what my "extra" pages look like:

Note that my web address is unlinked. I try to keep my hyperlinks within the book because I feel like it can get messy if you add too many.

After this is where you'd add the sample of your other available writing. You can also add more or less to this page as you desire. In one of my books, I added summaries of each story.

Step 11: Creating a Linked Table of Contents
There are several reasons to create a linked table of contents yourself. The Smashwords program won't do it for you and your book will get rejected from the premium catalog, you want to control where your readers can go easily, you want to organize your book. You really want to do this and it's really easy once you figure it out.

Step 11a: Bookmarks
First you want to create the bookmarks. These should match up with the list you already typed up on your Table of Contents page. Go to the beginning of each page, click your cursor to in front of the first letter on the page, go up to "insert" and select "bookmark."

Give your bookmark a concise, clear name.

Do this for each page that begins a section you want linked in your table of contents.

Step 11b: Hyperlinks
On your Table of Contents page, highlight each entry. Go up to "insert" then select "hyperlink."

Make sure "Document" is selected in the left part of the window that pops up, then click on the target button to the right of the Target box.

A window will appear to the right. Expand the "bookmarks" section.

You should see the list of all bookmarks you created. If you don't, or if you see duplicate links, you'll have to go back into the bookmarks box and delete/add as necessary.

Click on the bookmark that matches what you're trying to link to (in this case "summary"), click "apply" and then click "close" in the small window to the right. When you're done, the main hyperlink window should look like this:

Do this for each item on your table of contents. Go slow, take your time. When you're done, your ToC should look like this:

And this is a good time to test those links.

When you were creating bookmarks, you should have created one for the table of contents page. (Two images up, you'll see a "toc" link in my bookmarks list.) Now, while you're testing those links, highlight something on each page (on my Summary page, I use the story title; on all other pages, I use the page title heading) and create a hyperlink back to the Table of Contents.

All right. You should be ready to upload to Smashwords now. Before you do, check over your file one last time. Is it saved in a .doc format? Is the main body consistently formatted? Do all of your links work?

Does it make you proud?

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nine Writing Things: Confessions

We all have them. Our dirty little writing confessions. Well, I'm going to share some of mine today.

1. I like dialogue tags that aren't "said" and I use them wherever and however I please. I also skip dialogue tags altogether, as often as I can, because if my reader gets confused then I haven't done my job and I suck.

2. I like adverbs and, like dialogue tags that aren't "said," I use them however and wherever I please. Of course, in editing, I do a search for words that end in "-ly" and if they hurt more than they help, they get cut.

3. I actually really hate dialogue. It's so hard to write and it interrupts the interesting part of the story and it just irritates me. I hate it especially in sex scenes. In fact, if it weren't so useful, I wouldn't use it at all. It just happens to be useful for characterization and plot development.

4. I don't like naming characters. At all. For many years, I flat-out refused to do it. I only do it now because, like dialogue, it's useful. I tend to choose names from the American Social Security Administration lists unless a character names herself.

5. I don't share everything I write, I don't finish everything I write, and I love writing what I've seen referred to as "masturbatory fantasies." I am not ashamed.

6. I don't want to be a world-famous bestselling writer. I want to be a reasonably successful reliable writer, the sort of writer you can turn to when you want something specific because you know she'll deliver.

7. Sometimes I wonder why I write. It's hard, it's frustrating, it's time-consuming, it's nerve-wracking, it's exhausting. And then I remember that if I don't write, I'll have all these stories floating around in my head with nowhere to go.

8. I can't stand cliches, but sometimes they're useful. And I hate that. I prefer every word I use to be useful and I don't like relying too much on readers' understanding of linguistic cliches. Not everyone really knows what they mean and while I like a challenge in my recreational reading, I don't want to make people feel stupid.

9. I don't think I'm as good as I'll ever be. I'm always trying to get better.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Miscellany: Movies, Blogging, an Offer

Last week, I finally got to see The Avengers! (I'm one of those weird people who understands what a special treat it is for most people to go to the movies, so I don't take my kid into a crowded theater for an inappropriate film. I wish I could say the same for the family of six sitting near me.) It was absolutely wonderful. And now I have a new crush on Captain America. Go figure.

I have made exactly zero progress on the anthology, which is upsetting, but I'll live. As you can see, I managed to get yesterday's blog post done in a timely manner and today's too. Expect to see a post tomorrow (I'm going to try something new, a list feature on Tuesdays) and on Wednesday (the last of the formatting posts). Since I'm having such a hard time with this "blogging" thing, I'm going to try to add a couple of assigned days to the schedule. If I can keep it up for four to six weeks, it should catch and I should be fine. At least, that's how it worked with the three regular posts I do now.

