Monday, April 2, 2012

Ascension is out!

"Nothing stops the man who desires to achieve. Every obstacle is simply a course to develop his achievement muscle. It's a strengthening of his powers of accomplishment." - Thomas Carlyle

I had expected it to take a little less time to get Ascension out and available to the public at large, and as I got closer I started expecting it to take a little more time to get'r'done.  But my Monday morning present was waking up to see that the good folks at Amazon have already released it.  It's now available in ebook format.

It took some effort that went well beyond what people typically consider writing.  Not complaining at all; I'm one of those sick fools who actually enjoys all the little details associated with self-publishing.  Like formatting.  And graphic arts, once I got the software figured out.  And all that other difficult stuff.

It's not easy.  But it's worth it.

A short run-down for the curious: 

First and foremost, get the story right.  That's really the toughest part.  I mean, yes, we have editors to help, and we read the story out loud to make sure everything including the dialog works, but there's always something about the story that could be told a little differently.  That leaves the writer going back and forth a bit.  But as I learned the hard way, make sure the story is the way you want it before you start doing the formatting bit.

Set the text parameters the way you want them.  I, personally, like Times New Roman 12 pt.  I've read that sans-serif fonts (where the letters don't have the little doodads at the end of each line) are a skosh easier to read, but most professionally published books are typeset in serif fonts like TNR or similar.  So, easier to read or no, who am I to go against centuries of readers' expectations?  Also, some writers swear by 11-point letters, but I like the slightly larger letters because my eyes are getting worse, too.  That, and 12 makes me happy.  And it's a pica.  To 'splain: the basic definition of letter size is based on height, not width, and this was all decided long before England had gone away from the English system of measure.  Thus, an inch is an inch, but that's useless for typesetting since letters are typically small.  A pica is one-sixth of one inch.  A point is one-twelfth of one pica.  Thus, 12-point text is one-sixth of one inch, or one pica, tall.  Eleven point text is--some funky fraction.  Hey, I'm a writer, not a math teacher.  Well, okay, so I am a math teacher, sometimes, by day.  But that's other stuff.

Get the paragraphs the way you want them.  Select the whole dang document (other than the title and the centered front matter)--keystroke in Word is, after putting the cursor at the beginning of your selection, to hold the Ctrl and the Shift key down and press End.  Voila!  Then I justify the text (it's a button in the alignment section) which makes the right side of the document look happily neat too, and then I change the indent of each paragraph to .3 inches.  See, when I write, I use a paragraph indent of half an inch because it's easier to see, but since lines in a book or on a Kindle are so much shorter, three tenths of an inch are sufficient to get the point across.  Oh, and if you use tabs at the beginning of the paragraph, get out of the habit now, because that makes changing the format much harder later. 

I also, at this point, go through and remove excess spaces.  I'm still old school when I type so every sentence ends in a period and two spaces.  Word makes it easy to replace a period and two spaces with a period and one space globally, though.  I did that with Ascension and had nearly 6,000 replacements.  Also, I'm in the bad habit of reaching the end of the paragraph before I realize it and pressing the space bar another couple of times, so I use Replace to globally change a period, a space, and a paragraph mark with a period followed immediately by a paragraph mark.

Now, of course, all the chapter headings are off, so I go to the first one and format it the way I like it, centered without an indent.  Word 2007 makes it easy to base Heading1 on whatever is selected (just right-click on the Heading1 button) so I do that and then scroll merrily through the document applying Heading1 to every chapter heading.  (Actually, I use Find instead of scrolling because I'm lazy)

After that, it's just a matter of telling Word to insert a Table of Contents, and I'm done.  Mostly.  For the Kindle edition, I save it to an HTML file (which converts the page numbers into links to the chapters in the TOC).  For Createspace, they have a template that you can paste your document into.  Their template works reasonably well so long as you don't get outside of their pre-defined margins (which will cause their system to yell at you). 



  1. Hi Stephen,

    Congratulations with your 2nd book. That's a very cool looking cover :)

    1. Thank you! Jessa, my daughter, did a great job drawing it. I'm really proud of what she's accomplished.