Revising Leah

January 16, 2009

Almost

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 12:36 pm
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Well, I finished reading through the proof copy of my novel today. I had thought that I would today be ready to submit the revised manuscript and book cover back to Lulu, but I’ve decided to sit on the book for the weekend and think about it some more. In the second half of the novel, I noticed a couple of potential continuity errors, so I want to make sure those are taken care of. Plus, I feel like I read through the novel so quickly (40-50 pages a day) that I just want to pause and catch my breath. Hopefully, on Monday, everything will be ready to go, and I’ll submit the revised documents then.

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January 14, 2009

A Dream Deferred (and Deleted)

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 4:03 pm
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At the beginning of chapter fourteen, I had a paragraph-length description of a dream that Leah experiences a couple days after her school’s Homecoming Dance. The dream has long been a source of indecision for me because I always thought that the dream I described here was more than a little cheesy. In previous revision cycles, I considered cutting it from the story, but I chose instead to compromise: I left it in but tried to sweep the cheesiness out of the scene. I think I did a pretty good job.

But yesterday, when I was reading the passage again, it occurred to me that it might conflict with the scene at the end of chapter thirteen. At the end of chapter thirteen, in one of my favorite moments in the novel, Leah unhappily accepts the fact that she isn’t going to the Homecoming Dance with David or anyone else.

Apparently, in previous revision cycles I must have always taken a break from reading once I finished chapter thirteen, because this time, when I read the dream sequence at the start of chapter fourteen just seconds after reading the end of chapter fourteen, it suddenly occurred to me that the dream sequence completely contradicts and undermines the emotional impact of that final scene in chapter thirteen. I have never noticed this until now, and it alarmed me when I realized what I had done.

It’s too late for me to cut the plan for a dream sequence out of chapter fourteen since it is woven tightly into the start of chapter fourteen. I’d have to completely rewrite the first couple of pages of the chapter.

So what I’ve decided to do here is replace the Leah’s dream with another dream. It was the setting of the dream (a formal dance that was like something out of Cinderella) that caused the trouble. I changed the setting of the dream but not what made the dream so appealing to Leah: it was about she and David spending time together, alone — and talking to each other.

I think that has solved the problem, and it’s a lucky thing I caught it. The transitions between chapters has been something that I’ve been worried about. Because I can’t read the whole novel in one sitting, I have to stop some time. A new chapter is always a logical place to take a break, but taking a break disrupts the flow of reading, and when I stop I risk missing a transition problem like this one.

January 13, 2009

The Final Edits

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 5:23 pm
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As I read through the proof copy of the novel, making the final set of changes and edits, I find myself reading through the book rapidly — I’ve been reading at least fifty pages a day. That’s good, because it means I’m finding few mistakes. Each sentence and each idea is flowing smoothly into the next. When I feel tripped up, when I have to stop and re-read a sentence or a paragraph, that’s usually an occasion to fix something, but I haven’t experienced very many of those moments.

The biggest change that I’ve made to the text so far is to delete an entire paragraph from chapter two. The paragraph just seemed superfluous, and when I read the passage without the paragraph, it sounds better.

But most of the edits that I’ve made have been little changes. As I thought I might, I have found some lines of dialogue that aren’t punctuated just right. Many of the edits, though, have been the usual word choice errors that always plague me. For example, in chapter six, I wrote this sentence:

Instead, her eyes darted to each of the boys’ laughing faces, and then they took a quick glance out the window at her table on the patio.

The problem here is the pronoun “they”. It isn’t clear what its antecedent is. It is supposed to refer to “her eyes,” but given this sentence construction, it appears to refer to “the boys”. I fixed this problem simply by changing “they” to “she”.

I’ve also found a couple of continuity errors. In chapter ten, I write,

David handed the piece of paper to Heather and said, as he sat down . . .

but then a few lines later, I write,

“And they lived in Egypt,” David laughed as he sat down.

So here I have a character performing the incredible act of sitting down twice in the same desk. That’s gotta break some law of physics or another! In this case, I decided that the first time David sat down was sufficient, and deleted his second occasion of sitting.

I don’t expect that I’ll ever be able to change every single thing that I might want to fix, but I know that every correction I make brings the novel just a little bit closer to a state of perfection. Overall, though, I’ve been quite happy with the book.

