Thursday, July 29, 2010

To Tell or Not to Tell

© 2010 Kae Cheatham

Through open invitation on a forum on Kindle boards, I submitted bits about my book Child of the Mist to Vicki Leiske's blog Victorine Writes. It's a neat concept she has to see if the first 400 words will "hook" her into wanting to read more. I've enjoyed reading the hooks of other writers, and also enjoyed Vicki's comments.
With my piece, she wondered about a certain action of my character--hacking off bits of her hair and saying, "for you, Mother". What I had written (or hadn't written) is a good example of an author assuming too much. I wrote that section assuming readers would know the character was mourning for her mother. In many American Indian cultures, cutting hair is a way to show grief for the loss of a loved one. Silly me, to expect everyone to know that, and I could have explained it with just a few more words.
Often reviews and critiques mention how too much is explained, or the wordiness of a passage because it's stating the obvious. But exclusion and too much brevity can also be a fault. Writers of historical fiction often get caught by this. All their research and years of reading history makes them forget that everyone doesn't have this knowledge--maybe explaining a tad more might be helpful.
This is also true for those who write about anything fairly technical, be it sail boating or the possibility of wormholes. What the author knows almost innately, doesn't always translate someone who is unfamiliar with the subject.
It's a tricky area: don't tell enough (as I did not), and readers are a bit confused; tell too much, and readers are bored. Learning how to tread that fine line takes practice, and still doesn't guarantee you'll get it right.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

E-book Layout. Is it Right?

Ah, the eBook revolution. You grab it for free, or for less than $2.00 or for less than $6.00. But the price doesn't always make a difference in what you see. We're talking book layout, here, not the actual read.
Get It Together Productions (GITP) has produced several eBooks, and we know the translation from text to the eBook platform can be—interesting. All the more need to carefully peruse the reproduced product; not just a few pages at the beginning, but study all of it. Even the Smashwords manual’s recommended example of a "good layout" went along fine until about a third of the way through, and then all the words to the end were capitalized. Not good.
Once your manuscript is "published" take a close look to be certain it's the way you want it. All publishing companies recommend this in their manuals, but it seems many authors miss the tip. After multiple re-reads and edits, it probably looms as too much effort to go through the entire book—again.
Often books are without copyright information. Yikes! Even if a book is a "freebie" and not DRM protected, the copyright information should be at the start of the book. A title page, too—please!
GITP creates an eBook layout to look like a print book layout—that is, first line indents and no spaces between paragraphs. Some readers don't mind the block form where the text looks like it was lifted from a Web page, but that's no reason to do it. Make the book look professional.
Since each eBook publisher has a different production process, the results will vary. Just because a book looks good in Smashwords, doesn't mean it will be okay on Kindle. This means checking each format. It might mean four or five proofreads. (Oh, groan!)
There is a positive to all this. You can always utilize that great advantage of eBook publishing—Republishing—to be certain your final product represents you in the very best way.