Monday, 4 August 2014

Friending your Formatter

I do a reasonable amount of formatting work, one way or the other. It comes with a number of problems. These problems vary on whether or not I'm looking at a short story, collection of short stories, or a novel.

Somethings make me want to gouge my own eyes out. Somethings make me want to gouge other peoples eyes out.

Quite possibly: MURDER

So you format your work according to the layout requirements of the submissions call. Sometimes "Shunn", sometimes, not.

But it's the little bits that get through to the formatter. The bits that turn a 30 minute job into a 3 hour job.

Okay, some of you are going to assume that the first thing I want to talk about is unnecessary. That is where you, like me, begin.

Assumed knowledge

I'm going to start with the Space bar. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone knows how to use the Space bar, right? Well, technically, yes. Everyone knows that the space bar puts a space in. Not everyone knows that the space bar should be used to put spaces between words, and NOTHING ELSE.

You want to put your chapter headings in the center of the page? No. Don't use the space bar. Use the alignment tools. They look something like this:

The reason this is a problem is that someone who is good at it will get the text centered well, and it's not until a formatter gets hold of it, does it become noticed.

And then pow. 30 minutes more work.

Then there's "enter" or "return". Or the lack of it.

Standard issue: At the end of a chapter, a writer will press enter multiple times to get to the next page. Yes. It does work. The problem is that:
a) when you add over a line more text to a page, the whole document gets nudged down a line, and every chapter from that point on moves down the page line by line; and
b) Kindles ignore the returns completely and you end up with an ugly book when it's uploaded.

Solution? "Page Breaks"

Take a BREAK, man... I can't believe I just said that...

It's not always in the same place, so you might have to research it for your specific software, but, press enter once at the end of your chapter, and then insert a Page Break. This tells the computer that a new page must always start after this point. No more "nudging" problems.

And interesting issue I cam up with lately was that a writer had used manual "line breaks" instead of pressing enter. It looks fine. Largely, works fine. Can't spot it in a million years. But the computer thinks it's all one paragraph. You can't format anything. You can't center the heading without centering the whole document.

Drove me batshit for hours.

Then there's the little things...

I think this comes from where a writer works in multiple different documents, and copy and pastes it all together in final draft.

But make sure your font is the same size throughout the document. The difference between 12 pt font and 11 pt font is almost nothing to the naked eye. Especially when working on a 22-inch monitor.

Transfer it to a kindle, and it sticks out. Big time.

The "Tab" key is not your friend. They're coming out. When I format, tabs all get removed, and I work solely with indentation. Now the writer doesn't need to worry about that. I expect people to be using the tab key to indent first lines of paragraphs. But don't use it for anything else. Don't use it for alignment! (and from this point see: Space bar)

Just these little things make everything easier. It makes us poor underpaid formatters happy. A little glimmer of hope in our other wise frustrating existences. 

Oh, and here's the latest trailer for Small Cuts to the Psyche, released September 1:

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