Articles tagged "Manuscript"

Libraries and Self-Publishing

7 min read

publishing, library, authors, readers

Libraries. A time honored monument to our desire to preserve our past and share our stories. Since people first began setting down their stories on paper, the idea of a library as both a physical place and an institution has been central to how we organize society. The details change over time, but the purpose remains the same: store and make available to the public the knowledge and stories of the past and present.

Some years ago, as the Internet worked its way into our daily lives, there was an undercurrent of fear that the usefulness of libraries might have begun to wane. The information they stored in vast stacks of books could be digitized and presented in the palm of your hand. The questions that could absorb hours of scouring books were answered in moments with a Google search.

Thankfully we know that the Internet won’t directly be replacing libraries any time soon. What the Internet revolution taught us about libraries is that the institution still serves many vital purposes in their communities. From a place to go for a new novel, to a central locale for research, libraries evolved into a hub for information, web access, and a dedicated ‘maker-space’ for do-it-yourself minded people.

Sounds like a place perfect for self-publishing, doesn’t it?

Yet self-publishing and libraries have been slow to connect in many of the ways you would expect. Happily, we can observe that trend changing, as more libraries around the world are finding ways to incorporate self-publishing. The movement to promote community involvement and foster a creative world is one shared by both libraries and self-publishers; this connection alone is reason enough to recognize the need for libraries to embrace self-publishing.

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Writer’s Toolbox: Evernote

8 min read

Evernote is a powerful note taking and organizational tool. It features a simple and easy to use word processor, but you shouldn’t begin using Evernote with the idea that you’ll craft an entire manuscript using this software. Instead, think of Evernote as a tool for recording and recalling information quickly.

Since all writer’s will have a different process and style for gathering and making sense of information, Evernote will not be for everyone. If you’re the type that needs paper notes piled high into a sort of impenetrable fortress of information on your desk, you will probably find Evernote too concise for you. Or if you already use another piece of software for writing with built in note taking options (such as Scrivener, mentioned in last week’s article), you may find Evernote unnecessary or redundant.

But if you are a writer who spends a lot of prep time and enjoys taking multi-media notes, Evernote is the tool for you.

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Writing Toolbox: Scrivener

6 min read


Scrivener is a writing focused tool developed by Literature & Latte. One may question the usefulness of having a dedicated writing tool when Microsoft Word is a perfectly serviceable word processor and features all the layout and design tools you’ll need to prepare your manuscript for publishing.

What Scrivener offers is the power of focus. Word is a diverse tool with many applications. Scrivener is a tool just for writing.

The features Scrivener offers help writers gather information into easy to access locations, and refer to information as needed during the writing process. Then it’s all about word processing.

The Basics

Scrivener is primarily a word processing tool. Sit down, limber up your fingers, and let the words pour out. That’s the primary function and use, and after only a short time using the tool, you’ll realize why Scrivener excels at this. Their word processing tool provides some options for layout, fonts, sizing, and spacing, but you’ll get the most out of Scrivener when you ignore most of that and just write. If you have a font, size, and spacing your prefer, you can easily build a template and start from there, so that each section you add will use your preset options.

I personally like to set my template to 6 x 9 and use Garamond 12 point to see an approximation of how the paragraphs will look in a print ready size. If you’re more accustom to the standard 8.5 x 11 (MS Word and Scrivener default to this size) you can always keep that sizing too. Remember, the major formatting and layout work will be done later, so don’t get hung up with settings at this point. Scrivener’s strength is in writing and word processing, with little interest in the final formatting choices.

The writing tool itself is simple and elegant. The word count runs on the bottom, and if you’re goal oriented like I am, you can set a word count target and the tool will update every few seconds so you can track your progress. I aim for 800 words a day, so when I sit down to write, I set myself a goal and Scrivener tracks my progression so I know how I’m doing and when I’ve exceeded my total. You can also set an overall target and see your progress toward completing the manuscript word count goal.

A surprisingly helpful and seemingly small feature is the “Typewriter View.” When this option is selected, the cursor and line of text you’re typing re-position to the middle of the screen when you type. Unlike MS Word’s word processor, which shifts down the page as you type and jumps to the next once the the page is full, Scrivener doesn’t care about pages as you write, and with the Typewriter View the balance of text and white space on the screen is maintained as you work. It may seem like a little thing, probably not even important enough to mention, but once you’ve used it, you’ll see how helpful it is to keep your eyes on the same level while typing. Not only did the Typewriter View help with focus while I write, it also left me feeling less strain on my eyes after prolonged writing adventures.

