The ‘of course!’ moment is when a Reader suddenly understands something pivotal about the plot, or one of the characters. To me, the moment should feel like a light bulb going off in the Reader’s head, or that moment of triumph when the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle falls into place. The problem, as always, is how to get there.
If your breadcrumb trail is too broad, the Reader will guess the ‘of course!’ moment long before it happens, resulting in a boring anticlimax. But if you don’t leave enough breadcrumbs, the Reader will feel cheated because the moment will have little connection to what’s gone on before, and they will have had no part in working out the great reveal.
Of course, this all assumes that the writer isn’t trying to cheat. I can’t say it’s happened to me a lot, but I have read a few books in which the writer paints him or herself into a corner, and then brings in a hitherto unknown, secret weapon that demolishes all in front of it. Or gives one of the characters a god-like power that wasn’t there before, and which none of the villains can resist. In other words, a cheat.
In my not so humble opinion, we writers create worlds, and those worlds should have rules which all of our characters obey. If we are going to change those rules half way through, there must be a compelling reason for it, and it must be presented to the Reader bit by bit until the change becomes a new rule rather than just a ‘get out of jail’ card.
In my own writing, I try to leave small, apparently irrelevant breadcrumbs all the way through my stories. Some actually remain as irrelevant titbits, but others grow until they become a necessary part of some ‘of course!’ moment.
In the Innerscape trilogy, I introduced Kenneth Wu’s signature scent [lemon] very early in the first book, more to flesh out his character than anything else. By the last book, however, the scent of lemon triggers a breakdown in his Grandmother, and helps fool Miira when she sees Kenneth’s avatar at Jaimie’s house.
A far more critical breadcrumb trail involved the Innerscape avatars themselves. Identity and deception are two of the main themes of Innerscape, but I wanted Readers to feel a sense of shock when they realise that the staff avatars can be used by anyone. I started laying breadcrumbs in book 1 by having David the sound technician join Miira’s orientation wearing Stanley’s avatar. The importance of those avatars continues until it reaches its climax in book 3.
I won’t tell you what that climax is, but I hope it gave Readers an ‘of course!’ moment. 😀
Do you consciously, or unconsciously, create ‘of course!’ moments in your own writing? I’m particularly interested in what the plotters amongst you have to say. Do you plan these moments right from the start? Or do you realise their significance only as you write?
It’s Saturday here already, and I have a hot date with an mmo. Have a great weekend everyone. 🙂
p.s. is anyone have trouble accessing images in their media library? I can’t seem to go back beyond 2017. 😦
“The camera focuses on a small section of rubble, which moves ever so slightly. Then a hand emerges, nearly obscured by dust. The hand grabs a sharp edge of concrete, and holds tight. More debris moves, and a person eases out, so covered in dirt that every part of them—body, face, clothes, shoes—are all the same color.
The camera pans back, shows what’s left of the building, then the street, then the neighborhood, then the city…and on and on and on until we see the country, the oceans, the entire world. Rubble, ruin, disaster.
Amidst it all, though, are intact buildings, beacons of light.”
That quote was taken from the start of a brilliant article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch in which she tries to make sense of the year that was. It’s the first article in what will become a series, and I strongly suggest that all my writer friends read it because Rusch has her finger on the pulse of publishing, both Indie and Traditional.
In fact, that’s one reason I began following Rusch’s Business Musings in the first place; she knows the publishing industry inside and out because she’s been both a traditionally published author and an Indie. This is her bio on wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristine_Kathryn_Rusch
It’s thanks to Rusch that I stopped [secretly] hankering for an agent and a publisher. I may never become a rich and famous Indie, but her knowledge of the industry made me realise I wouldn’t have become a rich and famous published author either. The key difference, however, is that as an Indie I retain my rights to my work.
Is that important? I believe it’s vital because nothing on the internet ever goes away, and ‘sleepers’ abound, sleepers such as Andy Weir’s The Martian. The book was self published and hung around for years, not doing very much, until it suddenly became a hit and was turned into a movie. I know because I read it before it became a hit. And that gives me hope. Innerscape may not be setting the world on fire now, but in 20 or 30 or 50 years that may change. Vanity, I know, but I like to think that at some point, real world technology will catch up to the tech in Innerscape and then…then my Offspring may reap the benefits that I cannot. Posthumous fame and fortune isn’t so bad. 😉
Anyway, the important thing is to be informed. The old paradigms have shifted, and they’re still shifting, especially for Indie authors. Ditch the rose coloured spectacles and see the world of publishing for what it is:
To begin, move to the back matter of your document and click the mouse at the point where you want the Table of Figures to appear.
