Thanks to K.M. Weiland for sharing this excellent guest post.
When someone mentions the phrase “classic book,” what do you think of? That mammoth copy of War & Peace you used as a doorstop all semester in your junior year? That pile of Cliff’s Notes you borrowed from the library whenever you had to write book reports? All the black and white movies you opted to watch instead of reading the books?
Many of us have negative associations with classic literature, thanks to teachers who “forced” us to read these old books when we were in less-than-appreciative frames of mind. But it’s time to shake off the negativity! Not only are the classics a treasure trove of wonderful stories about our past, present, and future, they’re also a gold mine of learning opportunities for authors.
Ten years ago, I made the commitment to read all the classics, and so far, I’ve worked my way up through the “H” authors (Hemingway and Homer are on my digital shelf at the moment). I cannot even begin to tell you how much I’ve gleaned from this commitment, both as a person and a writer. I got to kick this experiment into high gear when I was asked to write Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. Analyzing this masterpiece of literature, on more than just a superficial level, taught me more about writing than has any other single reading experience.
Want to join the fun? Here are five reasons all authors should be reading the classics: Continue reading →
Most eBook formats feel like they’ve been designed and coded by someone who’s never read an eBook, let alone written one. Not only has Dave Bricker written novels and a memoir, The Blue Monk, but he has published them on his own platform. In this week’s Author Pitch, he tells us about what he’s done that warranted chronicling and how that changed the way he lives his life.
So many writers get discouraged. This stinks. I quit.
Others are overconfident. They’ve always had “a gift for words” so they fail to submit their prose to an editor’s scrutiny.
I recently shared an email exchange with an editing client in which I gently pointed out a flaw she’d missed. She thanked me for “not making her feel like an idiot.”
Learning to write well is like learning to play an instrument; it requires practice, determination, and a song inside that wants to express itself. Though you’ve been writing and speaking your entire life, if you’ve never gone through the process of drafting and editing a narrative, you’re at the beginning of the long steep path to writing well.
If you can communicate fluidly and fluently on a day-to-day basis, speak eloquently at meetings, and organize emails into cohesive paragraphs, it’s no stretch to imagine you’re ready to “sit down and hammer out a book.” But when your editor takes your “fine work” and bloodies it up with red ink, it’s just as easy easy to feel discouraged. All this time I thought I was a good writer! Instead I’ve been advertising how incompetent I am with every email and office memo.Continue reading →
This article discusses the merits and drawbacks of HTML5 Web-Based Ebooks. It’s really a blog post in eBook form, but why talk about it when you can do it? EBooks on the web are not a proposal or a theory; they’re here. Web-based eBooks are beautiful, functional, easy-to-create, and available now to anyone with an up-to-date web browser.
Are web-based eBooks of value? Or is this another new channel that fragments the market and makes more work for publishers? Every eBook format has advantages and disadvantages. Determining which eBook format(s) are right for you depend(s) on your content, publishing goals, and standards. Leverage popular (ePub) formats to take advantage of the widest possible distribution and easy, third-party e-commerce technology. Use HTML5 eBooks for better presentation, consistent support of enhanced functionality, and building relationships directly with your readers.
Search for “one-sentence paragraph” on the Internet and you’ll mostly find questions about whether writing them is even an acceptable practice. The one-sentence paragraph is not only legal, it’s a useful and powerful literary device.
One-sentence paragraphs are common when short pieces of dialog are being exchanged, but consider the effect of serial one-sentence paragraphs in other contexts. The following excerpt from The Blue Monk describes an ocean crossing in a small wooden boat:
The PubML™ eBook platform combines a web-based eBook format with book design guidance and publishing expertise. EBook publishing is no longer a chore or an insurmountable technical challenge. PubML’s™ holistic approach educates, empowers, and inspires writers and publishers.
PubML™ EBooks – Balancing Tradition with Innovation
EBooks and popular eBookstores have been around for a while; these rely on either the ePub eBook format or some variant like Amazon’s .mobi. Publishers made a huge investment in converting their catalogs to ePub2 format for consumption on dedicated eReader devices. But after the ePub3 standard was released to enhance the capabilities of eBooks, eReader device manufacturers were slow to embrace the new standard. Without ePub3 support, publishers will naturally hesitate to deliver enhanced eBooks that won’t appear or function consistently for all readers.
The PubML™ eBook format (PubML stands for Publishing with HTML) was created to display reflowable, paginated text in the web browser, along with elegant typography, web fonts, rich media, photo footnotes, and other features. The web browser is now officially the most powerful and flexible platform for eBook display. Publishing on the free Internet offers a distribution channel that bypasses proprietary bookstore and app store commissions. PubML™ eBooks can be read online or offline. They can be viewed as hosted websites or distributed as digital downloads for local viewing.
