Stay where you are

Forty-three weeks after the second day of the new year

Once again, a new story is pulling at Author’s mind. Her next story, which will become another book for you. But that doesn’t mean she is diverting her attention from the one she is preparing now. Yes, she will allow the promise of that new story, the thrilling prospect of working on it, to stay in the back of her mind. That’s always a good source of energy. But that’s all she will allow. Her full attention, her entire time, all steps of her work will remain on this, what is her next book for you. Until she has before her the two closed files of its intended publication formats, she will stay where she is and touch no other book.

And the next step is already being done. Once again for this book, Author has placed the manuscript into Indesign. But this time she didn’t do this in order to run an in-depth review. All scrutiny is done for this book. Its manuscript is in the final stages, closer than ever to completion. And although that “Yes, that’s it” feeling Author wants still eludes her, she is far from worried. It will come. Somewhere within this next step she has now started, it will come. And so no, this step is not about another review. It is about preparing the first of Author’s two publication formats. It is where Author looks at the manuscript with its publication in mind, as a soon-to-be print book, something that Indesign is perfect for. Indesign allows you to look at what you’ve written in two-page spreads, just like in a print book. It allows you to create a fixed layout, to build page after page that you will see exactly as the readers of your books will see them, from the title page to the end.

That building requires painstaking work, and some decisions that you will need to make. You will need to decide what size your book will be—there are prevailing sizes and paper types, and whoever you will choose to print your books can assist you with that. So can articles about the current trends, what readers say they like, and you too, as a reader, you will know what the convenient sizes are for a book of the type you’re writing. You will need to add to your manuscript the necessary elements for a published work, such as a title page and a copyright page—there are certain elements that are included in a book, you will have seen them in books you yourself have read. You can add a dedication, if that’s what you want, and any other content-related element you might need for what will be your published story. You will need to decide what your chapter titles will look like, what their font and font size and exact position will be. You will need to decide on the margins of your book and where the page numbers will be, and their font and font size. You will need to decide what font your words will be typed in, the full text of your story, and its size, line spacing, paragraph spacing, the first-line indents, and how you will indicate section breaks.  Seemingly small decisions that are in fact extremely significant for the final product, your published paperback.

Once these decisions are made—and you should take your time making them—you will need to go over the entire manuscript, page after page, on the screen before you, and do the finer typesetting: examine the readability of words and sentences to ensure that they are not too tight or too spaced and see where two characters might need respacing or where a word at the end of a line might need to be hyphenated, or where the ends of paragraphs and pages may need to be adjusted to ensure, to the best of your ability, that they conform with the typesetting conventions designed to provide your readers with a convenient reading experience. Author has told you in previous posts that she has read a typesetting book. When you do this step of the work on your manuscript, you’ll understand why that’s advised.

This step is where the creative makes way for the technical. As Author has told you, the creative is always there, but its part in your work process will be reduced once you reach the technical steps, where you will prepare your manuscript for publication. So where does the creativity lie in this step? When you typeset a manuscript for print, you necessarily walk through it in small steps, word-, line- and paragraph-size steps. So that essentially, you find yourself reading your manuscript again. And working this way, you just might find yourself deciding to do something only you can: change a word here and there, whether to improve your typeset layout—without hurting your story, of course—or because when you work in these tiny steps while your story is freshly completed in your mind, you just might encounter what you will perceive as imperfections—the slightest misfit with your exact intended meaning, perhaps a mismatched tone. Things that only you, the writer, will see, and that you will want to change. For your story, for yourself, and ultimately for what your readers will feel when they read your words.

This week’s tip from Author and Sister to you, the writer who is now close to publication, so close, in fact, that you might want to rush ahead: Stay where you are, don’t skip ahead to your next book, your next idea. Not yet. Finish what you need to do for the book you’re working on now. Preparing your manuscript for publication is important. It will take time and patience, but it needs to be done, you’re the best person to do it, and you’ll be glad that you’ve done it properly.

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