Next, open the References tab and click Insert Table of Figures:
You should now be looking at the Table of Figures dialog box:
As you can see, the default settings are to:
Show page numbers
Right align page numbers
and ‘Caption label: Figure’
If you are happy with these default settings, click the OK button.
Note: if you have created different kinds of captions – for example, one for ‘Figures’ and a second one for ‘Tables’ – clicking the down arrow next to ‘Caption label’ will allow you to choose a different label. In this way you can generate a separate table for each label.
Unlike the Table of Contents, there is no specific command that allows you to delete the Table of Figures.
To delete the whole Table of Figures, you will have to manually select the entire table as if you were selecting a paragraph of text.
Note: simply clicking inside the Table of Figures will not work.
Once you have manually selected the whole table, press the Delete key on the keyboard. The Table of Figures will now be deleted, but the captions underneath the actual images still remain so you can reinstate a Table of Figures at any time.
This is the last of the graphics related how-tos, but the defunct ‘How to Print Non Fiction…’ also contains advanced help on Indexes etc. If anyone would like me to post this information, please let me know in comments.
At their most basic, captions are simply labels that describe the content of an image. As such, you can simply type a label beneath each image and leave it at that, or you can opt to not have captions at all. But if you are going to have captions, I’d strongly recommend using the ‘Insert Caption’ command found on the References tab.
If you use the ‘Insert Caption’ command, Word will automatically label and number each caption for you. Once all the captions have been entered, you have the option of getting Word to generate a Table of Figures like the example shown below:
When images are moved or deleted, Word not only updates the page numbering, it also updates the caption numbering.
Until now, the image and its caption have acted as two, separate objects, but it is possible to ‘lock’ them to each other via the ‘Group’ function. Grouping creates an outer ‘envelope’ around the two objects so they can be moved as one.
To group an image and its caption, first check that the text wrapping of the image is not ‘In Line with Text’.
Note: Grouping is only possible if the text wrapping of the image is not set to ‘In Line with Text’.
The first step is to click the caption. A text box will appear around it.
Next, hold down the Shift key on the keyboard while you click the image.
Now, both the image and the caption will have ‘handles’ around them, but they are not yet grouped:
Next, right click either the image or the caption.
Note: right clicking causes a context sensitive menu to be displayed.
You should now see a menu with ‘Group’ as one of the options:
Click Group to display the Group sub-menu.
Now click Group on the sub-menu. The image and its caption will now remain locked to each other until you ungroup them.
To move a grouped object, click on the image to display the outer frame and handles.
Note: if you click in the caption area, you will select the caption text box as well as the outer frame.
Next, point the mouse at the top of the outer frame until it changes to a black, four-headed arrow [as shown]:
Click-hold-and-drag the group to the required position.
The type of movement available to the grouped object will depend upon the text wrapping chosen for the image before it was grouped. For example, if ‘Square’ was chosen as the original text wrapping, the text will flow around the grouped object in a ‘box’ shape.
Update! So sorry! I assumed there’d be a link… Here it is
I’m not much into poetry, but I like what I like, and right from the start, I’ve been moved by Frank Prem’s poetic way of telling a story. In ‘Small Town Kid’ I felt as if Frank was somehow tapping into my own childhood as a ‘New Australian’. In Devil in the Wind, it was my own memories of Black Saturday that came back to haunt me. Memories of waiting and fear and horror as the full scope of the devastation became apparent…
That’s Frank Prem’s great power – he weaves simple words and images into a visceral reminder of our own stories. Yet he’s an unassuming man with all the quiet strength of a true Aussie.
If you want to become a poet, or a writer, or an artist, but don’t think you can, read Frank’s story and take heart. It is possible. 🙂
I haven’t written any how-to’s on how to create an ebook because I assumed there were countless how-to’s out there already. I was both right and wrong; there are lots of people providing helpful information about text-based ebooks such as novels, but there are not that many devoted to graphics heavy ebooks.