The PubML™ Publishing tools export to both traditional ePub2 format and to PubML™ web-book format. Publishers can choose either or both.
Introducing PubML – HTML5 eBooks in Your Web Browser
The Blue Monk is an IPPY Award-winning memoir about my adventures sailing solo during the 1980s and 90s. As I worked on my manuscript, I thought about ways I could honor the places and people I’d encountered on my voyages. My research contained hundreds of maps, photos, video clips, and footnotes; I wanted to find a way to share these resources without bloating the file size or cluttering the text. As a book designer, I wanted to produce an electronic book that respected classic principles of layout and typography.
The PubML™ eBook format (Publishing with HTML) enables beautiful, rich media eBooks to be delivered where they should be—through your web browser. PubML™ eBooks combine elegant typography with reflowable, paginated text, and they offer a “third stream” alternative to proprietary bookstores and proprietary eReader devices.
The Blue Monk is much more than a demo PubML™ eBook. It’s a vivid account of setting sail in a small boat (named The Blue Monk after the Thelonious Monk composition) to find big adventure, and documentation of the untold history of Miami’s Biscayne Bay. 80 interactive maps allow readers to follow my routes and fly over remote places. 100 Photo Footnotes clarify nautical terms without adding clutter to the pages. 200 photographs and 350 video clips allow the reader to build a personal connection with people who were part of the story. The Blue Monk is a fusion of rich media and literature where hundreds of images, maps, and video are kept subordinate to the written word.
A few years ago, I attended a nonfiction-writing workshop where I was told by the instructor that to qualify as nonfiction, a work must adhere as strictly to truth as possible. But such an edict rests on the naïve assumption that truth itself is knowable. The clean, white dividing line between fiction and nonfiction is, itself, a fiction. Truth is as nebulous as fantasy.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, I spent a number of years living aboard a small sailboat, traveling through the Bahamas, crossing the Atlantic to Gibraltar, and living among a community of inspiring, colorful people who chose life afloat over terrestrial existence. I made several attempts to write my stories, and finally published my memoir twenty years later.
I began by writing individual stories, one at a time. Eventually, I had a collection of almost fifty. I placed them in mostly-chronological order and began to work them into a book with a single story arc that tied them together. Fifty stories became one big one.
For research, I dug into my past and conducted interviews with people who were “there,” some of whom I hadn’t spoken with for two decades. Opening long-closed doors was scary and exhilarating, and it revealed curious things about the nature of truth. As I asked questions, reminisced, and listened to the memories of those who shared pieces of my adventure, I found they remembered things I didn’t. I remembered things they couldn’t recall. Some of the things we both remembered, we remembered differently. “No, that was me who said that to you!” If some absolute, factual version of truth lies beneath the memories, perceptions, and other aspects of consciousness that filter reality, getting at it is a romantic fantasy. Facts are colored by memory, viewing angle, and time. Truth is an unattainable absolute. Continue reading →
In my work with writers, I come across many common technical problems with manuscripts. These usually spring from the best of intentions as the writer attempts to create the feel of the finished book within the manuscript. Though they’re trying to be helpful, it requires more of the typesetter’s time to strip out all of these stylistic additions. When it comes to manuscripts, simpler is better.
Here are ten tips for writers to consider while they create their manuscripts and ready their books for the design and production process.
1. The double space – Digital typefaces have carefully designed kerning tables that control spacing between various pairs of letters. That way a capital “A” can nest closer to a capital “W” than it would to another capital “A.” Most style manuals specify single spaces but if you want wide spacing, ask your typesetter to insert emspaces. Emspaces are single characters—wide spaces, not double-spaces. Double-spaces were a convention that attempted to get typewriters to imitate the wide spacing seen in book typography prior to the early 1960s when electronic typesetting methods took over. The first thing your typesetter will do is convert all your double spaces to single spaces but if you can break the double-space habit, you’ll save a step. Read more about sentence spacing here. (Really! Read it, especially before commenting.)
Don’t put double spaces after a period. Your typeface already knows how much space is required.
Additionally, consecutive spaces are often used by writers who don’t understand how to set tabs and indents. An indent is not equivalent to five spaces. Indentation is controlled in your word processor’s paragraph settings dialogue or by manipulating the rulers above the text (see below).
Don’t use consecutive spaces to move text around. Use tabs and justification. When it comes right down to it, don’t use double spaces at all. Continue reading →