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Another thought on “perfection”

I should have a “perfection” category on my blog. I’ve had a lot of posts related to those. The reason is that I want things to be perfect in my writing, but I know I can’t have that.

I go to a monthly writer’s group where we often will write a short piece and share it with the group, get feedback on it, etc. We keep the writing under 2,000 words, so it’s a nice easy writing exercise, at least for me. I love short pieces. But in the month between when we decide what we’re going to write, and when I actually share it with the group, I probably read and edit it at least three or four times. I go to the group and share it, hoping to get lots of good feedback and suggestions on how to improve it and most often what I get is this kind of stunned silence and a general, “That’s really good” comment. It sometimes frustrates me because I look at it and see all the problems. That’s my biggest stumbling block when it comes to publishing stories. I keep reworking them because I never feel like they’re perfect.

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I recently had an incredible experience in regards to this. One of my writing friends, Julia Ward, just published her first book. Every writer talks about how their novel is their baby. Well if Julia’s novel was her baby, I was the novel’s Auntie. I was there through the writing stage of the book, the editing stage of the book, the “why did I write this? It’s awful!” stage of the book, the “Oh wait, there are a few funny parts. Actually, this is pretty good,” stage of the book and finally the, “Holy crap, I’m just about to hit the publish button!” stage of the book. Through the whole thing, I saw that endless struggle for perfection, that endless self-doubt that she would ever be able to reach it. It was the same kind of feeling I had when working on my first novel, the same kind of doubt that it would be any good.

When the novel came out, I picked up my copy and started reading. It was cute, it was fun, it was funny. It wasn’t perfect, but I really didn’t care. I enjoyed it, and I was glad I had it to read. And it made me realize that, yes, I strive to make my novel the best it can be, and that struggle makes it such a much more enjoyable read to someone else, but I will never get it perfect, and I don’t need to, because people want to be transported to some other world, some other life, and as long as the imperfections aren’t extremely distracting, they’re happy to read what has been written.

If you’re interested in Julia’s debut novel, go check it out It really is a great read. (And I’m not biased, being the novel’s Auntie.)

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

Inside “It Gets Darker”

Guest Blog Post

Today is kind of a special day. I get to post my first guest blog post! My post last month was all about how I designed the cover for It Gets Darker. This month, Lorna M. Hartman is talking about how she laid out the book interior. It’s a great post, and I definitely learned a thing or two just from reading it. Here are a couple pictures I took of the interior layout of the book. (I was not at all biased in which story I decided to post a picture of… hint, hint, L.P. Masters is the best.)

ItGetsDarker

Front page of a story

ItGetsDarker2

Author Bio of one story, and front page of another

So now that you know what the inside looks like, and without further distractions from me, I’ll let you get to Lorna’s post.


Inside It Gets Darker: Laying Out the Book Interior

Lorna M. Hartman (www.LornaHartman.com)

To lay out the interior of a book appears straightforward. Drop in the text, some page numbers, add chapter titles and a table of contents. Piece of cake.

Here’s where I (obviously) say it’s not as easy as it looks. This shortened version of the process gives you a bird’s-eye view of a book layout project.

To prepare for It Gets Darker’s print layout, I read the entire book. There’s no other way to get the feel and flavor of the book, and the layout must reflect that as well as harmonize with the book’s cover. Emails flew back and forth as the group decided on their story order and sent me their author bios.

I’d originally received the chapters in separate Word files from the members of Spokane Fiction Writers Group who wrote for this anthology, but It Gets Darker author Erik Schubach (www.ErikSchubach.com) later sent me a single long text file he’d created to use in his design of the e-book.

Since e-books start with a fully stripped-down file, this was helpful. When starting the print book layout with this file, I didn’t have to deal with variations in font sizes, random indents, and other surprises.

While the others worked on their parts of the book, I laid out a single chapter in Adobe InDesign and tried out different fonts and artwork. I chose to use spiky artwork to go with the book cover font, which is called Dark11 (find it at UrbanFonts). The spiky circular swirl art at the beginning of each chapter worked better than any other option.