This distinction was brought home to me when one of my blogging friends needed help with a picture book. He was trying to create an ebook with both pictures and carefully formatted text.
It can be done, but the digital technology we have at the moment is limited when it comes to integrating text and graphics.
Before I start on possible solutions, and/or workarounds, I want to explain what those limitations are, and why they cause problems with graphics heavy ebooks.
Things ordinary ebooks can do
Ordinary ebooks are great with text but just barely okay with pictures. That’s because they’re not really ‘books’ at all. They’re more like rolls of toilet paper with words projected onto them. The story literally unrolls in an ebook.
This has significant advantages. For starters, as ereaders don’t care about the size or number of words shown on their screens, the reader can make those words as big, or small, as they please…for the whole ‘book’. I use this feature all the time because my eyesight ain’t what it used to be.
Things ordinary ebooks can’t do
Unfortunately, the very flexibility of ebooks can create problems when it comes to adding pictures to the text. Pictures don’t ‘flow’ the way text does, so getting them to fit the screen requires that they be sized for the screen.
But which screen? There are dozens of different digital devices from smartphones to dedicated ereaders to tablets of various sizes. Making an image to fit one screen almost guarantees that it won’t quite fit another.
Another problem with pictures is that not all digital devices are in colour. Dedicated ereaders, such as ordinary Kindles and Paperwhites, only do grayscale.
To display a picture in colour, the digital device has to be some kind of tablet [like the Kindle Fire] or a mobile phone. So again, which device should you optimise for?
And finally, because of their ability to ‘flow’ the text, ebooks don’t do precise formatting. Unfortunately, graphics heavy books like memoirs, cookbooks, picture books etc, look best when the formatting is controlled and the pictures are in colour.
To work around this fundamental problem with ebook design, Amazon created a number of specialist programs:
Kindle Kid’s Book Creator
Kindle Comic Creator
I took a quick peek at Kindle Kids, and I couldn’t quite work out what it was doing [the manual approach]. I suspect it’s a lot easier if you use the PDF option and simply pour everything into the app in one go.
Of the three, Kindle Create is the one I find most useful. In its current iteration, it is actually two programs in one:
The first allows you to ‘format’ Word .doc and .docx files into text-based ebooks like novels. There is help for creating a Table of Contents as well as Front and Back matter pages, and you can add pictures although the image manipulation is basic to say the least.
The second is the old Textbook Creator app. which turns a PDF document into an ebook.
Kindle Create for text based ebooks
This version of Kindle Create allows you to include all the standard elements of a book as well as pictures, but all you can do with pictures is adjust the size, and sometimes the location. That’s it. You can make the image small, medium, large, or full, but you can only adjust the placement of small or medium images. Large and full images seem to be placed automatically and can’t be changed.
One nice thing is that Kindle Create automatically wraps the text around the image as shown below:
But again, only if the image is small or medium.
This does not constitute ‘total control’ over the way text and images display, but it’s not bad. More importantly, when I did a preview of the page, it seemed to display quite well on tablet, phone and Kindle devices.
Something I was not expecting was that the colour image was automatically changed to grayscale on a Kindle device:
Given that this option works with standard .doc or .docx documents, I was pleasantly surprised by how it put everything ‘together’.
The old Textbook Creator
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to call the second option of Kindle Create by its old name – Textbook Creator.
Textbook Creator doesn’t try to integrate text and pictures at all. It creates an ebook out of a sequence of pictures.
If you’re nodding your head and saying, “Ah, she’s talking about PDFs”, you’d be right.
To quote from one of my own how-to’s:
PDF stands for Portable Document Format. With PDF documents, each page is like a ‘snapshot’ of the original Word page. That’s why it’s called WSIWYG – what-you-see-is-what-you-get.
Basically, everything on the Word page becomes a composite ‘picture’ that cannot change. This is how you make sure that what appears on the screen of the digital device is exactly the same as what you originally created, including the positioning of both graphics and text.
It’s the difference between ‘some control’ and ‘total control’.
“But…PDFs can’t be edited.”
That would normally be true, if you were dealing with a PDF document as a whole. But Textbook Creator cuts the original PDF document into its component pages, and each one those pages can be swapped out, individually.
To make this a bit clearer, let’s say you have imported a 20 page PDF document into Textbook Creator. Then you discover that you made a small error on page 15.
