I have reached my first landmark. A New Allegiance is now one hundred pages long. Experience has taught me that the first hundred pages are the hardest to write – and the hardest of them all is the the opening one. Once they are done, it gets easier.
Like most of the world, I write in A4. The USA uses a slightly different size, but that is their tradition. I set all four margins at 2.54cm (that’s an inch in Old Money). The opening paragraph begins flush to the left margin. All subsequent paragraphs are indented by 0.4cm. This ensures that the opening letter of a paragraph appears below the third character of the previous line, which is normal.
Although the text of the published book will be in a stylish serifed font, single-spaced and fully-justified (straight right and left margins), the text in the Master copy is not. Many self-published writers use Times New Roman for their font. That is the typeface that you are looking at right now. As you can see, it is an attractive font, but I find that it is not well suited to creating and editing a book. It was designed for newspapers and looks its best in narrow columns. More experienced writers often use Courier (the traditional typewriter font) for their Master copies. Courier is as ugly a font as you will ever see, but it is eminently clear, which makes spotting errors that much easier.
I prefer Arial, Microsoft’s version of the classic Helvetica sans-serif font. Sans-serif means it doesn’t have the little flourishes at the tops and bottoms of letters. It is just the plain character. Arial is as clear as Courier and looks a lot smarter. My text is double-spaced and the right margin remains ragged. There is reason for all of this. By laying out the text in this manner, errors are much easier to spot. Double-spacing allows me add annotations between the lines when editing. Also, this layout produces approximately the same number of words per page as the printed edition will have, so the number of pages in the Master Copy is actually a fairly reliable guide to the finished book’s overall length. 100 pages corresponds, more or less, to 30,000 words. As I type this, Page 100 has just come up and the word count stands at 28,694. It would have been a bit higher, but the book is divided into parts as well as chapters. Part One has a title page all to itself, as will Part Two when I get there.
Once the book is complete and edited, I will make two ‘Trim’ copies. The first is for an ebook (Kindle, iPad etc.). This one will have its font converted to Times New Roman, be single-spaced and fully-justified. That is the standard requirement for a Kindle upload – although Amazon will have changed the font to Bookerley by the time the customer sees it. Anyone who owns a Kindle, or Kindle App for their phone or tablet can change it to whatever font they prefer, if they wish. The second is for a printed book. This time, the changes are more far-reaching. Novels are never published in A4. It is far too big. Instead they are either 5in x 8in, or 6in x 9in. I favour the larger size for serious works. The margins change and are set to Facing Pages, which means that left and right pages are mirror images of each other in formatting terms. The most popular fonts for printed books are Georgia, Baskerville, Palatino and Garamond. At the moment, I am thinking in terms of Georgia, but there is still a long way to go, so that might change. Unlike the ebook, the print edition has headers and footers, plus more complex Front and End Matters. Like the ebook version, it will be single-spaced and fully-justified. Ebooks are uploaded as epub files and print books as Pdfs. I will detail how I go about that in a later post, but first I must finish writing the book – and that will take several months.