by Sheila Deeth, with thanks to Jean Harkin
The Portland Writers’ Mill, a writing group that meets monthly at the Cedar Mill library, has just released its third journal. With a beautiful cover designed by the wonderful Patricia Burraston, and lots of great stories, essays and poems from our members, we managed to work it into a really nice-looking pdf file, ready to upload to Createspace. But getting that pdf file to look the way it did took time-and-a-half from several schedules, and left me feeling like a student struggling not to flunk the test.
There is so much to learn when it comes to print formatting; so many great ways to make a book look appealing and professional, and so many simple ways to make it look amateur. I know I shall find myself checking for errors on all the (real, physical, paper-printed) books I read in the future, just because of this experience. But who knows, perhaps the things I learned will be useful to someone else.
Things I have discovered:
- Pages of text look better if they line up at the top, even if the bottoms do not line up.
- Paragraph indents should be smaller if the page size is smaller. (I missed this. Too late to fix it now.)
- 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.
- If a paragraph ends with only one word on the final line, try to make it two instead.
- Move words to the next line by adding shift-enter before them (in Word).
- Split paragraphs across the page by adding shift-enter at the end of a line. (Adding a real line-break will insert an unwanted indent in Word.)
- Lists look better if they are not right-justified. Text looks better right and left justified.
- 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 when a poem does not quite fit.
- Start the first story on the right-hand side of a two-page spread.
- Blank space is good. Even blank pages can be good, such as before that first story.
- Use a section break after the contents, then start page numbers in section two. Make sure section two starts on that right-hand page with the first piece of text, and with page number one.
- Use a new section for each “section” in your contents list (and use different headers in each section. Sadly I ran out of time and couldn’t do this, but next time.)
- 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 will find yourself wondering why they keep disappearing.
- 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, save your Word doc, and save as pdf again. The pdf reopens automatically and you can continue editing.
- You don’t need a backup Word doc for every change, but make sure you have a pre-formatting copy to compare with your final document. Then use review>compare in Word; examine every difference between these two, and make sure you did not accidentally remove any lines of text or words while formatting.
Here’s what I have not discovered yet, but plan to find out and use in the next journal or book I produce:
- How do you make Word leave a bigger gap between the text and the footer, without making the footer take up too much space?
- How do you shrink the spaces on a line to make an extra word fit in?
- How do you make the contents list fit nicely to the edge of the page?
- How do you make lists fit nicely too?
I know there is a ton more stuff out there that I really should learn, and I really will try. I’ll talk sweetly to those kind people who have been teaching me, and the next journal will be even better than this one. But this one is truly wonderful, of course. Just follow the link and see!
Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, published by Second Wind Publishing, and The Five-Minute Bible Story Series, published by Cape Arago Press. Her animal stories (one of which is included in the Writers’ Mill Journal) will soon be released in the children’s book Tails of Mystery from Linkville Press. Sheila describes herself as a Mongrel Christian Mathematician and has a Master in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge, England. She has lived in the United States for 18 years and in Oregon for ten. Her story of the American West, “Wind and Snow,” was published in VoiceCatcher4.
While raising her family in Iowa, Jean Harkin was a journalist and photographer for a community newspaper and charitable foundation newsletters. She began writing fiction and her first novel when she joined a writing group in Portland in 2007. She has a B.A. in English from Creighton University and an M.S. in Teaching from Drake University. Jean and her husband John moved to Washington County, Oregon, in 2001. Jean’s photographs appeared in VoiceCatcher6 in 2011 and in the Winter 2013 issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions.