Formatting Final – I did it!

Done! Finished! Finito!

I finished the formatting of my novel. Can’t say it was easy. Man! Now it is in the hands of my beloved editor Karine. And hopefully she will find zero mistakes. She then has to bring it back to me, hand it over and its off to the printer. I’m plotzing here!When I decided to not only self-publish but also self-format, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Who knew! Do you have any idea how complicated InDesign is? InDesign is the program du jour used by book designers the world over. They take the written text, implant it into the program and start messing around with all the elements.

What elements you may ask? I’ll tell you!

First there’s text frames. That’s the first thing you have to get a handle on. Literally. Then there’s flowing and linking – so that page one understands that it flows into page two (like where else would it go?). Okay so you’ve got the pages set up. Pretty proud of yourself, aren’t you? Hah!

Next is designing your paragraph and character styles. Don’t ask me because I still don’t even understand all that. Luckily I had a guy named Gai (pronounced Guy) come over and give me  lessons – an intensive five hour sit-through. We took a small break and we had a light lunch. He got fed, I got frustrated.

Gai did me a really big favor by placing my entire manuscript (all the text of the book) into the program. That saved me tons of aggravation. Then he carefully explained all the important steps as I furiously tried to scribble notes and absorb what he was saying. Not sure I did so well in either.

After we got through the styles, and links, and Master Pages, and flows, and drop caps, and chapter headers, and body paragraphs, and first chapter paragraphs, and chupchiks (my name for the cute little doodads that separate sections) I thought I was in formatting heaven. I told Gai he could go home and that I would manage. He promised to be on call. I thought all was fine.

Then I got a flood of guests and didn’t look at the project for a month. A whole month! Do you have any idea how much time a month is when you’re just learning a new program/software? Its like an eternity. By the time my wonderful guests left, and I had spent a fab week at the FoodPhoto Festival in Spain and finally put my head back into the book – oy gevalt! Major trouble I tell you. Major!

Who could remember all that stuff? Well, the one smart thing I did was ask one of my guests to bring me a big fat InDesign Lessons book from New York. She went to several bookstores until she found it. She kindly schlepped it here for me and when I tool one look I panicked. This was no “InDesign for Dummies”. This was serious shit! Lessons! Reviews! A CD that went with it. Oh man, just what I needed. No magic pill to take me out of my Menopause in Manhattan formatting frenzy – a damn syllabus to read!

I tried for days to do what I had to. Gai was in the middle of some stuff and couldn’t rescue me on-site. He did though give me some advice by email. Bless that email. And bless google! You have no idea how helpful google is. Every question I had I entered in the google space bar and got answers! Not all of them really helped, I still had to do sorting through – but basically if you ask it, it shall be answered!

I had it all figured out except the headers that run across the top of the page. Meaning my name on the upper left side and the name of the book (don’t forget – Menopause in Manhattan!) on the top of every right sided page. You would think that you just look up headers, right? Yeah, as if.

Here’s what I learned – NEVER ASSUME! I was sure running headers meant the titles on the top of every page. NOT! (at least at this point, I think not). You know what they describe as a running header (they as in those InDesign gurus who write unintelligible books to make you crazy)? A running header, apparently, is what you will see in a phone book – the title on each page changes as per the alphabet – first name on page – that’s the name on the title. Oh man, was I now in trouble.

Two days of trying to figure out this nightmare and still no luck. Then I had an epiphany – just add a text frame! And within that text frame – add the text. Sounds good, no? Well for some still unknown reason, my text box did not allow me to add anything – no text, nada! Why? Who knows? Certainly not I.

Alas, my formatting days looked as if they were over. I was pulling out my hair (and my hair is pretty short). My husband, ever the encouraging sort said: “Just keep at it. You’ll do it.” Yeah, thanks a lot. Why couldn’t he be a InDesign genius instead of thinking I was? No help at all.

Well at this point I was ready to give in. To call Gai and beg him to just finish the damn project for me. Albeit it would cost money, and I really wanted to save money. But desperate times call for desperate measures. A writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do.