Scrivener is all about these little benefits to the writer. The developers clearly had writing as a focus when they created this software, and it shows in the simple tools and little elements designed specifically to enable and engage the writing process, with very little emphasis on design and layout.

Powerful Organization

Scrivener brings with it one more incredibly compelling reason to use it as your primary word processor. Organization.

Before I encountered Scrivener, I would create a file folder on my desktop, then generate a multitude of Word files and save them in this folder. This included at least one file for the main body of the work, an outline, a timeline with my word count goals, and at least four files for research. Often times the number of individual research files would exceed twenty. For a non-fiction piece, this would compromise source material, reading material, reference links, and a file with quotes copied in and sourced so I could easily use them in the body when the time came. For fiction, I would create a character worksheet for every main character, a short list of info for secondary characters, research about location(s) based on the setting of the story, and some number of theme or character trait research documents. Is my protagonist an aspiring athlete? Then I need a research page with details about that lifestyle, the work out routine, the income, the means an amateur converts to pro, etc..

By the time I finished a piece, the folder for that manuscript would be massive and often times needlessly confusing.

Scrivener does away with this. When you work in Scrivener, you’re not writing a single file, you’re working within a project. They call the project a “binder” and envisioning it this way can help clarify how it works. Your project is essentially a three-ring binder, and you’ve got dividers and labeled sections, with the various pieces stored in the correct locations. The goal here is ease of use.

The binder is managed with a column on the left, and provides nested style lists with all your content, easily organized into folders. Everything here can be customized. Design folders to suit your needs. Create templates to organize your research into coherent and easily referenced files. Add images, video, audio, and text files so you can include any and all material you think may be useful in writing your manuscript.

Once you begin to learn the ins and outs of Scrivener, you’ll find that creating custom folders and templates helps to keep you background work highly organized and accessible. Writing a scene with a secondary character you thought up a month ago? Forgot how you imagined them appearing? No worries, just expand the Character folder, click on the Character Sketch template you used when you dreamed this character up, and reference the information. Then click back to the scene you were writing and carry on!

Having important and useful information that close to hand not only saves time and gets you back to writing more quickly, but it also fosters good research and crafting habits. Your work will benefit from consistency in the earlier drafts, aiding in the editing process later.

Scrivener offers one more cool way to organize and prepare your writing. It’s called the “corkboard” and it allows authors to organize different pieces within the binder, to begin piecing together the manuscript. The most useful feature of the corkboard is the ability to add a synopsis to each element. You can write a short description or piece of reminder text for each scene or section, then organize with the corkboard to your liking. Need to move a character’s first scene to an earlier spot in the manuscript? No problem, just drag and drop the scene to the right spot on the board and the order is updated!

Cloud Power

The last key feature of Scrivener we’ll look at today is the Cloud storage design. All files for Scrivener use a unique file type and store as a folder through Dropbox. It can take a few minutes to setup and get used to accessing and saving files this way, but once you learn the process, you’ll have the protection of knowing your documents are safely stored online. No longer will you need to fear file loss because of a computer crash or any other technical difficulty.

Scrivener syncs with Dropbox automatically, and will default to backing up your project five times. This means the most recent version, plus the four previous versions, are all saved to your Dropbox for you. On top of that, you can keep your current version saved, and Scrivener will always open the most recently updated file when you load the program. And you can do this across platforms. That means I can work on my Windows machine, save the binder to Dropbox, and if I think of something I want to note or I need to look up a piece of information, I can open Scrivener on my iPhone and see the same synced version.

Cloud storage provides reliability and ease of access, while ensuring the security of your files. Yes, of course you can upload your files from any word processor to Dropbox or another Cloud storage tool, but Scrivener requires it, and in doing so makes it that much more likely that your work will consistently updated and retained.

The Next Step

Alright, you’ve got your manuscript written, and you’re ready to send it to an editor or begin formatting for print. Scrivener’s role in your writing process is likely at an end.

Once you’ve prepared the manuscript, you’ll need to compile it into a single file, and select the file type to export. This, like most features of Scrivener, is relatively easy and painless. The “Compile” command provides some options about formatting and file type, but I find it easiest to export as a basic .DOCX file and work in MS Word to perform the layout and design.

It is worth noting Scrivener can export EPUB files. You can find the instructions for EPUB export, along with a wide range of tutorials, on this page.

 

And that’s Scrivener – a tool for writers to help them write. It is a potent and simple program that will aid in productivity and streamline the research and organization phase. I encourage any serious writers, particularly those with procrastination issues like I have, to give Scrivener a try. They offer free trials on their website, so you can experiment a little before you make up your mind.

