Brief update 4


Doing the widow/orphan dance…

I use Open Office software, have done for a decade or so. There’s probably a knack to it that I haven’t yet discovered but one of the big bugbears about self-publishing books is formatting your source document for conversion into a Lulu.com pdf for ‘camera-ready’ printing.

Two problems arise. Firstly, Open Office seems to not want you to apply settings to complete documents. My drafts are generally unformatted so if I want to insert paragraph indents for the print copy, I frequently find myself having to apply these manually: set indent for para 1, carriage return, one space, delete gap tp bring next para up, backspace, repeat until hand falls off.

The other is widow/orphan control. This is a default setting, at two lines. It means that if a paragraph breaks over a page bottom so as to leave two or one lines isolated at the bottom of one page or top of the next, the entire paragraph will be dragged over into the next page, leaving unsightly and unprofessional looking white space at the foot of a page.

It will not let me uncheck it for a whole document so I have to comb through the print copy to eliminate widow/orphan in every instance it affects my format.

Then I upload the document. This has been carefully, indeed lovingly been formatted on Lulu’s template document for the book-size I am going to use, so that the pdf they prepare will look identical to my Open Office original.

It doesn’t. They always have to reformat it. This throws the page bottoms out of alignment. I have to download the pdf, scroll through it, mark all the places where there is an unsightly and unprofessional looking white space at the foot of a page, locate it in the print copy and eliminate widow/orphan.

I then have to check that this slight shift in the text does not introduce further widow/orphan instances later in the print copy. Finally, all such things eliminated, I backtrack in the book creation process. delete the existing source document, upload the amended version, wait for a new pdf to be created, download this… and start scanning for knock-on effects.

I’m on the second round, scanning in three-chapter bursts. There are fewer instances to correct this time. I’m currently taking a break, two-thirds of the way through. Doing the widow/orphan dance.

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Brief update 3


Chapter 2 has now been tackled but, despite my reservations, there was very little that could be done. So the revised version has been pasted in to the ready-to-upload version, a short foreword has been added (now I’ve remembered which notepad it was scribbled into)and it’s done.

How do I know it’s done, given what I said about giving it a further run-through? Because it’s done. There comes a moment when you know it’s the end, because everything about the characters becomes fixed. They step outside your head and you can’t change anything about them any more.

Next step: uploading to Lulu.com.

Brief update 2


Yes, I’d not quite duplicated two scenes near the end. I’ve almost completely eradicated the first one, turning it into a false start, in which form it’s far more effective, as it enables me to layer yet another emotional eddy into the mix, whilst upping the ante on the second scene, into which I’ve spirited one line from the deleted first, once again adding another brush-stroke of nuance.

Which leaves me Chapter 2 to reconsider. And I’m wavering a bit over another look through generally, but then that starts bringing in the old question of when do you stop? It’s never going to be ‘perfect’: at what point does the energy that goes into further refinement cease to be worth it, and instead be better put to the next project?

Brief update 1


I’ve now got a more or less complete Third Draft text that’s had two passes through it from end to end, and have spent the evening preparing and formatting a print copy. But I’m holding back on uploading to Lulu.com just yet, because I want to have another look at Chapter 2, plus I think I’ve more or less duplicated two scenes, and want to re-read the first version, to see whether that can be sufficiently distinguished to warrant retaining, or, of not, to re-write or maybe just excise that scene.

That done, short of an exceedingly late brainwave, I’m left with little excuse but to go to print…

Problems with Titles


As I have mentioned, I have a problem with titles when it comes to books. I have no natural capacity for them, and whilst I’m satisfied with the titles I’ve ended up choosing for previous works, they don’t come until very late in the process, and several times the book has spent a long time under one title before I come up with the one that feels better. The first two books of the Tempus Trilogy were ‘The Infernal Device’ and ‘The Two Jacks’ for literally years.

The Legendary Semi-Autobiographical First Novel has been operating under its clearly sarcastic title for decades, and the only printed copy of that first version is under that name. It obviously isn’t going to be applicable to the final, available version, but I’ve been bereft of ideas for anything that might suit.

A few days ago, apropos of nothing, I remembered a very early Talking Heads song with a title that seemed to fit the underlying story reasonably well. I started playing around with it, with different versions and variations, trying to find something that seemed to fit.

Then I went on YouTube to play the song, which I don’t have in my collection. And I discovered I had misremembered the title, which wasn’t anything like as appropriate, indeed, it wasn’t appropriate at all. On the other hand, my misremembered version still fitted. And it had evidently come from my subconscious, where all the heavy lifting is done.

