Not a lot of writing the last couple weeks.
As I said before, I got comments back on The Pericles Conspiracy from a bunch of beta readers, and I’ve spent the last couple weeks just going over them and making a few changes and additions to the story after mulling the comments over. That’s all done now. The final word count came to a little over 121,000 words, so I guess I added 1,000 words or so. But I didn’t count them as new words. Maybe I should have, since many of them are new, but I didn’t so that’s that.
That got me through last week. THIS week I’ve been focused on getting Pericles ready to go. And in particular, getting the paperback edition squared away. EBook is easy. It literally takes about a dozen clicks in Scrivener to get nice, clean .mobi and .epub files. Paperback…
In previous books, I used Word templates I downloaded from Createspace to create the paperback editions. But I never liked doing it that way. It was clunky, one change in one place caused any number of squirrelly changes elsewhere in the document (we are talking about Word here), and it just seemed inefficient. Ideally, I wanted to get InDesign, but I don’t have $600 lying around that I feel like spending on new software right now. And no, I’m not going to subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud. $50/month in order to not actually own the software? No thanks.
I made a print version of Passing In The Night (the novelette that birthed Pericles, in case anyone’s forgotten) a few weeks back, and used Scribus to format it. It was my first experience with Scribus. I liked it. It has a lot of the features that I heard about from talking with people about InDesign, and the price is right ($0). I guess you could say Scribus is to InDesign as GIMP is to Photoshop and you wouldn’t be too far off base.
I used Scribus again for Pericles, and again got good results. But I have two quibbles.
1) Paragraph Styles
You can set up styles that make it really easy to format the text portions of the document. Oh, that’s the first paragraph in the chapter and you want Drop Caps? Just select First Paragraph style (which you previously created) and viola, it does it for you.
The problem is these are styles for the ENTIRE PARAGRAPH. Consequently, I’ve had to deal with things like the final line of a paragraph, which isn’t a full line, yet the style tries to justify it along with the rest of the paragraph. Here’s where Word is actually better: if you hit enter at the end of a line like that, it’ll not justify that line. But in Scribus, hitting enter just starts a new paragraph. I have not been able to figure out how to overcome this, except by just going in and manually adding a lot of spaces until the last line looks the way it should. This is far from optimal, as I’ll discuss in a minute.
2) Master Pages and Text Boxes
I love Master Pages. You can set up your header and footer, the size of the borders, everything you want. Except for the text box on the page. If you try to set that up, it just becomes background. So when you create a new page and apply a Master Page to it, you still have to create a text box to put text into. And then you have to tweak the size of the box to make sure it aligns with the borders correctly, etc. Annoying, but it’s easy to overcome by just adjusting the text box size once and then cutting and pasting it onto subsequent pages. Which is fine….until you have a document with nearly 500 pages in it. Like, say, Pericles. Then that gets tiring.
It would be really nice if you could set up Master Pages so new pages would come up with a text box already created and sized.
And that leaves aside the issue of what happens if you messed something up. It would also be really nice if there was a universal control you could use to modify text boxes throughout the document instead of one at a time.
These quibbles caused me no end of hardship. Because after cutting and pasting my text from Scrivener, I still had to go through and manually align the final lines of each and every paragraph in the book. It literally took all week, and I finally got it done the middle of the afternoon yesterday, Saturday, after I worked most of the day on finishing it up. Smiling, I saved the doc as a pdf and uploaded it to Createspace.
And got error messages. Although I had set the border sizes to the tolerances they advertised, some of my text (the drop caps) extended beyond and took up too much space. And the header was too high on the page, violating the minimum gutter requirement for the document. Ok so I’ll just move the header down. Alas, no. The text box for the main body text was tall enough that there was no room to move the header down.
So I had to adjust the document border settings and the text box size.
You see where this is going.
The borders modified easily, just with a global command. The text boxes? Nope. No global command for them. I had to go back and manually change the size of the text boxes on all 492 (the final page count) pages of the book. The first several I tried to do by eye and with my trackpad, but that took forever. Then I got smart and wrote down the dimensions of the boxes I’d made that looked good, and just typed the dimensions into the properties box of the subsequent boxes. It still sucked.
But wait, there’s more.
Guess what happened when I did that?
Yup. All those manual spaces to make the paragraphs’ final lines look right now made many of the paragraphs look completely jacked up. So I had to go back through the book….again, except this time I was removing spaces instead of adding them in. Can you say frustrating? Yeah, I thought you could.
I finally re-finished this evening. I uploaded to Createspace and a couple of my drop caps go slightly over the line. VERY slightly. But the hell with it, I am NOT going through that revision process again. It’ll be fine. Or if not it’ll show up in the proof and I’ll have no choice but the make a change.
On the bright side, going back through the book…again…while re-formatting found a few typos that neither I nor my editorial readers found during the multitude of other passes we made earlier. So I guess that’s good.
So I’m now not so sure about Scribus anymore. I’m not entirely sure that I actually saved any time by using it for this project. As my wife said multiple times as I explained what I had to do to a) make it look right to begin with and b) fix it once I discovered the error, there has to be a better way to do this. And maybe I’m just missing it. Anyone out there savvy Scribus and want to correct the error of my ways? I’ve found a fair amount of documentation online but so far no solution to my frustrations, so if all y’all have any ideas I’d love to hear them.
So anyway, tonight registered the copyright for Pericles with the copyright office. Now I’m just waiting for initial approval and I’ll order a proof copy, which should get here I figure by the weekend. Assuming no other boogers emerge from the proof copy, I figure Pericles should be ready for full release by 23 August. More on the strategery for that release later. For now, this is quite a long enough blog post as it is.