After I landed on a good visual look for the chapter, I used the pieces of that chapter to set up Styles for the whole book. A single Style is a set of formatting details used for a specific recurring piece of the book, such as a chapter title: the font, font size, alignment, and so on.

For example, the Body Text style for It Gets Darker is 12-point Minion Pro, left-aligned, with a first-line indent of 1p6, and so on. Readers of the book will remember that there are sections of radio commentary in one chapter, and the Radio Dialogue style was 12-point Corbel with indents on both left and right to set it off visually from the body text.

Want to know what’s fun? Getting your drop cap (that big first letter) at the beginning of each chapter to left-align, which ignores your first-line indent—but keeping the indent for the rest of the chapter. I’ve long ago learned this trick, but I haven’t forgotten the entertaining experience of figuring it out for the first time. Good thing no one was around to overhear that.

Even a straightforward book like It Gets Darker, with no footnotes, illustrations, or index, took well over a dozen styles to lay out.

I also created Master Pages. Each chapter’s first page contains the chapter title plus the swirl art, the author’s name, and the beginning of the body text for that chapter. To make sure each such page was laid out identically, I created a Master Page with alignment guides. These guides show up in the on-screen layout but don’t print.

Chapter titles and automatic page numbers can also be added to Master Pages, which saves considerable wear and tear on the layout editor.

(“Wear and tear” is a technical term. “Wear” refers to the way the seat of the pants wears thin over a long project; and “tear,” of course, refers to the customary tearing out of hair as part of the layout process. Possibly “tear” also refers to the tearing of clothes in frustration, but I couldn’t verify that. It is lost to history.)

I applied this Master Page to each chapter’s first page so the guides would show up on that page. I used a different Master Page with different guides for each different type of page.

I also added the spiky swirl art to my Library tab in InDesign because it appears in two different sizes in each chapter. With both sizes available in the Library, I was able to easily drop the right swirl in the right place.

InDesign has a Table of Contents tool that uses Styles to pull out chapter titles and whatever else is to be included in the TOC. It’s not the easiest tool in the toolbox, and it doesn’t cover all the bases, but once you learn it, it does save time for straightforward TOCs.

After completing the full book layout I sent it to several sharp-eyed editor types. They sent their feedback and I incorporated it into the book–there’s no such thing as too many eyes on a book when it comes to proofreading.

Finally, I saved the file in the proper format for the publisher and submitted it. The publisher ran it through an analysis to make sure it would print properly, checking for common layout problems. Last, it went to print, and now you can buy it in paperback as well as e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets.

To keep in touch with Spokane Fiction Writers Group, follow @It_Gets_Darker on Twitter, check us out on Meetup, or visit the It Gets Darker landing page. We’ve got someone working on a new website right now, and we’re in process of setting up a new Facebook Page.

Our Twitter account is active, so if you would like to be notified when the Facebook Page is up, message us there.

Most importantly, if you write or want to write, we welcome you to a monthly Meetup group meeting. We don’t just talk about writing—we write. Thanks for your interest.


What a great post from Lorna M. Hartman.

Here’s a little more about Lorna, she writes fiction from the scenic Pacific Northwest. She’s two-thirds done writing a feature-length action/adventure screenplay. See more of her varied careers at http://www.LornaHartman.com and connect with her on Twitter (@Maro_Virino).

LornaHartman

Lorna M. Hartman

 

The Story of A Cover

I’ve mentioned a few times my involvement in the Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group anthology, “It Gets Darker As You Go,” but most of my mentions have been about my story, and my excitement for our upcoming readings and signings in Spokane.

What I haven’t really mentioned is how I was involved in the cover creation.

This anthology has been a great collaboration between the authors involved. Everyone simply offered to throw in their help with whatever they were good at. When we started talking about covers, the leader of our group, Charles R. Oliver, said that anyone who wanted to try their hand at creating a cover could pick a photo from one of two stock photo sites he had an account at, and he would purchase the photos.