Rather than redoing the whole, 20 page document, you can:
go back to the original,
make a change to page 15,
export page 15 as a new PDF document
swap the new page 15 for the old page 15 inside Textbook Creator, and voila!
Okay, I admit the process is convoluted, but it does make working with PDFs a little less frustrating.
So what is the downside of using Textbook Creator?
The text in the ebook created by Textbook Creator cannot be resized. You can pinch-and-zoom to see details at a larger size, but you cannot specify that the text in the entire ebook be at a certain size.
This means that the original document has to be designed in such a way that it will suit most readers and most ereaders.
In paperbacks, this is kind of standard, and expected, but not so in digital devices. Plus getting the document to fit can be rather tricky.
Getting the size right
As mentioned before, there are a lot of different ereaders out there, and screen sizes are not the same either. Designing a document to fit all of them is a case of picking something ‘average’ and basing the sizing on that.
But what do I mean by ‘sizing’?
The easiest way to explain is to show you. The following is a preview of this post, in Textbook creator:
Can you see how tiny the text below the image is?
All I did was export a standard Word file to PDF and then import that PDF into Textbook Creator. The font size of the Word document is 12.
Now have a look at this preview. Same document but with a font size of 28:
To get the document to display like that, I had to radically change how the Word document was setup. Basicallly, I simulated the Kindle Fire screen in Word so that I could place text and images to their best advantage.
The following screenshots show my page setup in Word 16.
1. Paper size
The dimensions circled in orange create a page size that exactly fits the screen of my Kindle Fire 6.
Again, those margins are designed to make reading the Kindle Fire 6 screen visually ‘comfortable’ without wasting too much space.
Note: there are no settings selected in Layout. You need clean, minimal formatting in the original Word document. This includes not using things we normally take for granted, such as manual ‘spacing’.
For best results, you should always create styles – for the effects you must have – and use only those styles in the formatting.
Because Word is an old program, and Microsoft never throws anything away, it simply buries it under new code. This means that there is a lot of…[expletive deleted]…junk in Word that lurks in the background and can seriously mess with other programs that attempt to read/use Word documents. So keeping the document ‘clean’ is important.
But wait…there’s more. Remember how I said I’d changed the font size to 28? The next screenshot is of the Normal Style I created just for Kindle Fire 6 documents:
I can’t tell you why translating text from Word to a small digital device shrinks the text. All I know is that it does, and we have to manually compensate for it.
The other thing you might want to notice is that the alignment is set to ‘Justified’. Not only does it make the text look more professional, it also saves space on the screen.
To change the Normal Style on your own version of Word, right click on the style [on the Ribbon] and select ‘Modify’ from the drop down list of options [see here for step-by-step details]. That will get you to the Modify Style dialog box shown above.
Once the Modify dialog box is open, change the font size and alignment and then click ‘Save’.
We should now have a document that is optimised for an ebook.
Once the Word document is as perfect as we can make it, save the document as a Word file, and then Export it as a PDF.
Your book is now ready to import into Textbook Creator.
In my next post, I’ll talk about the Textbook Creator software.
Although it’s always preferable to edit images using dedicated graphics software, it’s often necessary to do minor edits once the images have been inserted into a Word document. This is especially true after the A4 Word document has been converted into the required paperback size [trim size].
In this post, we’ll look at basic image editing tasks you may have to perform in Word 16.
Selecting an image
To select an image in Word 16, simply click it.
You should now see a frame and circular ‘handles’ around the outer edge of the image:
All of the handles will resize the image, but only the corner handles will keep it in proportion.
Change the size of an image
To decrease the size of the image, hover the mouse over one of the corner handles until the mouse pointer changes to a diagonal arrow.
Click-hold-and-drag the handle into the middle of the image.
To increase the size of the image, drag the corner handle away from the image.
Cropping allows you to cut away the unwanted parts of an image. This technique is particularly useful if you want to create a ‘close up’ of one particular detail, or when the details are too small to see clearly, but the image itself is already at the maximum size for your page.
To illustrate this point, have a look at the two screenshots below:
In the first screenshot, you can barely see the ‘Crop’ option. You certainly can’t see any details about it. In the second screenshot, only part of the Ribbon is visible, but the ‘Crop’ option is shown in ‘close-up’ and is easy to read.