So I’m taking that as evidence that I’m on the right track, and the more I think of it, the more comfortable I become with it. Whereas Talking Heads first broke out with the single, “Love Goes to Building on Fire”, I have now titled 2017s literary project as Love Goes to Building on Sand.

Look for this title before New Year!

Work in Progress


I can’t remember when I last gave you a progress report on this year’s literary project, The Legendary Semi-Autobiographical First Novel. Probably it was around the time I completed the Second Draft, which was when I put the project to one side for a while, to get some distance from it and allow it to ‘brew’ in my subconscious (which is where most of the hard work takes place anyway).

About a month ago, I started on the Third Draft. To be honest, I found the process a bit unsatisfactory. Beyond some mainly cosmetic changes, smoother expressions, eliminating unnecessary phrases, implanting some foreshadowing, there seemed oddly little to do. A lot was done at Second Draft level, but much of that was as a response to transcribing unfamiliar work in the First Draft. I expected to do more.

But I’m cycling back through it again, and this time it feels looser, more expressive. Ages ago, I described this as being like a collaboration between me and the younger version who wrote this down to begin with, and this time I feel like the modern me is taking a fuller part in the collaboration, is not being precious about his younger colleague’s words.

I’m looking, under normal circumstances, at about another month’s work, but after tomorrow I have eleven days off work. Whilst I’m reserving two of them for bingewatching Twin Peaks – The Return, and if the weather improves on us, I may slip off to the Lakes for a day, to make up for last November’s debacle, I should be able to take at least a modest leap forward.

After this phase, I’m hoping the book will be ready for publication. It still needs a title, and I’ve started trying to come up with something. I am absolutely useless on titles, it always takes forever to come up with something that feels right. At the moment, I’m trying to develop something as a variation to a very early Talking Heads song title, which means I’m looking to insert little lines, here and there, that would link to such a possible title.

At the moment, I’m hoping to get the book into publication through Lulu.com in November at the latest: in time for my birthday if possible as that seems appropriate. As and when it’s ready, there will be notifications on here, and I’ll be expecting my two regular followers who have expressed interest to dig into their pockets. I’m not saying it will make an ideal Xmas present, but I’m going to exploit every opportunity I can!

Second Draft – and still no title


We’re still a week away from the end of June, which was the target I originally set myself for completing the transcription of the novel I wrote thirty years ago this year that I’ve long since referred to as The Legendary Semi-Autobiographical First Novel.

Well, not only did that transcription get transcribed a good long way ahead of schedule, and not only does a published paperback of that version of the story sit on my desk now, but I am still six days up and I have today completed a completely unanticipated Second Draft. And I still haven’t thought of a title for it.

The Legendary Semi-Autobiographical Second Draft is not the end of it, however. I have accomplished the most part of the things I set out to do, though there is one loose end the tying off of which I have managed to overlook, which I will rectify in due course. I know where it needs to be inserted, but it is probably not going to be enough to simply write a new section and plug in, as that chapter is already a bit top-heavy, so I’m going to have to juggle a few more things around.

For those of you interested in the process of writing itself, I have to say it’s once again been a fascinating experience. In some respects, this has been less a Second Draft than a collaborative re-write. ‘He’, being the younger me, has set the terms of the book. He has adapted the events of real life, to which he was a lot closer in time, into this fictional framework of people, place and event. Large tracts of his work needed no more than some minor neatening, a slightly smoother flow, changes in punctuation, removing redundancies: he was a lot less certain of what he had to tell the audience and this version has a lot more confidence in them.

Other sections have had to be drastically trimmed, or deleted entirely, not merely to create space for new scenes, other characters, the whole process of Second Draft rewriting where you can implant subtle references to things that will appear later. Some scenes have been rewritten entirely, sometimes to refresh them, or find a better way of expressing them, sometimes to change entirely what happens. Some things have been brought closer to the surface, so that the audience can see them where the characters can’t.

I’ve had to be careful about style. How I write has changed considerably since 1987, and I should bloody well hope so too! That has had to be dialled back upon, in order to blend more harmoniously with my collaborator. I was a lot plainer in style then, though “he” has surprised me many times with things he’s written that I could now conceive (I am yet further convinced that this is coming from somewhere in the subconscious, not from me), and whilst I’ve loosened some things up, I’ve had to stay within certain limits.

I’ve changed less than I expected to, after all this length of time, and so, after a suitable break for mental recoupment, during which time I may tinker a bit with at least one of the other half-stories that I have been unable to develop as I wished this past half-decade, we shall resume ere long for a Third Draft.

I just wish I could come up with a remotely decent title.