There’s a line from the movie “Moonstruck” where the mother, played by Olympia Dukakis, tells the daughter, played by Cher, “Your life is in the toilet!”. Well, mine is in the ellipses! And it should be on the elliptical!

Ever since I decided to format my own novel, which I intend to self-publish (and no, that is NOT a dirty word), I’ve entered a new world – one of grammar, punctuation, language and format. And while I spend hours at my computer, trying to determine if an unfinished sentence requires a comma, semi-colon, ellipsis (those 3 little dots trailing off at the end) or a period – I know that I should really be on the elliptical exercising my you-know-what!

The process of editing and correcting has been way more stressful than writing. While I write, I disappear in the characters’ heads and I just bang away at the keys on the computer, forming their words. I create stories and practically live them. (Don’t ask what happens during the sex scenes!) If I don’t have anything to say, I do something else – whip up something in the kitchen, solve today’s Sudoku or read a software manual.

But when I’m working on the final edit, correcting what others’ have found fault with, I’m struggling. How do I know if a phrase needs an ellipsis or a comma? Once again I remind you, I’m a nice Jewish girl from Queens, how do I know about these things???

My latest foray into the world of text and layout has led me into very murky waters. Formatting using either Microsoft Word or Apple Page ’09. Man, did I not know what I was getting into!

Here’s the thing – the “proper” way to format a book is to use a “proper” desktop publishing software program – like Adobe InDesign. But that requires hiring someone who has experience with the program, which requires money.  I want to spend as little as I have to on this project, so that I can keep the purchase price low and then everyone will buy it!

Since I don’t own InDesign, I decided to work with the programs I do own – either Word or Pages. Neither is perfect, but one of them has to be manageable, no?   Hah!

I’m a new convert to Mac, so I really wanted to use the Apple program. I started out fine, but get really blogged (pun intended) down. No Drop Cap feature on Pages! Do you know how miserable I am about that? That means that when you start a new chapter, and you want the first letter of the first paragraph to stand out, you can’t just click the Drop Cap button (like you can on Word) and Voila! get a really cool large initial set into your paragraph. No, you have to go through all kinds of machinations and steps – and in the end – who knows what you’ll get.

My adventure in Drop Cap land landed me in the Forum for Mac users. And I caused a fight! Well, let’s say an argument. Everyone was giving opinions and suggestions on how to make a Drop Cap, and then how to save it and reapply it, (this has been going on for three days!) and then these 2 helpful souls disagreed with each other and started a mini-war right there on my post! (Oh, I also found out that I’m the OP – the original post). See, aren’t you learning here?

I got so nervous from all their “arguing” and also well-intentioned advice, which I found impossible to follow, I just gave up. I switched to Word. But I really don’t like Word – its so not friendly. And not pretty. I don’t know – I just wanted the happy Pages program to work for me. And lo and behold I have Word problems too! I can’t figure out how to cancel a header and footer on certain pages.

You know how on a new chapter page, you never see a heading on top, or even a page number on the bottom? That seems to be the style du jour of American literature. Well, how the hell do you get those headers not to show up on some pages? I tried dividing up the manuscript into sections, that didn’t work. Obviously I must be doing something wrong, but why does it all have to be so complicated? Why can’t they just add a button that allows you to “Delete header from this page only”?

When I finally gave up, I caved. I found someone to format the book for me. She gave me a really fair price and I agreed. It was all just too stressful. But then more stress started! She had her deadlines and didn’t need mine. I’m talking metric, she’s talking Imperial. (centimeter versus inch). I want an Art Deco font, she’s thinking Art Nouveau. I’m changing my mind every nano-second, and she’s ready to kill me. I’m choosing cute little icons for the section dividers, and she wants me to tell her about the margins! She tells me I’m building a house from the door knocker up, and she needs to design the blueprints! (Should I tell her that I actually did build a house, from the French doors out? No, I think I’ll minimize her aggravation). Anyhoooooo, long story short, we decided it won’t work out.

I searched for others to work with and I found a few. Really nice local people who seemed to be very qualified (except the one who showed up for a meeting in beach clothes, with no work to show me). But hiring someone whose language is not English is iffy, and then again there’s the issue of price….

So its me and my computer again. Maybe I really do have to learn InDesign and be the graphic designer I always dreamed of being. No, maybe not. How about just the layout person I’d like to be?

And while all this is happening, nothing else is getting worked out. So… I gave up the elliptical for the ellipsis. I may have a huge ass in the end, but my grammar will be soooooo good!

One Response

  1. Yes, but the good news is when this book launches up the charts and lands you on the bestseller list, you’ll be so rich and famous that we men will end up thinking that that particular part of your anatomy LOOKS JUST FINE! We’re very simple that way!
    Seriously, my friend, I wish you the best of luck. I look forward to being there when you pop that bottle of Champagne.
    Hang in there and take care.

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