This will cause the image frame to be displayed. It will also make the ‘Picture Tools’ tab available on the Ribbon.
If the tab is not open, click Format as shown below:
You should now see the ‘Crop’ option on the far right of the tab:
To crop the selected image, click the Cropicon [not the word or arrow] on the Ribbon.
The image will now display the distinctive black, crop handles:
Point the mouse at one of the crop handles until it changes shape and looks like a smaller version of the crop handle:
Click-hold-and-drag the handle towards the middle of the image.
When you release the mouse button, the grey area visible in the background represents the area of the image that will be cropped:
To complete the crop process, click the Crop icon on the Ribbon again.
Once the image has been cropped, click it again and use the corner ‘handle’ to make the image bigger. This basically creates your ‘close-up’.
Moving an image in Word
Depending on how you originally inserted your image into Word, changing the page setup of your document may mean that you also have to re-align the image on the page.
The first step is to click the image to select it.
Next, point the mouse at the image. When the mouse changes to a four-headed arrow, click-hold-and-drag the image to a new location:
If the image won’t move, it means that the default ‘Wrap Text’ setting – i.e. In-line with Text – is still in force. This setting locks the image to the text at its current location.
To ‘unlock’ the image, open ‘Format’ on the Picture Tools tab:
Next, click Wrap Text to display the menu of text wrapping options. In the example shown, ‘In Line with Text’ is the active wrap text setting. You can find detailed pictures and descriptions of the wrap text settings here.
To select one of the other Wrap Text options, click the icon next to it. Depending on which option you chose, you should now be able to move the image on the page.
I can’t tell you how good it feels to see the Classic toolbar, all in one, neat place at the top of the post. It’s like the blinkers have come off!
To celebrate, I’ve made a new Plotagon video starring the lovely Kenneth Wu. I tried for a little humour this time, not sure it worked. Anyway, could you please tell me whether the speech is clear enough or whether I should put in sub-titles?
I’ve just unpublished ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’.
It’s not the first book I’ve unpublished – I had to unpublish the two CreateSpace versions after CreateSpace ceased to exist. Nevertheless, hitting that ‘Unpublish’ button on KDP felt very odd, especially as I’m not sure whether I’ll ever republish in the same way again.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I unpublished the KDP how-to book because it was first published in 2018, and parts of it were now quite out-of-date. KDP only made a few changes, but Thorpe-Bowker [the agent for ISBNs in Australia], and the National Library of Australia, had both completely changed their websites. I would have to update much of the second and third parts of the how-to, and basically create a ‘second edition’ of the book.
Unfortunately, when you create a second edition of a book, you have to publish it with a new ISBN, and that costs money. Given that I haven’t earned a single cent from the how-to, it didn’t make sense to invest yet more money into a project that no body seemed to want.
Around about this point, I sat down and did some hard thinking.
Was the how-to bad? Was the Kindle Fire version too restrictive? Was the paperback too expensive?
Or could it be that people have grown used to finding information online? For free?
Given how much research I do online, for free, I could hardly fault others for doing the same thing. So I had to decide whether to keep flogging that poor dead horse, or move with the times. I chose to move with the times and publish the entire how-to, online, for free on my blog.
Was this a completely altruistic decision? Hah… -cough-
The truth is, self-publishing is hard. Making yourself visible on Amazon is hard. Selling your books and making money is next to impossible unless you’re:
very good at marketing,
have oodles of cash for advertising, or
have some way of enticing people to your blog
I suck at the first three, but I am good at teaching people how to do things. At least half of all the people who visit my blog are there for one of my how-to posts. So if that’s my strength, how do I translate it into increased visibility for the rest of my work?
Honestly, by the time I got to that question, the answer was pretty obvious – the smart thing would be to self-publish the how-to on the blog and hope that increased exposure would lead to…something. -shrug-
I’m realistic enough to know that very few of the people who come for my how-to posts stay to chat, or buy my science fiction. But you have to work with what you have. Besides, I’ve put so much work into my how-to books I’m damned if I’ll let them sink into complete obscurity.
So, allow me to introduce you to the new, updated, 2020 edition of ‘How to print your novel with Kindle Direct Publishing. -points to sidebar on the right-
Clicking that image should take you to a Table of Contents which contains all the links to all the sections/chapters of the how-to. Alternatively, you can click the link below: