FIVE – TINY CHANGE, BIG DIFFERENCE

I am nearly there. I have mostly edited the novel at this stage, and reading it for the umpteenth time I have gone through the usual crises of confidence, swinging between seriously rethinking my decision to publish and believing that it is destined for the Booker. Right now I am somewhere in the middle.

The truth is that I am really not in a position to judge. It is impossible for me to have an objective view of something that I have been writing and editing for about four years now. What I probably need is an editor, but I cannot afford one, and anyway, I don’t think I would trust anyone else with the book. Whatever, this is the path I have chosen, and I have to run with it.

After editing, the main task recently has been laying out the book, or “typesetting”, as it would be called if a professional did it. I am laying the book out in Word, even though I have been told by a number of people that the word-processing programme is really not suited to typesetting a book. The pros would use Indesign, or another such desktop publishing software.

I had a basic knowledge of Word before I started all of this, and have had to learn about things like mirror margins and footnotes and page breaks that I haven’t really used before. Again, if nothing else this is all a learning experience. I had trouble with basic things like page size and page numbers, but it seems that I have now got it looking the way I want it to look.

I will know when I see the finished product, but it seems that it is actually possible to typeset a book in Word. Each chapter is a different section, and so I have a header with the book’s title – A Year in Lisbon – on the even numbered pages, and one with the title of each chapter – “September” or “March” etc.. – on the odd numbers. The page numbers I have placed at the top of the pages, on the left on even numbered pages, and on the right on odd so that they always appear on the outside of each page.

The typeface is Garamond, a few people recommended this to me on a writing and publishing forum, and I have put it in 11 point type. It looks pretty good. I went with 11 point as obviously the smaller the type, the more words I can get on each page. And as the printer is charging per page, obviously this saves me a little money.

The novel is long, about 120,000 words. It was 130,000 before I started editing it. And so to avoid having a 500 page blockbuster I have to try certain things to get more words on a page. One thing is the 11 point decision, which is probably smaller than the standard 12 point size you will see in most books, but it is not unheard of.

The other thing is that I have made it single space line spacing. Again, this is probably a little less than the average, but you will see this in printed books. With this I have a 327 page novel. The other option is to go to 1.15 spacing, which is one of the standard line-spacings offered by Word. In truth this possibly looks a little better, though whether it makes that much difference is debatable.

In any case, this apparently tiny line-spacing change would add an extra 50 pages to the novel, and so would add to my costs. I really wanted to avoid having an almost 400 page book, so this is the last fundamental decision I will have to make. I am going to print out the first chapter with a local printing firm, in single-space and then in 1.15 spacing, and decide while looking at the printed word.

These are the compromises that have to be made, especially with a substantial novel, like the one I have written. It is not easy to make 120,000 words into something that is not just a doorstop, while retaining a good level of readability. Still, I am almost there, next stop is getting an ISBN number, and from there sending my PDF to the printer. It seems like it is really happening.

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