January 11, 2009

Proof Copy: First Look

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 10:01 am
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In my last post, I discussed how worried I’ve been that the back side of my book cover wasn’t going to turn out well. I even started designing an alternative back cover just in case my fears were realized.

Well, my fears were indeed realized. Late yesterday, my proof copy arrived, and I found that not only does the back side of the cover look obviously pixelated (even more pixelated, in fact, than it did in the PDF file from which the cover was generated), but my attempt to soften the pixelation by slightly blurring the image has failed spectacularly: the image looks both pixelated and blurry.

Only three visitors to this blog voted on the two back cover options in my previous post (and those votes resulted in a three-way tie), but it looks like my decision has been made for me. There’s no way I can use Option One. Option Two is in.

January 9, 2009

Tell Me What You Think (Poll!)

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 1:37 pm
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I’m still waiting for the proof copy of my novel to arrive, and as I wait, I continue to second-guess my design for the back cover. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m worried that the image on the back will be obviously pixelated, and while I like the idea of a large detail of the front cover painting on the back, too much pixelation will make the cover look really, really amateurish.

But I’ve also felt uncertain about the design in general. Even if the picture is not over-pixelated, I’m not sure if it’s the best design. With that in mind, the other day I started designing a new back cover, one with a smaller, crisper image and a quote from the novel.

So I want to know from you, kind visitor, which design do you think is better (that is, which looks more professional and/or aesthetically pleasing)? Click on the images below to see a larger image, and then participate in the poll at the end of this post. And maybe leave a comment if you have suggestions to make. I’m eager to know what people think.

Option One

Option One

Option Two

Option Two

Option One is what I have right now. Pros: the image fills the entire back cover, an idea that I rather like. Minimal text. Cons: Too much pixelation. I’m not a fan of the shape of the blurb; it’s triangular because I’m trying to avoid letting the text get tangled in the girl’s hair, but it’s not a perfect triangle and that kind of bugs me.

Option Two is the possible new design. Pros: It looks clean and simple. It’s hard to tell, perhaps, but the font color here is dark green. I thought that would look better than a lot of black text on a white background. I like how the detail image is focused on the book the girl is holding. Cons: That’s a lot of text! (The quote at the top of the cover is, in fact, an edited, shortened version of what appears in the manuscript, but it’s still really long.)

January 8, 2009

Twiddling My Thumbs

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 1:33 pm
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Earlier this week, I got the message that the proof copy for Leah had shipped, so right now I’m just waiting for it to arrive. If I’m lucky, it will come by Saturday. I’m anxious to hold the book in my hands and see the revised story “in the flesh” instead of just on a computer screen.

As I wait, I’m trying to plan my strategy for what will be the final round of editing. Obviously, the first concern that I’ll have will be to check the cover and the formatting of the text. On the cover, I’ll be looking to see that the pictures and text are all lined up where they should be, and I’ll especially be looking to see how bad the pixellation is on the back cover. I expect some pixellation, but the question will be how obvious is it? If it’s really obvious, I’ll either have to blur the image a little more or I’ll have to design something different. Yesterday, I got inspired after thinking about my use of quotes on the front page of my new website, and I think I might be able to come up with a better design.

But the real editing work will be with the text of the novel. I’m going to try, as hard as I can, not to make too many unnecessary edits. I know that if I give myself freedom to do whatever I want I’ll be rewriting sentences and replacing some words with other words til the cows come home. But I really just want to limit myself to fixing errors.

One kind of error that I know I commit has to do with my dialogue. I tend to commit two common errors in my dialogue: I misplace or omit capital letters, or I insert periods where commas should go (or vice-versa). For example, I might accidentally write a line of dialogue like this:

“Yes, he was lost,” Joe said, “He didn’t know where to go.”

or like this:

“I liked the movie,” she said, “it was really good.”

So after I’ve read a chapter with dialogue in it, I’m going to revisit each line of dialogue and make sure I haven’t left any typos in my text. Little things like that probably won’t be noticed by someone reading my book for the first time, but they’ll bug the heck out of me if I see them in the final product.