One last thing before I go. If you are a book reviewer, especially if you're just starting a book review blog, and you're interested in reviewing one or all of my books, please let me know. I am more than happy to send you a copy or get you a coupon code for a free download at Smashwords.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Blog Roundup: May 14 - 20, 2012

Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy Chuck Wendig's take on writing and relating to an audience? Because I really enjoy it. He respects his audience, something that I think a lot of creative types tend to overlook. His 25 Ways To Earn Your Audience this week offered up ways you, as an author, can encourage your audience to be--and continue to be--your audience.

I have had a problem with over-editing in the past. Greta van der Rol posted this week about taking care when you "murder your darlings," something I think all writers should read. New writers are bombarded with so many rules to follow and told to never, ever break them. I think there's danger in becoming a serial killer of your darlings. You could lose your voice and eliminate all beauty from your work.

A Chick Who Reads reviewed Harlequin title Not Just Friends. (Her review makes me want to get the book, but that's not the point of this entry in today's post.) This is an excellent example of the usefulness of reviewing blogs to writers. You see how she mentions not trusting skinny pastry chefs and lamenting the lack of "real" women who are sexy in romance novels? This is useable. And it makes me glad I went through the extra trouble of finding a cover for Cass Gets Her Kicks that featured a woman with a little bit extra in the "wrong" places. Women generally read romance novels to escape their everyday life. Why not give them an extra touch of reality to really pull them in?

For her Tips on Thursday, Girl Who Reads wrote about the sound bite. If you review books at all, absorb the information she's giving. If you summarize your own work, or swap reviews with fellow authors, or just want to make your blog or book a little more accessible, that's a post worth reading.

James Killick favors the "treatment." Don't know what it is? Check out his post. The trouble with treatments, in my experience, is that they can be so much fun you don't get around to writing the actual story. If you do manage to get past them and start the story itself, they're incredibly useful. At least, they are to me. It's nice to have a reference in case I get lost.

One could argue that this post from Seeking the Write Life could just as easily be titled Top Ten Reasons You Need to Learn to Better Self-Edit, but that's just me. While I do agree that editors can be great things, there's really no replacement for learning to self-edit and for learning to actually think about what you're writing down.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Progress? What's Progress?

Ha, writing. What's that? I've been trying all week. I haven't had the chance to sit down in front of the computer for more than about two minutes, so I felt lucky to get that. And when I tried to think about stories, well, that didn't work, either. It has just been one of those weeks. Still, I didn't want to let Saturday pass without at least making this lame-ass blog post. I can't completely lose my groove.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Miscellany: Feeling Helpless

My neighbors across the hall are a straight couple about my age with two small children. Every night, after dinner, while she's cleaning the kitchen, he comes in and starts screaming at her. The topic varies. Sometimes he doesn't like dinner, sometimes he's angry she went grocery shopping, sometimes the kids made a mess and she didn't clean it fast enough. Every night, he screams until she and the kids start crying, and then their apartment gets very, very quiet. On Saturday night, if he stays home, he invariably starts to beat her. I can hear all of this from my apartment. I've called the police several times. She won't press charges, so there's nothing they can do. He doesn't beat the kids--he just screams at them--so child services has no reason to step in. It's awful for her, it's awful for the kids, and it's awful for the rest of us who can do nothing more than what we're already doing.

Earlier this week, the husband stopped me to chat about the kids since their youngest is about the same age as my only. The sight of this man makes my skin crawl. He disgusts me. I only barely managed to be civil and that I only did for the sake of my daughter. I couldn't justify provoking him by speaking my mind when there was a chance she would be in danger.

Today, I stopped the wife to let her know that I can hear what's going on over there and that it sounds frightening and terrible. I told her that if she ever needed anything, if she even needed to just get away, that I am almost always home. She seemed embarrassed and she laughed and explained that they "just fight a lot." I told her I didn't want to embarrass her or be rude, but I was scared for her. And then I pretended I accepted her "fighting" explanation, told her that her kids are adorable, and walked away.

There's really nothing more I can do.

I hate feeling helpless.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Blog Roundup: May 7 - 13, 2012

Chuck Wendig wrote 25 Things Writers Should Know About Mystery, particularly useful if you're a mystery or suspense writer (or you just want to write something so interesting the reader can't put it down).

Sirra made a great post on word usage. I completely agree with this post. Writers should know the definition of every single word they use, they should choose them carefully, and they should avoid overused and pet words. Of course rules can be broken... but new writers shouldn't break any rules until they learn them all.

...and that's it? What? Maybe everyone is just out enjoying the nice weather?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Slacking and Experimentation

After I finished Right This Time and the formatting post this week, I slacked. I tend to do that once I finish a story. A way to clear my head of it and get ready to throw myself into the next one.

