Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 3 - Great Strides and Positive Reinforcement

Today has been productive in both areas, writing and publishing.

  • I digitized my story board. The bulletin board was a great tool in letting me handle my scenes in a physical sense, but it's not practical to lug around everywhere. 
  • I made three chapters available to family and friends via shared Google Document, looking for cold readers.
  • I perused my publishing sources, and was encouraged in my desire to self-publish. I think it makes a difference when an author purposely plans to self-publish vs. falls back on self-publishing because they couldn't secure an agent or publisher.
  • I laughed thanks to Mr. Massimo Vignelli and skimmed his Canon. I am learning about typography before I get too far in working on placing completed chapters into the final manuscript.

Digitizing My Storyboard

Using a table in, a simple grid 8 x 5, I made an electronic version of my story board. It prints out on three pages, but that's okay, I don't mind flipping through. It's a very handy resource and in my writing folder, along with other references I need for my story world.

Part of this process is learning my paradigm for writing. Turns out, I am a combination writer :) I like to begin with a few visceral, emotive scenes that are important to my story. I started out with a significantly different version of my first scene at the bar where my main character meets his one-night stand. From there, I wrote the last disaster of the book. Then, I wrote a little more of the beginning, and was woken up one night compelled to write the climax of the story that makes my main character choose his direction. Finally, I wrote out my second disaster. I then decided I needed more of an idea of how I get to all of these seemingly disconnected points in my storyline. This took a few weeks of tweaking, and only this week did my ending radically change. However, it feels fully baked now, and ready for icing and decoration!

I'm debating on whether or not I need to make character cards. Here's why: They are already so real to me, I just listen to their side of the story and write. I'm afraid making elaborate character sheets would quiet their voices. This is just a me thing. I will move forward and see what happens. If I find my characters falling flat, I will reassess.

Looking for Cold Readers

My publisher hat back on, I decided to start looking for cold readers. People willing to read as I write and say "This part confused me. I loved this. I didn't care for that."  Before making my first three chapters available, I slashed a great deal of narrative out of my first three chapters because I learned head-hopping in a scene is bad. Amateurish. ::Gasp!::

Johnathan Michaels is my POV character for those first few chapters; I can't start saying what the other characters are all thinking and feeling. Instead, and this is hard, I have to translate those internal thoughts and feelings into actions. When I say this is hard, I mean I deleted four paragraphs because it was all Alex's internal thoughts and a mind dump of how the three of them met. I didn't lament the words, they were crap. It was boring even to me. It slowed down the action. I was sad to see the work go. Those details aren't gone; they will come out more organically later when something ties them to the action going on. All of them are details that can't help but come out. My favorite casualty is the singing Christmas snowman Eric and Johnathan gave an updated sound card to sing the corniest pick up lines when the motion sensor was activated. He will be back, in all of his top hat tipping glory!

Positive Reinforcement

People want to read more of the story. That is a godsend. I was so afraid my story premise wasn't catchy. Turns out it is. Hopefully this will help my novel spread. I already have a new character named Jill who introduced herself to me today and started to tell me her story (she's not in this story, but she's a nurse with $90,000 in student loan debt and her relationship is derailed, she started to whisper gambling issue, but I stopped her right there and told her to wait her turn. she's safely tucked away in a file now.) But, it gives me a new project to be excited about once Imperfect Timing is published.

Also, the latest post on PubRants made me feel more confident in my quest to self-publish. Apparently, a significant publisher, Dorchester, is so broke, they can't pay back royalties to authors they owe who have jumped ship, and are struggling to pay those currently writing for them. Hmmm. If Amazon goes down, half of the writing world is dust. Or electronic buzzing? What is the e-world's equivalent of dust? So I think I'm betting on a good pony (no Jill isn't me. I don't gamble. It's a tax on stupid people who can't do math).

The Fantastic Mr. Massimo Vignelli

If you've read this far, don't worry, you're about to be rewarded. When I say I am self-publishing, I don't mean I am slapping a story together, running spell check, and throwing it up as an e-book. No. I want my paperback and ebook to be indistinguishable from professionally published titles. This is in regards to not just the writing craft, but the technical execution of the book. The layout. The typography, a new word I learned today. Yeah, yesterday I would have said "OH, you mean the font!" Yeah, no.

Massimo Vignelli's book Canon helped me understand there is an aesthetic to the printed words on a page. He introduces his book "This little book reveals our guidelines - those set by ourselves for ourselves." Alright, I can get behind that. Ars gratias artis and all that. If nothing else, this 50 page PDF is remarkable for the tone of narration. The phrasing is literally snooty, but you want the narrator to accept you into his exclusive club!

The man attacks our paper dimensions! I never knew what "A" sized paper was in the drop down box of my word processor, I'd never seen any. Here's why: "The international Standard paper sizes, called the
A series, is based on a golden rectangle, the divine proportion. It is extremely handsome and practical
as well....The United States uses a basic letter size (8 1/2 x 11”) of ugly proportions, and results
in complete chaos with an endless amount of paper sizes. It is a by-product of the culture of free
enterprise, competition and waste. Just another example of the misinterpretations of freedom." (his section on paper sizes, first paragraph)

Did you know there was an issue with our ugly paper size? I didn't. But I get now why books aren't published in 8.5 x 11. It's not based on the golden rectangle. LOL.

But all kidding aside, the book is fascinating for me--someone wanting to learn more about graphical arts and typography. I don't intend to draw my own cover, but at least speaking the language and understanding what it all means will make it easier to discuss my ideas with my cover artist (My first book will be a value priced book cover, for sure. But my dreams are big, and I hope to one day afford the cover art I envision). Plus, he cracks me up!

Finally, and this is important so I will probably put this in a Resources Page or something one day for other self-publishing authors. I have finally learned the difference between serif and sans-serif. It is night and day when it comes to readability. Compare. The above is a sans-serif font.

The rest of this post is a serif font, like Helvetica and Trebuchet,  making larger blocks of text are easier to read on a digital screen. I would argue it's easier to read in general. By changing to a serif font in my manuscript, I was able to cut the 1.5 line spacing and keep my readability. This cut my total pages down, which in turn cuts down my costs to produce, meaning I can lower my list price! Very good news, indeed.

Time to log those hours and head to bed. This writing shop closes promptly at 10:30 PM.

"Imperfect Timing" arriving Fall 2011. Johnathan Michaels, a robotics engineer, jeopardizes his engagement with his business partner when a previous one-night stand surfaces, carrying his child.

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