Next week we’ll conclude the Writer’s Toolbox series with a look at Evernote, a cool application that can help keep your writing (and your life) organized and on track.

Writing Toolbox: Microsoft Word

3 min read

Microsoft Office is a widely-used tool for creation, design, editing, and formatting. And Microsoft Word in particular is powerful, and being the most common word processor on the market, it is the software the majority of writers will employ. At least at some point during the writing and editing process.

MS Word is a hefty tool, and has a variety of uses for authors, from word processing, to format, to layout, to review and editing. Some authors even use Word to layout their book’s cover! With the huge variety of applications Word has, we’ll focus today on how to best use Word as a self-publishing author, the benefits and challenges of Word, and some important publishing specific tips.

To begin with, the basics. If you are completely new to Word, I encourage you to use Microsoft’s vast support literature to learn about the software. With a rudimentary understanding the tool, you can create a manuscript entirely from scratch, and prep that same file for publishing.

The first phase (writing the manuscript) is the area Word struggles the most. It’s easy to get sidetracked in layout, or to tinker with design, rather than focusing on the project. And with no stripped down focus mode, the risk of distraction is ever present. [Note – Microsoft is introducing a Focus View, and some may already have access to it, depending on their version and updates]

Where Word really shines is after you’ve written the content.

First, you’ll be editing and proofing the book. Word has a function called ‘Track Changes’ under the Review menu.

Track Changes creates a column on the right side of the document, listing any edits performed. This includes deleting or adding text, updating any existing text, new formatting, and provides the opportunity for in document notation. The notes (called ‘Comments’) allow you and your editors/proofreaders to make changes and have a conversation within the document, without making anything permanent. The file will be a true living document, and the flow of ideas can run back and forth until you settle on phrasing, organization, and other elements of the manuscripts design. If you like a change, or have acted on a comment, they can be ‘Accepted’ to remove them from the running list of Track Changes and keep the interface nice and clean.

Once you’ve got the editing done and you’re happy with the text, you’ll move on to the layout and design of the pages. This is the second piece of MS Word that brings a great deal of control and flexibility to your document.

The layout and design options are so vast, we don’t have the time to go over all of them. But really, I could write a book about all the ways you can utilize MS Word to customize and tweak your manuscript. For now, we’ll focus on a couple of necessities for printing.

The first being page size. Your file needs to be sized to match your book size. Use the ‘Layout’ menu in Word to set the page size for the entire document. I recommend doing a Select All (Command/Control + A) prior to resizing. It’s key to note that the standard US Trade size 6 x 9 is not built into Word’s page size presets, so you’ll need to add it as a custom size.

The second piece to be closely aware of are the margins. Word can automatically build in a Gutter margin for you, and align this to the correct side of the page. These controls live under the ‘Layout’ menu. MS Word has a great help section about how to set up and manage Margins.

Along with the critical layout and design tools, Word can be used to manipulate the content on the page. Breaks (both Page and Section) give you control over the positioning of content, and images can be placed in line with text, behind text, or nested with the text through Word’s ‘Picture’ menu.

Here’s a quick list of the elements most relevant to self-publishing you should familiarize yourself with:

  • Page Size
  • Margins/Gutter
  • Styles
  • Font and Line Spacing
  • Header/Footer Control
  • Breaks (Page and Section)
  • Page Numbering and Table of Contents
  • Inserting and Positioning Images

Using the variety of tools within Word, you can control the line spacing, fonts, sizing, space between paragraphs, and so much more!

 

Common Grammar Mistakes

3 min read

We all make mistakes. That’s what first drafts are for (and second…and third).

Being a self-published author, you might not have the desire or the resources to hire a professional editor or proofreader, so you’ll have to comb through the file yourself with an eye for grammar, spelling, and usage mistakes. Believe me, you should NOT be the only one looking over the file for these kinds of things. But in the end, the responsibility to ensure your book looks clean and professional falls on you.

Here’s a few grammar mistakes that get made often, particularly in early drafts, and are important to  keep an eye out for while reviewing your drafts:

1) Subject / Verb agreement

This one is usually pretty obvious, as the difference will stand out when you read the sentence. If the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular, and likewise, if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural.

Example:

Incorrect: Proofreading have been the most difficult part of editing.

Correct: Proofreading has been the most difficult part of editing.

2) Commas

We’ll cover two common problems that arise from comma use: the dreaded Oxford comma, and missing commas.

The Oxford is subject to much debate. It is the last comma found in lists, series, and compilations (see the comma after ‘series’ in this sentence? Oxford comma). In general, it is acceptable to use it or not use it as you see fit stylistically, with the exception being any instance when the meaning of the sentence is questionable without it.