Beyond those concerns, I’ll just have to stay on the alert for surprises. I won’t be too worried if I catch a lot of little errors in this final read-through. It’s a fact that reading a hard copy of text is a very different physiological and psychological experience than reading it on the screen, and since this is the first time that I’ll be reading a hard copy of the entire revised text, it’s possible that I’ve missed a few things in my previous revision cycles.

January 5, 2009

I’ve Got a Website

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 5:04 pm
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As I wait for the proof copy of Leah to arrive, I took the opportunity over the weekend to set up a website for myself. You can check it out here.

It’s only been up for barely 24 hours, so it’s still a work in progress, but I think it looks good so far. The website template that I chose is a minimalist design. I’m not sure if minimalism attracts me because I find it aesthetically pleasing or because I’m not talented enough to do more.

One function of the website will be to serve as a one-stop shop for ebook copies of my novels. I’ve set up a section just for that purpose, and so far I’ve got three different ebook versions of The Spring available for free.

January 3, 2009

(Dream Interlude)

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 12:48 pm
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This morning, while I was still asleep, I had a vivid dream of a group of teenage girls and one teenage guy standing on a city street corner and talking. The conversation was what shook me awake. It was like a poem, or a song, as the girls were repeating and playing with one particular phrase, interjecting it into each of their statements again and again but improvising variations on the phrase — kind of like how jazz musicians improvise on a basic melody. The result was a scene that was both funny and linguistically cool.

I awoke and immediately got out of bed to fire up my computer. As I waited for it to boot, I could sense the girls’ conversation fading from my imagination, as dreams always do. By the time I had my word processor open and started scrambling to transcribe it (writing so fast I completely ignored things like punctuation, and since I don’t know who all of the characters were, I didn’t bother with dialogue attribution) I had lost much of it, but I still managed to get a portion of the conversation down — just enough so that when I return to it later, I’ll be able to [re]construct the poem/conversation.

I think it will be a scene in my next novel; in fact, I even know which chapter it would fit into.

January 1, 2009

Publishing Through Lulu: Uploading

Well, today is the day. At long last I get the publishing process for Leah rolling. Here’s a review of the steps I took (with screenshots!).

1. Sign In

I already have a Lulu account, of course, so I logged in and started a new project. I clicked the “Publish” tab, then clicked “Paperback books”, and then “Get Started”.

2. Start Tab

Here, I simply provided the title and author’s name. I also selected the “Make It Public” option because I want to be able to offer the book to readers later on. Clicked Save & Continue.

(Click For Larger Image)

(Click For Larger Image)

3. Options Tab

Next, I had to determine what kind of format I wanted my book to take. I chose the usual options for a novel: Standard paper (not Publisher Grade); book size: US Trade; perfect binding; and black & white color.

Choose the Physical Properties of Your Book

Choose the Physical Properties of Your Book

4. Files Tab

Now we upload, and this is where the preparations that I described in my earlier posts (here and here) paid off. I upload two of the three PDF documents that I had prepared: the manuscript and the title/copyright page. Once they’re uploaded, I arranged the files in the right order (the title page document goes first), and then Lulu automatically merged the two documents together and allowed me the chance to review that merged file.

Upload Files

Upload Files

5. Cover Tab

The next step takes care of the other PDF file that I had prepared: the one with the cover of the book. If you haven’t designed a cover or don’t care about the cover design (although you should) this is the stage where Lulu can assist in creating a generic cover. I’ve designed my own cover, though, so I clicked on the “Upload One-Piece Cover” button and uploaded my document.

Pay No Attention to That Green Fringe

Pay No Attention To That Green Fringe

A year ago, when I was publishing The Spring, this screen confused me. I knew that I was supposed to create a “bleed” zone around my cover, which I did. But the weird green border that you see in the image above confused me and made me second guess what I had done. I actually went back and tinkered with the size of the cover, which proved to be a mistake when my proof copy arrived and I saw that I had made the border around the cover image too large. This time, I played it cool and just clicked “Save & Continue”. If there is a problem when I get the proof copy, then I’ll make adjustments later, but I think the cover is going to turn out fine.

