A roller-coaster week – formatting my MS for CreateSpace

This has been a real week of ups and downs, but at least I haven’t done an Alton Towers. It’s been a cycle of problem identification, solution, exaltation, smug complacency, and problem identification…

A real psychological barrier was overcome when I justified the text to both left and right margins. At the touch of a button  (or many touches, as thinking about it I may have done it chapter by chapter, even section by section) the manuscript suddenly looked like a novel, all evenly aligned along the right margins. I take back what I said on the previous post about not caring about indentations to the right margin. It looks a whole lot cleaner when justified.

At this stage I thought I was well on the way toward my target of having a finished document that I could load onto the CreateSpace website today. Ah.

Hoping to avoid potential problems with document size and formatting I downloaded a Word template 8in by 5in (paperback size) and dumped my MS into it. Easy. Nope. There were the page numbers, sitting there at the foot of the pages, right in front of my eyes. But when I went to print preview they’d gone. Except sometimes when I went to print preview they were there. Glitchy software. I messed about for hours with the settings and then decided to try to create a pdf. It fell over at page 3. At this point I decided to abandon the template and create a new blank file, mirroring the template’s margin/header/footer/etc settings but NOT using the template’s section breaks as I suspect it was these causing at least part of the problem. I decided the missing page numbers and pdf fallover could be a Mac-Windows thing so asked my stepdad to see if he could do it on his Windows machine. Yes, the page numbers were there and it dumped the whole MS into a pdf with no problem. I’m hoping this problem is now gone, as long as I go to the library and use one of their Windows machines to create my pdf. Anyone reading this who wants to make their own pdf for CreateSpace, I would avoid Word for Mac 2008 like the plague. I would also be very wary about using CreateSpace’s templates unless you are absolutely comfortable with inserting and deleting section breaks, as this seems to screw the formatting up.

At this stage I decided to hope for the best and press on, with the aim of eradicating widows and orphans, those single lines at the top or bottom of a page caused by paragraphs not magically ending or starting pages. Two lines of text seems to be acceptable but not one.

A couple of net resources proved useful. The CreateSpace community forum heavily features someone called Walton (Mendelson), clearly passionate and knowledgeable about all things print setting related. His Build Your Book pdf should be easy enough to find, although some of his answers on CS can be overly complex for those who just want a simple question answered simply.

Another useful source was a document produced by (someone at?) Tufts Uni in the US. Here it is (my alias):


That document explains how to get rid of these single lines by condensing or expanding the space between characters, down to 0.1 points (to give some idea of that scale my line height is set to 15 points). It doesn’t sound much but is very effective. However it is time-consuming. I reckon it took me about 1.5 days to finish my MS.

I say finish. Re-setting many areas of text means all the punctuation has moved around, so the original sweep through looking for colons and semi-colons at the end of lines (frowned upon) had to be reprised. I also took the opportunity to go back through and look at my treatment of dashes and hyphens, and colons and semi-colons, to see if sometimes just a comma would suffice. I also put in the old ‘* * *’ asterisms (I think they’re called?), used to denote section breaks on the last or first line of a page. I’m not sure how acceptable these are on first lines, but I think I’ll run with them. I can find them in novels. In fact, dispiritingly, I can find quite a few widows and orphans in novels too, so maybe I should have left these as they were. Still, I’ve started so I’ll finish…

That’s where I got to as of Friday night. I was looking in a really good position, but then started to have doubts about my condensing and expanding of text. Without thinking, I’d paired up pages 1 & 2, 3 & 4 etc, when in fact page 1 will be on the right on its own, and the first (double-page) ‘spread’ will be pages 2 & 3. Well I hadn’t written down what I’d done page by page so I started going through from the beginning again. Sometimes I’d condensed on one page but expanded on the other, sometimes by up to 0.3 points (+/-). I lost confidence and decided that, unless it was critical, 0.1 (+/-) should be the max adjustment. So it was that yesterday afternoon I began the exercise all over again. If I couldn’t use the spacing method I would simply make little rewrites, to add words to force a line into the next, or remove words until a line disappeared. Adding is harder. Removing is easy enough. Even in a heavily edited manuscript you can find a word or two of fluff to get rid of, or use a shorter word for a longer one.

So that’s where I am right now, 2/3rds of the way through what will hopefully be the (almost) last piece of editing-formatting. I won’t get it done tonight so will run into tomorrow. I really need to get it done and dusted in the next few days as I want to finish my paperback cover by next weekend, when I go on holiday. In order to finish the cover I need the spine width, and I won’t be able to calculate that until I know the number of pages, which I won’t know until I’ve finished the editing-formatting process.

A big week lies ahead. Better get back to it…


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