Word on a Whim

What began as a blog about writing and publishing has become a blog of whatever I feel like writing. Jules Lucton.

Archive for the category “Life experience”

Writing under the alfluence of incohol

I have always been unusually attracted to alcohol to the extent that I must discipline myself to abstain for a while when guilt starts to override the pleasure.  I buy ‘Every Day’ vodka and, whilst I realise that’s a brand and not a prescription or a recommendation, I do find it’s the best thing for easing aches and pains or picking me up when I come home knackered and still have stuff to do. Most people I know would only have a drink with a companion, to be sociable.  I have never had a problem with drinking alone. I have been on the wagon for seventeen days and I look forward to starting to drink again at some point in the future, but with a little more reverence, and certainly not Every Day.  I don’t particularly feel healthier for not drinking … there are still days of feeling tired and crappy, which I might have put down to having one too many the night before, except I haven’t had any the night before.  Not that I do very often have a hangover these days – I am careful to get the ‘dosage’ right since ageing makes hangovers worse and longer lasting, and during the week I am conscious of early morning driving.  Maybe the aspartame and sucralose in the soft drinks I knock back to quash the cravings at my habitual drinking time are doing more harm than the alcohol?

So, where is the connection with writing?  I’m getting there but you can see how fixated I am!

Last weekend I was looking forward to starting to write my new novel.  It was the Jubilee weekend so I had two extra days off work to get stuck in and expected to have it well underway by the end of Tuesday … only it didn’t happen.  I spent hours staring at the laptop screen and then wandering off; finding no end of distractions to avoid writing.  I would rather have scrubbed the kitchen floor (it needs it) than start the new novel – but I didn’t do that either (maybe tomorrow).

Now, I’m not saying I write well when drunk – the reverse is true – but at least I would have written something. Alcohol loosens up my keyboard like it loosens some people’s tongues, and my fingers would not have been able to keep up with the flow of narrative – and I would have felt good for being on a roll and for getting so much done.  Then the next day, sober, I would have tightened it up by deleting a fair portion of superfluous waffle but at least I’d be much further on than I am now.

At least I’ve written this, on a Saturday night, without booze … so I have written something.  Hopefully I will make better progress with the book tomorrow.  I might even clean the kitchen floor.

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A new mission

I have rejected the idea of rewriting my old novels in favour of starting something new.  Freshening up the old stuff would be a much quicker way of getting some more titles on my list but I really don’t feel like going back over old ground.  A lot of it was written during dark times and, although the subject matter is not a reflection of the ‘darkness’, looking back at it stirs up memories and feelings that are unwelcome now that I am happier than ever before.  Whilst not all the chapters of ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ are entirely cheerful, I hope that the light tone of the narrative keeps the sad parts from being too heavy.

I am still at the research stage – making sure that the new story is plausible before I start writing it.  This makes me appreciate how lucky we are to have the internet with so much information so readily available.  Past projects involved Saturday morning visits to the library in a bid to get my facts right and I can still remember the satisfaction of coming home with a book that had a page or two on the subject I was researching.  Now I have too many pages than I have time to read; about any subject under the sun.  The sun is still shining.  Pity about all the flies that come with it ;<)

Appreciating modern materials

At work but away from my usual desk, I must have done some sort of nervous tucking hair behind ears manoeuvre, which resulted in my glasses flying several metres through the air and bouncing across a concrete floor.  These were new glasses (which probably explains why they weren’t in precisely the expected place on my head!) so I was particularly pleased to find they had survived the ordeal,  although  since I’d got a buy-one-get-one-free  offer it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if they had broken.  But it did make me appreciate how much lighter and tougher and probably cheaper glasses have become over the years, and it made me think about Dave – who was my boss about twenty-five years ago, who had severe myopia.  I once tried his glasses on and apart from them weighing a tonne; it was like looking through one of those bees-eye kaleidoscopes things they sell in retro toy shops.

Dave was an unknown quantity, recruited from outside.  He didn’t say much to anyone for the first week or two, so none of us quite knew what to make of him.  He was probably just ‘finding his feet’ but I warmed to the guy the first time I heard him speak.  He had left his goldfish bowl office and was ambling between the desks of our open plan department towards the exit when his fit, young secretary called him back because there was someone important on the phone.  He rolled his eyes and said, “Fucking hell, I was just going for a crap,” and back-tracked to his office to take the call.

Anyway, about the glasses.   He had called us all into his office for a meeting.  He started by asking the lads to tone down the innuendo; the school-boy humour … but there was a wasp buzzing around and people were flapping at it.  “Just ignore it,” he said.  “If you ignore it, it will ignore you.” He went on to explain that he enjoyed a joke as much as anyone, but it was going too far when no-one could say anything without it being turned into something smutty.   Then he moved on to the next item on the agenda – except he couldn’t find his agenda – it had been misplaced.  “Where’s my secretary?  I need my secretary in here.  I need my secretary screwed to the wall …”

Our raucous hilarity must have made the wasp panic.  It did a crazy circuit of the small office we were packed in, and dived for safety behind the thick lenses of Dave’s glasses.  He reacted – like anyone would – by flinging the glasses from his face so they hit the desk and shattered.  Poor Dave, he was an ‘occasional’ contact lens wearer but had to wear them for about a fortnight with streaming red eyes until his glasses were fixed.