6. Description Tab

Here, I filled in the basic info for the content of the book. All of the fields were filled in except for the ISBN number because at this stage in the process, I hadn’t been assigned a number yet. As you can see, I placed the novel in the “Teens” category as opposed to the “Fiction & Literature” category (I would have preferred to place it in both). I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do, but I can change it later if I need to.

Everything But the ISBN

Everything But the ISBN

7. Price Tab

I hope you like to wrestle, because this is one of those screens which will resist everything you try to do. You can see in the screenshot that there are two open fields in the “Retail Print” section. Don’t try to enter anything in the “Price” field — only tinker with the “My Revenue” field and let the values that you insert there adjust the “Price” field for you.

Just Adjust the My Revenue Box

Just Adjust the My Revenue Box

I wanted to make sure that I set the price for Leah to be less than the price I set for The Spring, just because Leah is a bit shorter than The Spring. You can see in the screenshot that the author’s cut of the money, especially when selling through retailers like Amazon, is very small. (This is where Lulu authors get greedy and why some 200-page novels published through Lulu cost upwards of $30.) Whether publishing the old-fashioned way or through POD, the sad fact is that authors just don’t earn much from each individual sale. It’s a good thing that creative writing isn’t my day job!

And I will, of course, make the novel available as a free download.

8. Review and Order

After that, I am asked to review everything, make sure it’s OK, and then I order a proof copy. I do have to pay for a proof copy, but since I’m the author of the project, I don’t have to pay the full price that I set for the novel back in the Price Tab. Instead, I only pay for the for the cost of manufacturing a copy and shipping it to me. I added my book to my virtual shopping cart, but I didn’t check out just yet because I still have one more thing to do.

9. “Purchase” a Distribution Package

“Purchase” is in quotation marks because I didn’t actually have to purchase anything here. If you publish your novel through Lulu (as opposed to choosing the “Published by You” option) you don’t have to pay anything. This is apparently a new development for Lulu because I remember a year ago, when I published The Spring, I did have to pay about $100 for the distribution package.

The most important part of the package is the assignment of an ISBN number. You need this if you want to sell your book either online or in a bookstore. If I could change one thing about Lulu’s publishing process it would be that I would like to get my ISBN number before I uploaded the PDF files for the Title/Copyright document and the book cover so that the proof copy that I ordered would be sent to me complete. Instead, I’ll have to add the ISBN number to the copyright page and insert the ISBN bar code to my cover after I’ve reviewed the proof copy. Perhaps Lulu wants to make sure that authors take that step of reviewing the proof copy before approving the book for publication and making it available to everyone.

The whole process took about 90 minutes to complete. That’s perhaps longer than usual since I was taking screenshots of my progress and writing notes in WordPress.

So now I wait for the proof copy of my book to be manufactured and sent to me. That, unfortunately, will probably take at least a week.

Questions? Comments?

December 29, 2008

(A Mobipocket Interlude)

Over the weekend, I made The Spring available as an ebook download at the Mobipocket website. It was a bit of a technical labyrinth, but I got everything figured out, and I think the ebook itself turned out quite nice.

Two things I don’t like about Mobipocket, though. First, I wasn’t allowed to offer the novel as a free download. When I tried to assign a price of $0.00 to the novel, I was told that was “not a valid price”. I ended up charging $0.50 for the book, which may not sound like much, especially compared to 99% of the other books on the site, but there is still a big psychological divide between “free” and any amount of money. “Free” would have gotten me more readers. Fifty cents will mean far fewer readers.

The other thing I didn’t like was that Mobipocket requires the ebook files to be encrypted with DRM. Again, I tried to build an ebook without the DRM and submit that, but the website wouldn’t accept it. DRM is already a discredited technology (the music industry has abandoned it, and just ask the makers of Spore how well their DRM has worked out for them), and assigning DRM to a book strikes me as absurd. There’s no DRM if I check out a book from a library. When I purchase a book at my local bookstore, I don’t have to run the book through some DRM-removing machine before I can walk out of the store with it. Why does there need to be DRM attached to a book that I purchase online? This obsession with “piracy” is so ridiculous, and it runs antithetical to how our civilization has thought about books and knowledge for the last few centuries. I want to encourage people to read my book; I don’t want to tell people that they’re not allowed to read because some middleman hasn’t gotten paid yet.

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