Which is already coming along nicely, I might add. The first story is done, as I've mentioned, and all three are named. I'm looking for a title for the anthology. It bothers me that I don't already have one, but I'll get over it.

What I did do this week was go back to experimenting in fandom. I've mentioned it before, I'm sure, but I used to use fanfiction as a way to develop my skills. I learned a lot about writing, figuring out how to appeal to a target audience, and interacting with that audience in the years I spent in fandom. This week, I started testing Calibre's ability to convert files from PRC to EPUB, MOBI, LRF, PDB, and PDF. The formatting looks okay, but I'm going to play around with it more. I also started using sendspace. See, I've been thinking of opening my own store to sell my books directly. I'm trying to figure out the best way to do that. I think I'll probably end up taking a page from Tim Timebomb's book and setting up a WePay store where readers can buy the book directly and, once payment clears, provide the buyer with a direct link to download. Maybe. Like I said, I'm experimenting.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Self-Publishing: Basic Fiction Formatting for Smashwords in OpenOffice (Part 3: Steps 8 - 9)

Part 1 (steps 1 - 4) of this series is here and Part 2 (steps 5 - 7) is here. Today, we're going to create and format the copyright and title pages. Click on any image below to enlarge it.

Step 8: Copyright Page
Before I start showing you the pictures, here's the text you're going to need for your copyright page. Now, the Style Guide doesn't give you the disclaimer. It doesn't even require the License Notes, or cover photo/design credit, but I add all of these things because I think it just looks professional. It's up to you. Verify with the Style Guide what the requirements are. Feel free to copy and paste the text below and replace the placeholders with your information.

by Author

Copyright 2011 Author
All Rights Reserved

Cover Photo by Photographer
Cover Design by Designer
Smashwords Edition Month Year

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, trademarked products, events, and locations are
fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual events or persons, living or dead, are
entirely coincidental.

Smashwords Edition License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold
or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person,
please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did
not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to
Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.

Step 8a: Highlight your text, select "more..." from the formatting menu, right-click "default" and select "new..."

Step 8b: Name the new style. 

Step 8c: Set indents and spacing to 0.00"

Step 8d: Center text.

Step 8e: Select font, typeface, and size
Don't get fancy. Stick with Times New Roman in Regular and 12pt.

 This is what it should look like when you're done:

For some reason, my copyright page formatting doesn't always show up the way it should in all formats. I haven't quite figured out why that is. When it is successful, these are the steps I take. It's just the copyright page and it doesn't turn out as an eyesore (usually it just comes out left-justified, which isn't the end of the world) so I don't worry about it, but it can be vexing. I just wanted to warn you.

Step 9: Title Page

These steps are pretty much the same as for the copyright page. The only main difference is the change in text size, and that is an entirely personal decision. I go with 14pt font.


Too easy? Maybe. But I'm giving you a break. Next time, we're going to create the "extra" book pages and a linked table of contents.

Release News Update: Right This Time

As mentioned in the update a few days ago, Right This Time is available at Smashwords and it's free with coupon code AU56J until May 13.

It's also available at AllRomance, if you prefer to do your shopping there.

And it's now up at Amazon, too! US site, UK site, DE site, FR site, ES site, and IT site.

Still waiting on premium catalog approval over at Smashwords, but I'll let you know.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Miscellany: News Roundup

Time for bullet points!
  • If you're on tumblr and you're looking for a reader's blog to follow, this is me. If you're on tumblr and you have a reading/reader's blog, please let me know so I can follow you.
  • All of my books are now available at AllRomance! Cass Gets Her Kicks, The Cowboy Next Door, Better with You, Please, Sir, One Good Cowboy, and Right This Time are available in PDF, HTML, PRC, and EPUB formats.
  • I'm already about halfway through the draft of my next project, an anthology of three ~5,000 word short stories. The first one, set in Venice, is drafted... and it is good.
  • This week, I am determined to finish the formatting guide. Expect that. And a post on sales, if I can get to it.
  • Man, I want to write a zombie story. Bad.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Blog Roundup: April 30 - May 6, 2012

Chuck Wendig shared 25 Realizations Writers Need To Have. I mean, is there anything the man does know? He also posted on the touchy subject of ebook pricing. I'm a fan of reading everything I can on a subject and getting a lot of perspectives, so this was interesting to me. (I, for the record, price my books for my target audience.)

Greta van der Rol interviewed her character, Morgan, to talk about the fact that she (Ms. van der Rol) is going to write a sequel to Morgan's Choice. Is anyone else excited? I know I am!