Thank goodness for modern materials and BOGOF’S.

Who judges a book by its cover?

A short time spent researching the subject suggests that people do judge books by their covers – but the majority of these were selling their book cover design services.

Having access to a PC with Photoshop CS3 installed, I decided to try saving a few bob by making my own book cover.  I had never used Photoshop and mistakenly thought that when I opened the package it would be obvious what I was supposed to do with it.  It wasn’t.  Not to me, anyway. Fortunately, people have taken the trouble to put helpful tutorials on the internet, and after chipping away at my project over the last few weeks, I have a book cover that looks okayish on the screen.  But it has taken me far longer than I expected and has eaten into my precious writing time.  And I couldn’t reproduce it – I have no idea really how I got it to this stage.

There are in fact two covers, one for the Kindle version, which is just the front cover, and one for the paperback, which from left to right, has the back cover with the ‘blurb’, followed by the spine, followed by the front cover.

I decided to print a copy of the paperback version, and now I have a dilemma.  The small print on the back cover, which looks fine when viewed on the screen, is quite blurry on the paper.  I googled and found that other people had the same issue, and took advice on using the sharpening tools and so on, but it still looks rubbish on paper.

Could it simply be that our little inkjet printer isn’t up to the job, or is this how the cover will look when the books are delivered from the printers? Perhaps I could email my image to a printing firm and get them to print a copy on a decent printer. If this is as good as it gets my book will have a very ‘home made’ look. I would expect anyone to judge the book negatively by this cover.  I do hope I haven’t wasted my time.

Black silk underwear

Sorry, I tricked you.  This is a post about fonts ;>)

I spent some time trying to decide which would be the best font and font size for my novel.

Research on the internet into people’s preferences (for fonts!) revealed conflicting opinions.

One view was that nothing smacks so strongly of self-publishing as the Times New Roman font; yet every novel I have opened appears to be in Times New Roman – or some font with serifs.  Another opinion was that Arial should only be used for IT text books.

I learned that the idea of serifs is to make a page of text easier to read by guiding the eye across the page, whereas a font without serifs is more readable for text on computer screens. Arial was the font I had chosen to work with on my laptop, and I felt it had a more fresh and modern feel than Times New Roman, but I was swayed by the explanation of the serifs.

To get a quote from a printer you have to state the number of pages in the book, and the more pages the higher the price.  Different fonts require more or less pages, so to keep down printing costs I need to format the text into as few pages as possible but without compromising readability. So that the quote would be more accurate, I emailed a printing firm, asking if there was any particular font that worked best for digital printing, and although they did not state a preference I was told that most of their customers use Times New Roman in size 11 point.  I printed off a few A5 pages in different fonts and sizes, and this did seem the most readable, so that’s what I am going to use.

Why I am going to self-publish

Because no-one else is likely to do it for me!

‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ is not the first novel I have written, but my past efforts have been rejected.  Maybe it is simply because I write crap but unless I get published and someone else reads my work, I will never know.  This time there seems to be little opportunity for rejection, with not many publishers accepting ‘unsolicited manuscripts’ (i.e. they want to be approached via a literary agent) whilst most agents are not taking on new authors ‘at present’, or are very specific in terms of genre or location.

I did contact one Small Press (or Indie) publisher about my latest novel.  They had an online Publication Enquiry Form, which impressed me as it does seem outdated to have to send printed work through the post, with return postage if you want it back.  One question on the form perplexed me; they wanted to know, if my book was accepted for publication, how many copies of it would I wish to purchase (at a discounted rate) to sell at literary festivals and such?   Did I stand more chance of being accepted if I stated a higher number of copies?  It was also apparent that I would be expected to generate my own publicity for book sales – and they were keen to know what I was doing already to publicise my work.  Urm … nothing at all … I prefer to spend my spare time working on my current writing project.

After I had emailed the Publication Enquiry Form, and during the three months before I received a reply, I researched self-publishing and now I understand that question about the number of copies: it is cheaper, per copy, to print a large number of copies in a print-run than a small number.  As for generating my own publicity, that is the general expectation of publishers and literary agents these days.  I began to think I would be better off self-publishing.  That way (as an obsessively reliable type) I would not be letting-down anyone other than myself if the book did not sell and would not feel guilty for not attending events that were aimed at promoting sales.  However, I needn’t have worried … they were not tempted by the sample pages I was invited to submit!

And so I decided not to contact any further publishers or literary agents about this novel.  I intend to publish for Amazon Kindle, but still enjoy the feel of a ‘real’ book and would like to have a few copies in print.

But where can I store my paperbacks without the pages becoming damp and yellow?  We already keep sacks of dog food in the bedroom for want of space!  A short ‘Litho’ print-run would be expensive, so I am going for ‘Digital’ printing that seems to offer a shorter print-run at a lower price.  I get the impression I may have to compromise on print-quality; that digitally-printed books have a different look and feel from lithographic publications; but I haven’t yet seen them side by side to compare.

I will try to share my self-publishing experience here, in the hope it may be of use to anyone else who decides to take this route; although I worry I will struggle to write entertainingly about ISBN numbers, fonts and book covers …

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