Friday, July 29, 2011

Formatting for Print

(If I could subtitle this post, it would be “I have found my newest nemesis: widows and orphans.”)

The family emergency that stalled my momentum a few weeks ago finally seems to be leveling out. My mother had surgery, but is back home recuperating now, and my schedule at the day job has gone more or less back to normal. This means I finally have my afternoons back to work on my novel. None too soon, either, because things at the day job aren’t going so well right now (summer is our slow season, and this particular summer is the slowest one yet), so I’m a little concerned that I may be searching for new employment soon. I hope not: I’ve been there over 10 years now, and while it’s not my dream job, I’m comfortable there and I really hate the thought of having to start over somewhere else. Of course, if I could one day write full-time, that would be ideal, but I’m a practical girl: I know most writers, even the traditionally-published ones, never reach that dream.

But enough of that. These last few days I’ve been working on formatting my book for print. I’ve decided to go with CreateSpace as my POD, and am currently converting my manuscript into an 8”x5.25” InDesign document. I love InDesign, so I’m kind of enjoying this step. Mostly.

The one downside to ID: when you cut-and-paste text from another program, such as Word or OpenOffice or, in my case, Microsoft Works, it doesn’t keep all of the formatting. Namely, the bold/italics/underline/superscript, etc. So I’m having to go through each chapter as I format to add those things back in. I’m sure I’m going to miss something, but I’m trying to be careful. Another issue I’ve run up against, which is my own damn fault, is that I used tabs to indent my paragraphs when originally writing the novel. I should have used paragraph formatting and set the first line indent rather than relying on tabs, because now that I’m in InDesign and using the first line indent setting the proper way, I have to go through each chapter and delete the tabs. Tedious!

The other thing that’s driving me nuts are the damned widows and orphans. This isn’t something you need to worry about when formatting an ebook, because there is no pagination there. The text flows from one page to the next depending on the device on which it’s being read and the size of the font the reader has chosen, so you can’t adjust for page breaks there. In print, however, you do have control over where each page breaks, which means you have to pay attention to those pesky widows and orphans.

For those who aren’t familiar with the terms, widows occur when you get a single line at the end of a paragraph wrapping onto the new page. Orphans are when a single word (or two short words) end up on a line by themselves at the end of a paragraph. Neither of these looks good, so a good publisher will adjust kerning (space between letters) to get rid of them. You can either make the kerning bigger, thereby pushing an extra word or two into that last line, or make it smaller to suck the hanging word back up to the line above. Same thing for widows, though they can be more difficult to get rid of. I’ve been finding myself instead going back to previous paragraphs where I’ve lowered the kerning to bring an orphan up and going the other direction, making the kerning bigger so the orphan and another word or two goes onto a new line, thus pushing everything after it down a row and getting rid of the widow. Or, in a few desperate situations, I’ve found long paragraphs that could be divided and made a new paragraph to push things down. Of course, doing that is a last resort, because I then have to go back into my ebook files and do the same there so the book stays the same throughout each format. There are a few spots where something about the structure of the paragraph doesn’t allow for correction without it looking really squashed or really spaced-out, so I’ve had to leave the orphan there. I hate that, but every now and then there doesn’t seem to be a way around it.

Hyphenation is another issue. At first I was using the default ID setting, but it ended up being too many hyphens, so I went back and adjusted it for fewer, which of course meant going over everything again for widows and orphans. But it was worth the extra time, because I think it looks cleaner this way. I also need to remember to watch out for hyphens at the end of a page. I don’t know if it’s accepted or not, but personally I don’t like how it looks when a page ends on a hyphen, causing the next page to begin in the middle of a word. Adjusting the kerning solves that problem as well.

One thing I am liking about the print version is I can do a proper drop cap. Now I use my pretty title font for the first letter of each chapter. I love it! I also get to pick the font I want to use, which for a font lover like me, was a lot of fun. I still wanted to stick with something standard that wouldn’t jar the reader, but it was nice to have that extra control over how my book is going to look.  In the end, I settled with Minion Pro, 11pt with 14pt leading (space between lines). It’s looking pretty nice so far. I can’t wait until it’s done and I can finally send off for my first proof. I’m ridiculously excited over the idea of holding my very own book for the first time.


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