I finished another novel, in draft, during November. It turned out to be my twelfth year of participation in National Novel Writing Month; I think I'd thought it was ten years. I hope my writing's getting better, generally, but this year, I'm learning how to write an e-book.
Silly me, I thought it was the same as writing a print book. I guess in some ways it is: you need to put quite a few words in a sensible order; you need an appropriate balance of exposition and dialogue (and you need to know/be consistent in how you spell words like dialogue, and prologue, and epilogue, and not mix up using the ue or not ...). (Not to mention that you have to resolve for yourself the question of whether to have prologues and/or epilogues; in novels, you pretty much have to include dialogue.) But there are differences, and they are significant.
In a print book, an author has good control over which words appear on which pages, and over line-breaks and spaces between paragraphs, and fonts. Sure, sometimes you have to remonstrate with your conversion-to-PDF programs, but once you get those issues settled, it's up to the author how the book looks. Not so, way not so, when we're talking about an e-book.
The conversion programs are just as quirky, and that includes their reluctance to recognize/accept embedded fonts. With enough patience, it is often - not always, but often - possible to persuade the conversion programs to cooperate.
I am fine with making my paragraphs shorter, because 'pads and tablets are sometimes narrower than the pages of a paperback, so paragraphs present as longer on a screen than they might on a bound page. I can just about keep the indentations consistent, too, because you kind of can teach an old author new tricks. (I am well-trained to leave just one space after a period now, and it really didn't take me too long to get out of the habit of tapping the space bar twice.) But there is no way for an author to control font size! Aaurgh!
As a reader, I love being able to change the font size. As a writer, I am less enamored of that option. I'll give you an example. My "post-Arthurian fantasy," Mere Mortals' Magic, includes epigraphs at the head of each chapter. They are Italicized (no problem) and centered . . . as long as the reader doesn't take the font beyond size 3. I'm fine with making sure the line breaks accommodate size 3. Beyond that, however, I cannot take responsibility. Beyond that, even the chapter headings (Chapter One - Mordrath the Magician) get mangled. Chapter One - Mordrath/the Magician, margins askew, looks terrible!
As much as I am learning about how to write for e-publication, I am learning how to read an e-book. As I slog through prepping my novels for e-conversion, I am becoming a kinder, gentler reader. I hope you will be too.
As I jot my musings down, I am 1317 words away from hitting National Novel Writing Month's 50,000 word mark, and taking a little break to consider what those words will be.
My characters have been surprising me, creating little corners for me to write myself out of. When I first started writing, 600 years ago, that happened all the time, and it wasn't surprising. I'd sit down to type (yeah, I started on a manual) with a cool name for my character and a cool setting in my mind's eye, and absolutely no notion of a plot. It was all very - well, slice of life if I'm kind to myself, and wretched if I'm honest.
Since then I have learned (I think) to plot first and introduce characters later. Thinking up names for my pro- and antagonists is now a reward for getting at least the bare bones of a plot laid out. (I won't say "outlined," 'cause I know that some people cringe at that word; but if it slips in, know that I'm not talking about the I. A. 1. a. outline that is for organizing already manifest thoughts. My "outlines" have a lot of *s and cross-outs. But I digress.) Sometimes in the middle of filling in the story, I have a better idea and change it's direction. When that happens, I usually make new notes.
My notes for this year's NaNo project were half a printed page, and ended with "After that they go ahead with [First Protagonist's] dream of touring America, and off they go into the sunset." For the first time, maybe, I think that is literally how this draft will end, with two of the protagonists going off into the sunset. The other few paragraphs of my notes were very sketchy, but did not include four other characters who have appeared and made themselves quite prominent.
They have challenged me to learn all kinds of things about their lives and times ... and as I take time out to write this, I think I can hear them chuckling at me from their various vantage points. Taking lead among the laughter is that of the character who asserted a notion that neither my First Protagonist nor I had ever considered. First Protagonist and I both had to take a short break to wrap our heads around it!
I am happy to take my characters' ideas into consideration. My left brain says I'd better be, because they are, after all, aspects of my own layers of consciousness, and, because I mostly write alone, offering the only help I'm likely to get. My right brain thinks it's a little too much like a house guest rearranging the living room furniture, and is not being entirely gracious about it. In my efforts to reach 50,000 words by wine-and-cheese thirty today (NaNo says I have until midnight on November 30th), I'll take all the help I can get, even if it means rearranging some tables and chairs. Next year, however, I will endeavor to make more detailed notes.
