Monthly Archives: July 2012

What a long strange trip it’s been (part 6 Y Knot)

So anyone who has been reading the last couple of post will know how years ago I tried my hand at comics and short stories.  In 1995 things got even more interesting.  Me and my best friend Joe moved in together.  A pair of writers living in a tiny little basement apartment in a college student dominated section of Boston.  Joined by our friends Dan & Amy we formed what Joe would later refer to as the Y Knot Collective.

Whether it was doing slapstick comedy at one in the morning on the green line, stand up comedy while walking through the Boston Common.  Joe and I spent one entire year in a competition to see who could amass more rejection notices.  But more than anything else we spent time each week with the Stone Soup Poets at their home of that time TT the Bears Bar in Cambridge.  Once a week we would go and drink and smoke and be with other writers.  Sharing our inspiration and fellowship with them and they with us.

Joe began to develop for himself a reputation as a unique voice in the Boston poetry scene.  For my contribution what most people don’t realize when they meet me is that my parents raised one of the most influential and lauded poets working in America today.  Unfortunately it was not me, but the experiences that I took away from that had an amazing impact on me.  I learned more than anything the ability to take my work and present it to others without fear of what people would say.  I learned that as much as we all enjoy praise.   Criticism of any kind is more valuable than the good feelings you get from praise.

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A little bit of nuts and bolts (part 2)

This week I wanted to go over a little more of the practical end of book publishing.  This time I am going to go over my choices for one of the earliest tools that is needed in preparing a book for publication, The Style Guide.

First lets discuss what the Style Guide is.  Not all books are set up the same, but the Publisher needs to make choices about how you are going to do certain things in a book, Font, margins, spacing, indents, how numbers are presented, how chapters are numbered and broken up.  All of these are choices that need to be made in order to determine how the book will look.  And as a self-publisher what you feel will be the easiest way for your reader to understand your work.  I am going to go over not only my choices for some of the most important things in a style guide, but I will also compare them to four of my favorite authors from their works. The four books I am going to reference to are 1. Stephen King ‘Four Past Midnight’, 2. Robert B Parker ‘Double Play’, 3. Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars Novel ‘Dark Force Rising’ and 4. Harlen Coben ‘Hold Tight’.  All fours books are the hardcover editions.  Is this a definitive list of everything.  No it is not, but this will give you a good idea about the things that the publisher has to think about.

First choice: Font.  I am not going to try to verify the exact font used in each of the books mention.  I will point out that all four of them use a serif font.  So while personally I use Comic San Serif 10 point for most of the first draft or outline work I do, for my novel I have been working with Dark Courier 11 point.

Second choice: Margins.  All four books use a standard 7/8 inch margin.  So I will be matching that in my book.

Third choice: Spacing.  Here we start to see some differences in the published works and I will hazard a guess to the reasons. Both King and Zahn’s book have single line spacing.  This makes sense based on the fact that both writer styles lean heavy on large paragraph of descriptions and exposition.  Parker and Coben both use a one and a half line spacing.  Both of them lean heavily on short descriptions and dialogue, and the broader line spacing and lighter pages makes for faster reading.  With the amount of dialogue that I have found myself using in my book I am going to work with a one and half line spacing on my final manuscript.

Forth choice: Indents.  All of the books I have mentioned use a 1/8 of an inch indent, except Zahn who uses a 1/4 inch indent.  For my purposes I will be using a 1/4 inch indent.  Because I find it easier to read with the more distinct difference in starting the paragraph.

Fifth choice: Numbering.  lets just go over the choices I have made in the use of numbers in this blog.  you will notice if you look back that any number that is part of a sentence has been typed out, also the numbering for the choices were typed out, but when I numbered the books I used the numerals.  Also my measurements for the fonts and margins used numerals.  Since most of the numbers in my book will be in the sentence structure of narration or dialogue I will be writing them out in words.

Sixth choice: Chapter numbering and breaks.  King uses only three-line spacing followed by the number of the chapter written out preceded by the word chapter.  Parker has the numeral by itself one-third of the way down the page and then starts the
first paragraph another third of the page down.  Zahn has the word chapter with the numeral beneath it and starts the first paragraph one-third of the way down the page.  Coben has the number and starts the paragraph one-third of the way down the page.  I will be setting it up with two inches down the page the word chapter with the written number in Dark Courier 22 point, the line beneath it would be the name of the chapter in Dark Courier 16 point.  both centered on the page. skip three lines and begin chapter.

From all of these examples you can see that a lot of the small details that you never think about when reading a book have to be taken into consideration when you are publishing a book.

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What a long strange trip it’s been (part 5 leaving Virtue)

So I have talked a lot over the last couple of months about one of the definitive events of my life as a writer.  That was the chance that I had to meet and get to spend time with the creators of Virtue Publications at the first Philly Comic Fest.  I am going to wrap up my retelling with this installment.

Now let me start by saying that as a life long comics fan and hopeful creator, this was an amazing opportunity to be involved with a company that was starting from the ground floor.  It was truly a dream come true.  But there is nothing more lonely than being a writer without any published work sitting at a comic booth.  There is a truth to the fact that comics are a visual medium and when fans want to check out a new book from a company that they have never heard of, they are looking at the art work that is done.