I love creating covers. My first couple of covers I hired someone to do for me, and after that I realized that I wasn’t bad at it myself, so since then I’ve been doing them on my own. At this chance to work on the anthology’s cover, I was pretty excited.

We didn’t have a title, didn’t really even have a theme other than we knew we wanted all the stories to have some kind of paranormal element to them, and we wanted them set in the Northwest. With that, and the few snippets I’d heard of the other people’s stories to that point, I thought, “Well, what about a nice woodsy-feeling cover with just a little bit of creep?” So here was my first submission:

Woods

I combined two images–the cabin in the woods, and the lady in the red jacket–and came up with the title, picking up the red from her jacket and the brown from the trees to create my font colors. I showed it to the group and a lot of them really liked it. Erik Schubach also created a nice looking cover idea for the story as well. To be honest, I liked his cover better than this original cover I submitted. We weren’t ready to decide on covers yet, so we kept working on the stories, swapping with each other and giving feedback.

As I started reading more and more of the stories, I realized that the couple I’d been exposed to early on were some of the lighter stories in the anthology. A few of them had a bit darker feel to them, and some were downright scary. (For me. I’m a chicken.)

I started reconsidering my design. This anthology didn’t feel like a bright woodsy with red-jacket cover type thing. I came up with the idea (and hence title) of making the stories go from lighthearted to darker, and I started looking for images that would match that up. I was so lucky to find the beautiful image I did on one of the stock websites that Charles had an account with. I wanted a great font to go with the image and theme of the story, so I went to this incredible page that shows all sorts of fonts, how they look, what genres they go well with, and so on. Funny enough, the font I chose was called DarkII. A perfect dark font for a dark cover.

From all of that came my cover design for It Gets Darker as You Go.

A woman walks in the forest at night with a lantern.

I loved the composition of the original artwork, the great lights and shadows, the kind of creepy, but kind of hopeful feel it gave. The feeling of being watched, and also being the watcher. Everything about it was spectacular, and the group apparently thought so as well. They picked it out right away, then asked me to organize the stories according to their level of “darkness.” So hopefully I did a good job, that way if you’re like me and they get “too scary” you know where to stop. (although truth be told, even though I knew I should stop, I ended up reading all of them because they were engaging and exciting. I just dealt with the nightmares later… You think I’m kidding?)

This wasn’t my first time creating a cover for a story, but it was my first time where other people had to decide between a few covers, some of my own creation, some from other people. It was exciting and gratifying to see how well-received the cover was, and how the people in the group really loved it. It’s certainly a fun thing for me to do and, I must admit, a good excuse to get distracted from the writing I really should be doing.

Speaking of which, I need to go back to pounding out my revisions on my next novel. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll let you all… Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

It Gets Darker As You Go

I’m excited to announce that the Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group Paranormal Anthology is just about to hit the shelves (Virtually, and literally.)

Let me tell you a little about it, then we’ll come back to that.

A woman walks in the forest at night with a lantern.

It Gets Darker As You Go Cover

There’s nothing to fear…

This anthology features paranormal stories by the award-winning authors of the Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group.

Erik Schubach
O.C. Calhoun
L.P. Masters
Lorna M. Hartman
David Jewett
Jerry Schellhammer
Patti L. Dikes
Charles R. Oliver
and R.N. Vick

As you journey into the new realities held within this anthology, you will encounter the snaggle-toothed monster under the bed. Meet a sweet, cookie-baking grandma, and discover a ghost who may not be as scary as he seems.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking there is nothing to fear because…

It gets darker as you go.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

The stories are incredible. Some of them fun and lighthearted, and some of them extremely dark. That’s what I love about the layout, though, is that if you’re a scaredy-cat like me, you can decide when it’s getting too scary. (I’m probably the only one scared enough to stop partway through an anthology.)

I did swallow my fear and read the last few stories, though, and I can attest that they really are wonderful, albeit frightening.

Now, about those virtual and literal shelves…

Find the print version here, or get an ebook and read it anywhere.

But those are both virtual shelves. Didn’t I say something about literal shelves?