So, the consequences of my own action - well, inaction, really - have come back to bite my posterior anatomy pretty hard: I failed to back up my work adequately, so when the hard drive died a malfunctioning death, I lost everything. I mean seriously, everything. My books are gone, drafts as well as completed copies; notes, outlines ... and all my pictures. Years of pictures. Now, my tech guy (aka my son) found a place that's working to recover the data, and he says they probably can (at an impressive cost, which I am more or less happy to pay), but until I actually have everything back, I don't have anything. Waiting is teaching me a lot about patience. I am an unwilling student, but trying to let the experience change me for the better.
(And yes, yes I have now signed up for a save-my-stuff service, because obviously, I cannot be trusted to back up my own data to an external hard drive. The little bit that was on it was at least two years old, and woefully incomplete. The barn door is securely shut and locked now, though.)
As some readers will know, I am a Wiccan, which means, among other things, that I use magic to augment my luck/success in the world, though not in matters which can be "controlled" by mundane means alone (like backing up your frickin' work, right?) At the moment, I am working on some magic for something I can't assure by my own actions alone - and the magic part is easy enough. It's doing what I can do mundanely that is dreary and exhausting. And yet, for the magic to work, I have to work, so here I am, spending several hours a day mundanely supporting my magic. (Nope, not gonna say what it is - 'cause I don't want to jinx it. I'll try to remember to mention it later, after it's successful.) It feels like I have been doing this for weeks, but in fact, this is only the third day. More lessons in patience. Sigh.
I don't feel like writing now - not till I know whether I have to forget everything I've already done and start over (because it would be really impossible to exactly recreate what I didn't back up), and also because I am heavily focused on the mundane aspects of the magical work right now. But ... I find it easier to be patient with my writing - looking for the right word, waiting till I'm really sure it's ready before I hit "publish," and such like. (No, that doesn't mean there are no typos in my books. It just means I missed them no matter how careful I was, even when I read it aloud backwards and stuff like they tell you to do when you're proofing your own stuff.) But patience is an important skill for a writer, so I'll trust that it's good that I'm getting some practice from the non-writing bits o' life right now.
It's just been the Autumn Equinox, a time of balance, when we're between Summer and Winter, and that, too, requires patience of us all - so I guess I'll call it all good, and hope you're finding as much patience as you need, too.
It's funny the way I watch TV. If it's a show, say a mystery, I never try to figure it out. I probably could, but I'd rather see it unfold before me, and amaze me. I want to be entertained, and thinking critically about it gets in the way. Of course, sometimes there are plot holes (using the term ever so broadly) that simply cannot be ignored, but those are much more common in commericals, which I judge much more harshly.
For example, there's one for a household cleaner in which a mom is happy to see her young son mopping the bathroom floor - until she sees him dip the mop in the toilet, at which point she "realizes" she needs to bleach the bathroom floor. Really? Really? Did the kid pee and not flush before he started? Do we think the water that refills the bowl after a flush is - sewer water? I asked Husband-man if people can possibly think so, and he answered me with a wordless "duuuh" look.
There's one for an alt-milk product that says, "Before you let something new into your house, you want to know who they are." What? I guess it's a writer thing: sure, I lapse into very casual vernacular sometimes (okay, fairly often) and unconventional constructions can show up in my conversation and my characters' conversations. But I think ad scripts (and news copy, for that matter), should apply grammatical principles. Somethings are not whos; if we try to understand it by the rules of grammar, that commercial's first sentence is a non-sequitor! And while I'm at it, what the heck does Werewolves of London have to do with either fishing or bran cereals with raisins?
We learn as writers not to, oh, change tenses mid-sentence, use unreferenced pronouns, or overuse adverbs. We learn about character development and theme and continuity of setting, plot, theme .... And the reason we learn and follow those guidelines is that ignoring them jars the reader. We do our best to make our stories clear and to reflect the truth - and if our characters' perspectives on the truth are wrong-headed, to let them suffer the consequences. In these respects, a lot of commercials (and news presentations) disappoint. (As do many books, but that's a different rant. ;-) )