But alas, Gai was not available. The reserves had first dibs on him. Imagine! The Israeli army interfering with my plans. The nerve!

So I did the next best thing. Got busy finding another guru. I looked on the Adobe site and found a support group for InDesign groupies in Israel (I’m not kidding about this). I looked them up and wrote an email to the leader. No response. Damn!

I didn’t give up. I wrote him another email – more desperate. He answered! He was sweet and kind. He lived nearby.  And he offered to help! Since he’s like a really busy cat, he could only see me at night – he gave me directions (they sounded way too complicated) and told me to arrive anytime after 6pm – he’d be pulling an all-nighter.

When I saved my text onto the disk-on key, to bring to him, it took all of a nano-second. Didn’t seem right. Called Guy (another guy by the name of Guy) and he explained that I had to press the Package button. Not the save, not the Export, the PACKAGE! (Do you even care at this point? Surely not, but I’ll keep on going).

I arrived at the place – Guy’s studio. We got through the preliminary hi-hi’s and then we got right to it. He placed my disk-on key into his computer. Panic! I work on a Mac, he works on a PC. No problem he assured me. It would be fine. It was. Voila! My manuscript was up and running.

Glory Be! I thought I had seen the light! Not yet cowgirl. Just calm yourself. You’re not there yet.

I referred to my shopping list of To-Do items, one by one Guy solved them for me. As he clicked and moused around, I tried to pay attention and write notes at the same time. So that I may actually be able to do this myself next time. When will I ever learn? You think I can even read those notes?

We solved everything, or so I thought. He even re-designed a small graphic I had used in the book – making it prettier and legal (you just can’t pick up cute little designs  you find on the Net  – you could get sued!). I was feeling major happy and we even had a few minutes to chat at the end about what he’s doing in life. I left Guy’s studio feeling on top of the world.

When I arrived home, I put my disk-on key into my computer, transferred the program back to my folder and checked everything. Looked good! Time to print. Hah!

You know what printed? Junk! That’s what! Each page had a ridiculous border and shadow around it? Why? You’re asking me? All I know is that the thing looked a mess. I wrote Guy an email. He was crazy busy with his own stuff and couldn’t help me. Told me to copy the whole manuscript, delete all but a few essential pages and send it to him. I couldn’t figure out the deleting part, so I sent him the whole file (almost 400 pages!). He must have freaked – I never heard back from him.

Still with me?

Well, screw them all I decided. I can do this! I wrote a novel! Why should the formatting of it put me in panic mode. I was determined. I had a glass of wine and got back to it. And you know what? I DID IT!!!!!

I figured out the damn headers. I corrected the shadow around each page problem. Actually what I did was go back to the original set of copies Gai had made me (which I had mistakenly put in the trash – don’t even ask about that day of discovering I had no file at all!) and painstakingly went back through all the steps and did again what I had since learned. Drop caps? Done! Paragraph & Character styling? Done! Headers on left page? Done! Headers on right page? Done! Automatic numbering on the bottom on the pages? Done! Remove automatic pages from intro pages? Done! Remove headers from first chapter pages? Done! Try automatic hyphenation? Done! Reject automatic hyphenation? Done! Make sure that no sentences were widows (all alone on a page)? Done! Hope and pray it all adds up to the right number of pages that the printer can divide by eight? Done!

That’s it!

I printed it – slowly and surely. Was even tempted to buy a laser printer when I saw that my printer ran out of black ink and I had to make an emergency run to the nearest Office Depot store (20 kilometers away so I made my husband take me to lunch near his office – there are benefits to running out of ink). But the cheap laser printer pushes out pages just as fast (or slow) as my ink jet printer. I know, I know, I’m really boring you now.

So … the end of the story is the manuscript, neatly and lovingly formatted, is now in the hands of my ever-loyal, ever-talented, ever-believing in me editor Karine. She will look over every page, every chapter, every line. She will hopefully find no mistakes. But if she does, I will correct them. And while it’s in her hands, I will learn everything there is to know about marketing, selling, promoting a book. Because once it’s printed, and the ebook version is ready to go – THEN ITS IN YOUR HANDS!

Thank you for letting me vent.

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