Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Progress: The Nitty Gritty

I had already chosen the photos that I wanted to use for the next Hike with Me book. All I needed to do was create what I'm calling the photo plates. When I first researched using photos in a CreateSpace book, I discovered that using Word to put captions on photos was not a reliable way to do things. I use Gimp to put my photos and their captions onto precisely sized and print quality images.

The process for this isn't terribly difficult, but it is time consuming. I'm not sure if I made it more time consuming this year by trying for efficiency. I figured that since my first reader would have something to say about the captions, I should have him evaluate the captions as I wrote and added them to the photo plates. It seemed like it would be easier to fix them while I was working on them, rather than having to go back and fix them after he'd read them in the proof of the book.

All the photo plates are now complete, and, in the course of designing the new cover, I've also submitted updates for the covers of the first two Hike with Me books. Once those updates are completed on CreateSpace, I'll trickle them down to the ebook versions, since the biggest change is in the title design.

The next step is inserting the photos into the Word document. For the print book, this process is a bit more finicky than for the ebook. I prefer each of the narrow photos, for example, to be on the outside, rather than near the spine. Whenever a photo changes position, it influences the position of the text that comes after. For the ebook, I use an html layout view and simply stick the photo plates where they should be in order, no need to worry about page position. It will be fairly simple to convert the print book document into an ebook ready one.

The Wild Coast will, I think, be an improvement over the last book, as Queens River Loop was an improvement over Stump Lake. I'm continuing to learn more not only about how better to write, but also how better to prepare for the production of this particular kind of book. They aren't really travel books, but I suppose that's the best classification. They are adventure books. I find backpacking to be a wonderful adventure, and, in those books, that's what I want to share.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hike with Me Wild Coast Progress

I'd stopped checking on the word count a while ago, but when I copied the text into my Word template, the word count showed up in the lower left corner without my meaning to check it. To my surprise, I have written less words about a six day trip than I wrote last year about a four day trip. And yet, I think that this text is stronger. I have taken what I learned in my Creative Nonfiction class and ran with it, trying to remember that my main goal with this book is to tell a story - it just happens to be a true story.

My first reader is giving the text another careful read, and I'm getting set to start adding the pictures and captions. I've picked the pictures that I want to include, though some may be added and some removed as I continue on the process. I have only one more workday before the Christmas break, when, in exchange for three mandatory vacation days, I am officially off until the 4th of January. (Unofficially, I have to work on the 2nd, but I knew that was coming.)

And so, there are no more excuses about time. I'm about to have a lot of it. What I need to do is make sure that the lure of streaming television doesn't tear me away from the work that I love. I know I can finish this if I put the hours in with my butt in the chair, my hands at the keyboard or on the mouse.

When I was looking through the photos to choose the ones I wanted to use in the book, one struck me as being so layered and expansive and beautiful that I exclaimed aloud. The picture was talking to me, and although I didn't know what it was saying, Ambrose did. It was telling me it should be the cover:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Class Is Over: Time to Get to Work

My class is done with for the semester, but I am finding that I have more than enough work to keep me occupied at my job. That's a good thing. I'd hate to feel bored at work. 

Or so I keep telling myself. Okay, okay, so my husband keeps reminding me. 

The focus of my writing is now turning to finish the next Hike with Me book. The text has been drafted and reviewed. The hard part is going to be winnowing down the photos to a reasonable number. I'm a little more wary of putting in as many photos as possible, because of the lessons I've learned putting the other two books into expanded distribution. 

After a long time of sticking with Amazon only, I finally decided to go ahead and distribute elsewhere. I wasn't selling very much on Amazon. Not that these books are really about sales, but maybe the people who want to read them only frequent Barnes and Noble or iBooks. I won't know unless I try. 

The sticking point with expanded distribution was that one distributor, Smashwords, won't take files larger than 10MB. Supposedly, there's a way to go up to 20, but I couldn't get it to work for my Queens River file that, with all its pictures as compressed as possible, won't get smaller than 13MB. I ended up using Draft2Digital for Queens and Smashwords for Stump Lake. 

I'm not paying much attention to whether they're selling at the moment, but it was quite a delight to see them available in so many places. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Unexpected Effectiveness

Today in class we took turns reading excerpts from our portfolio essays. I didn't read mine. I hadn't had a chance to practice reading it aloud, and I wanted to read it well.

The reading portion of class was expected, but the professor had a little surprise for us. For each reader, she selected two people to give responses. My impression was that the responses were to be positive. This was to be a celebration of work that we liked and liked creating.

For the most part, the responses were blandly positive. The professor did make one exception - for some reason, she nitpicked one girl's reading, but none of the student responders gave anything negative. I didn't, though I wasn't sure I had responded positively enough.

The essay I was to respond to was a relatable, simply told tale of what it was like to leave home and go away to college, and then come back. That's just about what I said, though I did quote some nice phrases that the author used as well as good voice.

But it made me think of my freshman year of college, fourteen years ago in 2001. This author's experience and mine could not be the same. I left home only a few weeks before 9/11. And exactly four weeks after that event rocked the nation, my ex-boyfriend committed suicide and turned my mind and heart inside out.

I had a hard time listening to the essays that followed that one. My face heated as I thought about those events and how they affected me at the time. How they affect me now.

I guess that essay did more than the author intended. By calling up this almost stereotypical tale of the changes that can happen when one goes away to college, she reminded me of the differences timing can make, and the uselessness of holding on to regrets. Without intending to speak to my specific situation or memories, she nonetheless made an effective impression.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Assignment as Event

Dean Wesley Smith gives frequent advice on his blog to writers. And, the advice may sometimes seem repetitive. The same words of wisdom may be seen again and again on his blog, not because they've been heeded, but because the advice is often touching on traps that all writers can fall into. Even Dean.

Last week, he wrote about finding himself making his next writing project important. Despite frequent admonishments not to let a novel or story become an event, his excitement for the project let him slip into that writer trap and be frozen at the keyboard.

Since I'm taking a class this fall, I got to thinking about how school trains us not only to revise, revise, revise our writing, but also to treat writing assignments as events. When a paper is due on a specific date, it becomes an event. When a paper can make or break your grade, it becomes important (more or less so depending on your temperament and whether that grade impacts scholarship dollars).

All through school, writers are trained to look at each piece of writing, be it fiction or non, a lab report or a poem, as an important event. Personally, I think that attitude is behind a lot of procrastination and last minute writing. Those deadlines made me want to avoid writing until I absolutely had to start, the night before, or, with luck, two nights before.

I've definitely carried that attitude with me into fiction writing. Without a deadline, I often find myself staring at the blank screen, or avoiding the keyboard entirely. And each rejection ends up feeling like getting an F, a horrible blow to my self-confidence.

The writing myths that Dean points out on his blog are like boulders. And I'm carrying them, dragging them behind me, clinging to them even as they slow me down. Maybe it's because I was good at school from a young age, and letting go of what validated much of my life is scary. Maybe, as a writer, I can come up with any number of excuses to hold onto them. And maybe I can dig them up by the roots and let them go.