Nuts and Bolts and Such

This morning, while I was prepping my weekly drop of Ioudas for Wattpad (which, if you’re interested, can be found over here…) I found myself contemplating formatting. Not as in the final product and what it might or might not look like, but in the way people handle manuscripts that are currently in process.

I wondered – to myself, as I am prone to doing, and none of that judgmental “he must be loco, talking to himself all the time!” stuff, thanks; I’m well aware of my diminished mental capacities. ;P – if I’m doing it “wrong,” or just how others in general do it.

Take the actual manuscript file(s), for example. Obviously, this is only going to apply to those of us who compose our work in digital formats – longhand doesn’t have these little snags; it’s a little easier. Step 1: Break out notebook. Step 2: Break out pen. Step 3: Write until tired. Step 4: Repeat. – but I think that covers a sizable majority of writers in today’s world, so we’ll run with it.

Do you have a single file, the whole of your book as it grows and bloats and twists out of control in just one little .doc, .pages or .pdf? Perhaps a more minimalist approach is better; a single file for each individual chapter. That sounds like it could have advantages – the ability to rearrange the layout with just a couple quick clicks and filename changes instead of having to do a lot of scrolling, cutting and pasting with potentially disastrous results, for one – but for me, the idea that Woken would, instead of having just three files on my hard drive (the original, the cover art in editable format, and a fine-tuned formatted version) would instead take up some 43 (or more) individual files. The OCD in me (who insists on randomly going through his directories and rearranging the icons so they’re “pretty”) quails at the thought. Then, I suppose, there’s the option for a middle ground; rather than every individual chapter, perhaps every section of the manuscript could have it’s own place. For those who write epics that are handily pre-sorted into “Part I” or “Book III”s, that’d probably be functional, but what about people who just go chapter-by-chapter, or even just adopt a stream-of-consciousness sort of situation? Could get messy, trying to decide where those section breaks are.

Then there’s the matter of appearances, formatting for your (eventual and hopeful) publication. Should one pick fonts, page layouts (and sizes), paragraph indent style, chapter heading design (or lack thereof) and whether to use fancy chapter opening markers before really setting down to work, and format as one goes, or is that really something to be done when you’re “finished” – he says, laughably, knowing that no work of art is ever really “finished,” merely eventually hits a point where nothing more can be done by the artist to improve it. That also calls back to the “how does one break it up, if at all?” question, since if you’re dividing things by chapter or section, that means you get to do all that formatting many times over. (Or make a template and hope it sticks. God help you if Chapter 12 suddenly jumps out of line and stops looking like Chapters I-XI.)

What about those of us who take our work on the go, in multiple formats (often in ways that aren’t straight conversions)? M’self, I use Apple Pages (yes, yes, hiss, boo, a Mac user), and when I’m on the go, I use the wonders of iCloud to sync up with my iPad and work on things there. Of course, the formatting doesn’t always stay the same, and a lot of fonts aren’t going to transfer over properly (if at all), so anything written on the tablet needs to be double checked when you get home. There’s some fixes (the app AnyFont has been helpful), but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get around such things. (Hopefully the upcoming Yosemite/iOS8 updates will rectify this to some degree.) For people who work on a desktop/laptop and then switch to a tablet that isn’t conveniently running a variant of their “normal” operating system, I don’t even want to contemplate the horrors of dealing with such issues (unless you want to do all your writing in Google Docs or something, which is twitch inducing in it’s own way.)

I’m really just babbling here. But I’m also curious. What’s the “right” way to work? When should formatting come into play? What’s the “best” way to organize your manuscript files, and is there a point where it’s time to switch?

What’s your take, oh great Blog-o-Sphere? Let us know in the box down below.

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