The Joys of Formatting

Our Writers' Mill Journal is almost complete. We have a beautiful cover, designed by the wonderful Patricia Burraston, and lots of great stories, essays and poems. The pdf file looks great, and we're ready to go. But getting that pdf file to look great has taken time-and-a-half from my schedule recently, and I feel like a student struggling not to flunk the test. There's so much to learn; so many great ways to make a book look professional. And I know I shall now end up checking for errors on all the books (real, physical, paper-printed books) I read.

Here's what I've not discovered yet, but will use in the next book I produce:
  1. How do you make Word leave a bigger gap between the text and the footer, without making the footer take up too much space?
  2. How do you shrink the spaces on a line to make an extra word fit in?
  3. How do you make the contents list fit nicely to the edge of the page? and
  4. How do you make lists fit nicely too?
Things I have discovered:
  1. Pages of text look better if they line up at the top, even if the bottoms don't line up.
  2. Paragraph indents should be smaller if the page size is smaller. (I missed this. Too late to fix it now.)
  3. If you have to split paragraphs across a page, try to do it with more than two lines on each page. especially if the reader has to turn the page.
  4. Split paragraphs by adding shift-enter at the end of a line. Adding a real line-break will make insert an unwanted indent.
  5. Try not to have single words hanging at the end of a paragraph. Again, use shift-enter to move an earlier word onto the trailing line.
  6. Lists look better if they're not right-justified.
  7. You can always reduce the paragraph spacing to fit more text on a page. You can even reduce the line spacing too, which might be good if you're trying to fit a poem onto a page.
  8. Start the first story on the right hand side of a two-page spread.
  9. Blank space is good. Even blank pages can be good.
  10. Use a section break after the contents, then start line numbers from 1 in section two. And start section two on that right hand page with the first piece of text.
  11. Headers and footers are great for the body of the book, but you might not want them on the contents and acknowledgement pages. Make sure section two's headers and footers are not linked to previous section, or you'll delete them then find them coming back. I should really have used different headers for each set of entries in the contents list, but I didn't. Maybe next time...
  12. Everything takes time, but editing the word doc while you read the pdf is a good way to speed things up. Then close the pdf and save as pdf again. But make sure you have a backup copy to check changes against.
 I just know there's a ton more stuff out there that I should learn. I'll talk sweetly to those kind people who've been teaching me and the next journal will be even better than this one. And this one's wonderful... coming soon to an Amazon page near you!

Meanwhile, I've been editing Tails of Mystery for Linkville Press and Divide by Zero for Second Wind Publishing. Both are due to come out soon, to another bright Amazon page. And I've been reading. So here are some book reviews. Choose your story, and choose your coffee brew!

With the fast-approaching Christmas and Hanukkah season approaching, The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin, by Martha Seif Simpson, seems like a good place to start. It's a gorgeous picture book, hard-cover, with lovely smooth pages. And the story's simple, sweet, and wise. Some things just can't be bought and sold, and small miracles offer delight. I even learned what the Hebrew letters mean and how to play the game! Enjoy with some bright lively easy-drinking two-star coffee, and some fruit juice for the children.

Another neat picture book for children, especially children whose parents like to grow things and cook, is Emma Learns To Sprout, by Shir Guez. I learned how to sprout lentils reading this, and I really enjoyed watching a small girl share the lesson. It's a fun little book, nicely illustrated. Enjoy with some more easy-drinking two-star coffee and get sprouting!

Monster Realm, by Nara Duffie, is a fantasy aimed at slightly older readers - a fun middle-grade book written, amazingly, by a middle-grade student! I didn't remember the author's age as I read. I simply enjoyed a fast-flowing story, well written for girls. So grab yourself a lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee and enjoy it too.

Fate: New Avalon #2, by Andrea Buginsky, is aimed at a similar group of readers - girls, who are just beginning to be interested in boys (and in fantasy worlds). Fate brings its teen protagonist face to face with the dangers and joys of her destiny as the next Lady of the Lake. She's falling in love. Her friend is falling into despair. And empathy is a lesson well-taught and well-learned. Enjoy with a (small) well-balanced, smooth three-star coffee, and look out for more episodes to come in the series.


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