Wednesday, 7 September 2016

F is for Formatting

Now this will be a real challenge, to be entertaining about a subject as dull as this. Today, I have to get into my respectables and go into the city for a meeting, so I will not have much working time - perhaps only a couple of hours. Therefore, I've chosen to work on the format of King's Ransom for the hardcover edition. The short day is a kind of built-in protection against having to work on it for hours and hours and going completely cray-cray, my dear.

First up I must take Emily for a walk, because it is quite on the cards I may not have time after I get back from the city. It's one of those rare perfect Melbourne days, and it's so tempting to stay out for the whole morning, but I resist. I further resist leaving dinner until tonight, and make my carbonara sauce ahead so that when we get home late after our class, we can hopefully eat before 9:00.

This all takes me until after ten, so I'm not getting quite the early start I had hoped, but I need not leave till twelve-thirty, so I can still get in a couple of hours, and that is likely going to be all I can stand anyway. There are no words for how much I loathe formatting, yet it is one of the most important things in a book - right after editing and actually being able to write. Nothing looks more amateurish than sloppy formatting (except sloppy proofreading).

The first thing is to justify all the text. This has to be done in sections, as there are bits of verse sprinkled into the book, which must be left as they are. Here I come up against the first really annoying thing. When I justify the text, any dividers stop being centred, so I am going to have to go through and manually centre them all again. Bah!

Next is to put in the drop caps at the beginnings of the chapters. This too is a real pain, because of my unfortunate habit of beginning with dialogue; the resulting short lines mess up the drop cap formatting so that I have to mess around fixing them manually. However, I decide to leave decisions about this until I see a printed proof. Can I procrastinate or what?

Now I must centre all the dividers. They are little rows of asterisks: ***. Suddenly I remember that I will be uploading a pdf anyway, and need not worry about fonts. I decide to replace all the asterisks with little crowns from the symbol set. It's a laborious exercise, but not difficult, and I start to relax until I remember that I haven't yet come to the headers and footers, which are always the real nightmare.

Before the headers and footers, though, there is another matter I wish to address. I think wider margins than the standard template Lulu provides will make a great improvement in the book's presentation. It takes me three quarters of an hour, with several false starts, to do this, but I think the result is justified.

I now have only forty-five minutes before I must leave for town, but it's enough to get a start on the headers, and I manage to get about three quarters of the way through before I must get ready to go out.

I get home shortly after four, and after a quick bite of lunch I have just jalf an hour left before I must get changed to go out again. Can I finish the headers and footers? Yes I can! And it's a wrap for today, with proof file created on Lulu and sent to print.

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