So here I was with the only thing to do would be to write something to pass the time.  Unfortunately nothing is worse for my creativity than a blank page.  At this time I was still trying to refine my narrative voice by writing short stories when I was stuck on a project that I was working on.  So with only one sentence going through my head I decided to write it down on the page in order to get myself started.

“What am I doing here?”

I rolled that sentence around in my head.  I kept asking myself where would I be that this would be the most obvious thing to be going through my head.  I ran through several options but finally decided that my main character/narrator was a man sitting in the waiting room of a Ob/Gyn office.  I then asked myself why would this be a bad place to be.  The character is sitting and waiting for his wife as she gets a check-up after she has had a miscarriage of their first child.  At this point things started to flesh themselves out.  The idea that the husband and wife were not talking.  The fact that they both were holding on to anger at each other for the death of the child.  I wrote this story in probably less time than any other story I have ever written in my life.  And it was the best thing I had ever written up to that point.  It is a story about grief and anger, about punishing yourself as you lash out at the world.  And more than anything else it is about the slap in the face that wakes you up to how you have been treating those that you love the most.

I returned home at the end of the convention and immediately typed the story out on my computer and saved it, printing out a copy for me to keep.  This was the first time I had ever written something that could be considered literary fiction.  A story about people, not vigilantes or detectives.  Not Heroes and Villains.  A small story that talked about the horrible things that the characters go through on a human scale.

I really didn’t have much contact with Virtue after that.  They never did to the best of my knowledge release any issues of Ventures of the Virulent.  While I have never strayed very far from my love of speculative fiction and detective stories.  This is the point in my life that I first saw what I could do when I wrote stories about the people first.

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Do I Really Have To? (the worst part of writing)

So today I am going to discuss two of the hardest things about writing anything.  The second, yes I like to do things out-of-order, is re-writes.  You have worked on your story and have what you consider a brilliant piece of writing.  So what to do next is take it apart and completely change it.  This leads us, in my opinion, to the hardest thing about writing.  Because in order to do re-writes you must have feedback.  The dreaded constructive criticism.

Let me explain for anyone who has not had to provide me with criticism how my process works.  You read something I wrote and give it the full weight or your attention.  You carefully consider exactly what your reaction is and how you think I can make the writing better.  You write-up clear and concise notes for me to work from.  I receive your notes, avoid them for a day or two and once I get to reading them I refer to you in terms that would make a sailor blush.  I call you names, I call your mother names, I scream about how stupid you are and everyone you have ever met in your entire life.  I storm off in a huff vowing to never speak to you again.

The next day I sit down and look at your notes again, from experience about sixty to eighty percent will be good notes that help me refine what I have written.  The other twenty to forty percent will be notes that show you didn’t understand what I was saying.  I my opinion the twenty to forty percent are the more important notes.  Everybody will have different like and dislike in the way a story is written.  On this novel alone I have been told by two different first readers, both of whom I respect, that one I should include more descriptions of the places and people, setting the scene more.  The other told me they loved the fact that I was focused on the relationships between the characters and not where they were.  But the notes that show me you did not get what I was trying to convey with the writing are the ones that I want to focus on the most.  I don’t care if all of my readers agree with me, but I am not doing my job if the majority of my readers do not understand what I am saying.

Bringing this back to my work.  Last night my friend and fellow traveler Lauren who is one of my first readers gave me back the fully noted copy of my manuscript.  At one hundred forty pages with an estimated five notes average per page.  So I have about seven hundred notes to go through.  At this point I am staring at the pages and trying to ignore it like an elephant in the room.   Some time tomorrow I will go through the notes and get really pissed off.  By middle of this week I will go back through them and figure out which category each note falls into, and then by this time next week I will be ready to sit back with Lauren and go over all the notes over a few drinks.

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A little bit of Nuts and Bolts

So a lot of what I have been writing for this blog has been regarding the inspiration, and not with the process that I am going through in order to get my books published.

This week I want go over a consideration regarding getting the book ready for printing.  I need to look at getting ISBN so that Monolith can list each of the books for purchase by bookstores and libraries.

For those that do not know the ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, it signifies what country the book is published in, who the publisher is, and which version of the book it is.  Because each version of the book would have a distinct ISBN, then for PDF, ePUB, MOBI, Hard Cover & Soft Cover I would need five differant ISBN just for one book.  With a series of five books we are looking a minimum of twenty-five ISBN.  So at this point I have to consider if I will be better of buying three blocks of ten as I need them or investing in a block of one hundred in advance to publishing any books.

I won’t go through the exact math involved but just let you know it would be two hundred and fifty dollars per each ten block and for a full one hundred it would be five hundred and seventy-five dollars.  If you assume that I do print all five books in five differant version and no other books.  With three blocks of ten I can buy each of the ten as needed, so that up front cost before the first book is published is redused and allows me to move some of the expense from the begining when I haven’t sold any books to later when I have sold books to pay for expense for later books, but the per version cost will drop from thirty dollars with three blocks of ten to twenty-three dollars if I buy one hundred.  Since I want to minimize the up front cost before I release the ebook versions of the first book, I will be purchasing the ISBN in three different blocks of ten as they are needed.

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