Erotic Romance offered this short, question-filled post on "dishonest ebook returns." Here's my take: Amazon's return policy is good for both readers--who can shop with confidence knowing that if they're dissatisfied in any way that they can get their money back--and authors--who want to foster consumer confidence. If you're seeing a high number of returns, maybe it's time to check your formatting or story (and maybe even your book price). Most readers don't return books just because they don't like them. Some will, of course; pirates are everywhere. But most readers don't. (I've bought several books in the last year that I thought were just awful. And I didn't return any of them. This is a common thread among readers I know. My book returns reflect this: I see perhaps one or two returns for every 150 - 200 books sold.)

James Killick wants to tell you how to free the genius inside. I think he has some good points.

Stella Deleuze's Tip of the Week was on blogging and doing it right. She has some good points. I'd add something, though. Define your audience. I floundered for a while when I first started this blog. I'm floundering with the tumblr I just started. Define your audience as quickly as you can and write to them. That will get visitors to your blog and, maybe, readers to your books.

Clearly, I need new blogs to follow.

Release News: Right This Time

Right This Time is now available at Smashwords! Get it for FREE with coupon code AU56J until May 13.

Life is too short to spend it repressed and unsatisfied. It took twelve years for Rachel to realize that she deserved better than an empty, passionless marriage and once she did, she stopped wasting time. Divorced and ready to fulfill long-kept fantasies of thoroughly enjoyable sex, she has found a willing partner in Eric. Starting tonight, they're going to get it right this time.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

SitRep Saturday: So Close!

I am so, so close to being done with Right This Time. In fact, I finished the next-to-final editing pass last night. Today, I'll format the file, export it as a PDF, have Adobe read it to me, and make any final changes necessary before I send it to Smashwords, Amazon, and the like. Are you excited? I'm excited. Halfway through this story, I changed my whole mental approach to my writing and now, finally, I feel like I know how to get back to who I am as a writer. I figured out how to remove the mental blocks that had kept me from being totally honest. Now, things should be much easier for me.

I mean, I'm already halfway through the next project.

Stay tuned! I'll have an update for you on Right This Time and tell you where you can get it and how long it'll be free.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Self-Publishing: Basic Fiction Formatting for Smashwords in OpenOffice (Part 2: Steps 5 - 7)

In this post last week, I showed you how to get your OpenOffice text document ready for formatting. It has just now occurred to me one crucial detail I forgot to mention: When you save your file, use file extension .doc because that's the only extension Smashwords will accept.

Sorry about that. After I started formatting for Smashwords regularly, I just saved all of my text documents with the Word extension. I completely forgot that this guide is for those of you who aren't doing this regularly just yet.

Anyway, moving on. Today we're going to learn how to choose our paragraph separation method and then apply that to the text body.

You have two choices for separating your paragraphs: first line indent and block paragraph. Pick one.

In the Smashwords Style Guide, Mark Coker explains that his guide is formatted using the block paragraph method (paragraphs look like blog post paragraphs) which is "common for some non-fiction." If you're formatting a non-fiction work, especially if it has photos, and you're using block paragraph... these aren't the posts you're looking for. I've never tried formatting with block paragraphs and all of my attempts at including photos in my books haven't exactly been successful. As soon as I figure it out, expect to see a post or more on the subject. Until then, I refer you back to the Smashwords Style Guide and suggest you implement the spirit of the instructions.

First line indent is the type of paragraph separation you're probably most familiar with. Pick up any fiction book nearby and you'll see paragraphs arranged on the page without any spaces between them, just a little indent at the beginning of the first line. In school, you were probably taught to create that indent with a tab. No. Tabs are bad. Very, very bad. If you have them in your document, get rid of them now. Go ahead. I'll wait.

All done? Good. Let's get started. As before, click on any image below to enlarge.

Step 5: Default Formatting
Ctrl + A to select your text and then select "default" from the list of formatting options. This is going to normalize your text and make it easier for you to format without any surprises popping up.

This is what your default indents and spacing options should look like:

And this is what your default text options should look like:

Don't get fancy with your font choices. Stick with Times New Roman. Not only because it looks the most professional, but because the default choice will be easier for the different electronic readers to display and to convert when the e-reader has been hacked to the owner's preferences.

Step 6: Applying and Formatting First Line Indent
If you've never formatted paragraphs before, this step might be a bit cumbersome.

Step 6a: Select "More..." from the formatting menu

Step 6b: Select "first line indent" and left click; select "modify"

Step 6c: Verify indent measurements
Everything but first line should be 0. First line should be no more than 0.25" because of the different sizes of ereader screens. I like the 0.20" default setting. It looks nice and translates well to every reader I've used.

Step 6d: Verify spacing measurements
For some reason, my copy of OpenOffice defaults to 0.08" below paragraph. I haven't figured out how to change the default permanently yet, so I go in each time I use this paragraph style to change it. If you know how to make the settings permanent, please share!

It should be 0 like everything else.

Step 7: Click "OK"
Ta-da! Your paragraphs should look like this:

Next post: creating and formatting the copyright and title pages.