Example:

With Oxford Comma: Our book is about music, dance, and culture in the 1980s.

Without Oxford Comma: Our book is about music, dance and culture in the 1980s

The Oxford comma is only critical in a sentence that needs it to make sense:

For breakfast I had eggs, toast, and orange juice – this sentence is a list of what I had for breakfast.

For breakfast I had eggs, toast and orange juice – the meaning may still be clear enough, but this is me telling toast and orange juice that I had eggs for breakfast.

Missing commas are much clearer, and are another little bit of formatting easy to miss in an early draft. Most often it is added after an introductory phrase, to break the rhythm of the sentence, and clue the reader in to the meaning, so confusion is avoided.

Example:

Incorrect: In case you didn’t notice I covered that in chapter three.

Correct: In case you didn’t notice, I covered that in chapter three.

3) Pronoun Reference

Pronoun is defined as: “a word that can function by itself as a noun phrase and that refers either to the participants in the discourse (e.g., I, you ) or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse (e.g., she, it, this ).” Because of its use to replace a noun, it is critical that the pronoun reference be clear, lest the sentence cause confusion for the reader.

Example:

Incorrect: When Fred read Jim’s assessment of the draft, he didn’t like it.

Correct: Fred didn’t like Jim’s assessment of the draft.

4) Split Infinitives

Split Infinitives refer to any phrase or sentence with “to” and the associated verb separated by another word. This will usually be an adverb. In general, there is no rule against split infinitives, but it is smart to try rewriting the sentence without the extra word (or with the extra word relocated) to see which reads better. Often times a split infinitive can break a reader’s cadence or throw them off when reading.

Example:

Split Infinitive: I’ve got to quickly read this book.

Non-Split Infinitive: I’ve got to read this book quickly.

5) Correct Words/Forms

English is a tricky language sometimes. There are numerous words that sound the same, but have different spelling and meaning. Be careful to look at these closely to be sure the correct word and form are used in all instances.

Example:

Incorrect: There taking they’re book over their!

Correct: They’re taking their book over there!

Don’t let these and other grammar pitfalls hurt your marketing plans! A clean, correct manuscript is critical to keep readers invested in your book. Readers will forgive a mistake or two, but if your book is riddled with problems that can be caught and corrected in the proofreading process, they may not be willing to buy another of your books.

 

 

 

Keep that NaNoWriMo Inspiration Alive

2 min read

Paul@Lulu

November has come and gone, but what are you planning to do with that manuscript you started for NaNoWriMo 2016?

For those who don’t know, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a “competition, challenging writers to buckle down and write 50,000 words in a month. While that might seem ambitious (1667 words a day!), for many of us it’s the perfect motivation to start a new project, complete a book, or finish up an existing project.

The organization (http://nanowrimo.org/) specifically encourages writing a novel in a month. But they’ll also be the first to tell you; writing is writing, and it’s all good! The competition is self-driven. You challenge yourself to achieve your writing goals. Support and encouragement comes from other NaNo writers striving for the same goal. I know I’m a big procrastinator (“I’m not in the right mood to write,” “Its too nice outside to write,” “I’ll just watch an episode of my favorite TV show, then I’ll write”), so the goals, the support, the word sprints (timed writing sessions with smaller word goals), as well as the imposing progress chart help keep me on track.

Eleven months out of the year, I’m happy with 5,000 words in a week. That’s good progress to me. But come November, I crank that up to almost 12,000 a week. For me, its the time of year when I start the novel I’ll be working on for the coming year. In November I aim to create a stripped down, 50,000 word version of my complete story, or to write the first portion of the story. A couple of years ago, I was so happy with my NaNoWriMo piece, I left it as a novella topping out at 55,000 in the final draft!

However you use the motivation, the real point is to be motivated! NaNoWriMo lets you update your word count (I like to check mine daily) and see the progress. Now, if you look at my chart, you’ll see I didn’t hit my goal for the month, finishing more than 10,000 words short. I don’t let this slow me down though. Because the point is just to push out as many words as possible in a month.

And now, with the competition done, its time to print that book and have a look at it. I print my manuscripts as 8.5 x 11 Coil Bound Paperbacks (for around $10.00 you can get your 50,000 word Nano script printed and shipped from Lulu). Then I can review it, make notes, make changes, and move that story to completion.

Last year’s NaNo project is today a 120,ooo word novel, its been through two full revisions, and is going through the last round of reviews before it’s ready to be called complete! All because I challenged myself to hit that 50,000 word goal last November.

That can be you too! Nanowrimo is an awesome way to get started and Lulu is here to help you take that great start and turn it into a published novel!