The Barnes and Noble at Northtown Mall in Spokane will be hosting a signing for It Gets Darker on Saturday, June 3 from 1 to 5 PM. They’ll have a big box of the books there, so come support us, come watch me at my very first signing, and come learn a little more about the anthology. UPDATE: The signing is currently up in the air and sounds like it may be pushed back a little. I’ll keep everyone posted on the date.

Okay. Plug your ears now cause I’m about to scream.

I’M SOOO EXCITED!

Whew. Thanks. I needed to let that out!

Have fun and enjoy the writing.

Afterdeaths, Audios, and Anthologies

All right. It’s alliteration time already. Although all I want is to advise you about the amazing events approaching in my author life, I also want to attempt to do a little exercise in alliteration.

As you know, the Afterdeath series has an audience that is aching for another novel.  Believe the author when she says she’s addressing that very need. Turning Point, with its alternating point of view chapters, has afforded itself the admirable station of being over halfway done with edits. Anyone who is following my publishing tendencies may already have noticed a lack of publication in February. Let me assure you, this was not an accident. I decided to focus my actions on accomplishing a fully edited Afterdeath Book 2 before attempting another short story for publication. And not to fret. An audiobook is in the near future.

Audiobooks are amazing. Anyone can sit and listen, and they don’t have to stress their eyes at all. Now, Weights is almost finished as an audiobook format, and will be available sometime in early march! I’ll be sure to announce its arrival on my blog and all other social media I attend to. And if you want an email sent straight to you when it’s available, by all means, sign up for my email list. You’ll attain my short story, “See You Tomorrow” for free when you do.

And don’t think Afterdeath and audiobooks are my only accomplishments. An anthology is in the near future as well. Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group is planning to publish a collection of paranormal short stories. I’ve already read 5 of them, and have heard about all of them, and all I can say is the stories are astounding!

As a final note, I have to bring this up now, simply because I attempted this, (probably annoying) tactic of alliteration today. Another short story that I am announcing soon is titled, “An Acceptable Future.” This story is exciting because it’s the first in a series of Adult Scifi “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories and novellas. Although “An Acceptable Future” doesn’t allow readers to “choose” yet, it is actually based in the same universe as other soon to be written “Dark Tales” are in, a great many of which shall have a choice associated with them.

And with all that, I’ll at last let you free from my mind-numbing yet–yes–amazing alliterating blog post.

Have adventures. And appreciate all authors.

Groupies!

There’s something about belonging to a writer’s group that is incredible. I belong to several writing groups. I have a fiction writer’s group that meets once a month on Wednesdays, a women’s writer’s group that meets once a month on Saturdays, and a bunch of NaNoWriMo friends who just never quit holding write-ins every other week when November ended…like, three years ago.

So every month, (If I’m lucky and don’t miss a group because of children or schedules, or anything else) I get to attend some sort of writers’ group four times per month.

To be honest, I need it.

This evening, when I met with the “Spokane Fiction Writer’s Group” at the fire station, we all stood outside in the foyer for about fifteen minutes because no one was at the fire station to let us inside. It’s summertime, though, and our usually large group was fairly small. There were only six of us who were close enough to “on time” to realize that we were locked out for the first part of the meeting.

We started talking about publishing. I am sitting there, right on the edge of getting published, and one of my friends at this meeting has been so supportive of me just getting out and doing it. We all started talking about publishing and as I listened to everyone talk, I realized that four of the six of us there tonight had been published.

Four of the six! I thought that was incredible. Over half of that little group had been published, and I have the opportunity to meet with them each month and discuss writing, pick their brains about what to do and what not to do when getting published.

How inspiring for me as a writer who is so close to getting my own work published. I love the friendship, the sense of belonging one can get from a group like that. Every month when I get home from that meeting, I sit at my computer and feel so focused and excited about writing. It’s something I look forward to for the next four weeks. If I could give any writer, published or unpublished, a suggestion of what to do if they’re not feeling that Love for Writing anymore, it would be to find a good, supportive writer’s group.

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.