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 “Literature”

Still proof reading ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’

I thought I had been through it with a fine tooth comb but, randomly dipping into it, I spotted a typo that sent me back to the beginning to read the whole damn thing yet again … slowly … looking at the individual words rather than combining them into something I recognised, and yes, I am picking up one or two errors that I missed the previous time, and finding it hard to believe that I missed them.  Other people’s mistakes in prose jump straight out at me!

Yesterday I found one of my characters stoking a dog instead of stroking it.  Oops!  I can’t blame the spell-checker for that one – but I do get cross with it for arguing with me all the time about apostrophe use, to the extent that I begin to doubt myself.  In the book I have frequently used it’s as an abbreviation for it is and the spell-checker keeps trying to persuade me to remove the apostrophe.  That is just one example of the spell-checker being annoying, which prompts me to be a bit too click-happy on the Ignore button, so I end up skipping some of its valid corrections.  See, I do know how to use the apostrophe!   I also know this story so well by now that I have no idea whether it’s any good or not.  I believed it was good when I had just finished writing it, but I am too close to it now to judge it – it has turned into a grammar and spelling challenge.

I only hope that when it is eventually published, people will read it and tell me honestly what they think.

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My duff cover design

Duff cover design

I thought I’d exhibit this here, since it will never be used.  If it makes anyone laugh then the time it took me to create it hasn’t been wasted!  I know it looks uninspired, but I probably would have used it if the print on the back had been okay.  The flask and champagne glass are supposed to represent Serge and Leo.  Serge has an attachment to thermos flasks and keeps one with him at all times, and Leo has had a life of celebrated success until his world falls apart.  A shattered champagne glass would have been more appropriate but I was not prepared to break the glass for the sake of my art. Well, I did consider it, but was worried about the dog’s paws – and it would probably have broken all wrong; either shattering beyond recognition or just snapping off at the stem.  I expect anyone who knew what they were doing with Photoshop would have used separate images of the flask and champagne glass and overlaid the glass over the flask at a more dramatic angle.  I simply put a coaster under the edge of the glass to tilt it as far as possible without it falling over!

I emailed the jpeg file to my chosen printing firm, Imprint Digital, asking is they could print it off on paper to see if the small print looked readable and they were good enough to print in on card and post it to me the same day.  I was most impressed with the quick and helpful response from Imprint Digital, but it confirmed the doubts I had about the quality of my file, as the writing was still blurry and pixelated despite the high-spec printer.  I was no longer able to blame my tools. Now I am glad that the print is blurred, otherwise I would have made do with it, and it’s really not very good, is it?

Loving my characters

‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ took me a long time to write, and I gradually grew to love Serge and Leo as if they were family. I would plan future chapters of the story whilst awake at night, or washing up, or stuck in traffic, and I missed them when the book was finished and they were no longer part of my daily life. The project had been shelved for months when real life events took over; resulting in some continuity issues which had to be resolved. And then, when it was all over, I wrote the synopsis!

The final proof reading is still ongoing but I’m finding I want to change things, which is annoying, as it introduces more scope for errors and I don’t want to have to go through it all again.  Particularly in the early chapters, I keep thinking Serge wouldn’t react like that, or that’s not a word that Leo would use.  I guess it’s because their personalities have developed and characteristics reinforced over the course of time, and I now know exactly what they would say or do in any situation.  Only they’re not with me any more …

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.

Proof reading my own work

It is not ideal.  I am very quick to spot other people’s typos, but I look at a paragraph of my own words and only see what I intended to write.  It does help that I finished the book a while ago, so there is a sense of re-visiting it.  The closer I am to it, the less likely I am to spot the mistakes.

I am not only checking for mistakes but also for consistencies.  Sometimes I have written ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’ with a full-stop after it and sometimes without, and there are places where the word processor has inverted the speech marks the wrong way; normally in dialogue, where the speaker’s words are interrupted, represented by a dash – or else when their words trail off … and this is more noticeable with Times New Roman than with Arial, owing to TNR being more curvy.  (Hmm.  Okay, don’t worry, I’m done with fonts!)

There are also times when I am eluded by the common name that everyone else uses for something.  I had one of my characters turning off the main road and into a ‘business complex’, which didn’t sound right.  I asked my partner, “What do you call those places with a huge car park surrounded by shops like Argos, Next, Boots and PC World and there is always a McDonald’s?”

‘Retail Park,’ he instantly replied.

Of course!  ‘Business complex’, I ask you!

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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