Reflective of Our Times?

I watched the first three Twilight movies in the theater last night. Totally awesome! What I found most interesting about the experience was how different the audience’s reaction to the first two movies was last night, in comparison to their reaction when those movies first came out.

They laughed at the first two movies in a few places, even while breaking into applause for some of their favorite moments.

image Edward watching Bella sleep in Twilight was met with snorts. When Twilight first came out, sure, there were plenty who were weirded out by that, but especially in the theater, this was accepted with solemn intensity instead of laughter.

Twilight was first published in 2005, thus written and read when Bush was in his big-brother mode. In fact, the end of 2005 was when we first started discussing his phone-tapping policy. In 2005, the United States was still willing to trade freedom for protection. Even in 2008, when the movie Twilight was released, there was no laughter in the audience for this plot point.

I took the laughter as hope that this terrifying trend is coming to a close.

image Then there’s the sex thing. The movie Eclipse was self-aware of how archaic Edward’s feelings on sex, virginity and marriage. It gave the audience several moments to laugh at this situation. The first two movies regarded the sex thing with solemnity, although the audience did snort or laugh at these moments last night.

In the past few years, there has been a sweeping, judgmental, and intolerant movement when it comes to sex. The audience’s reaction to the sex thing was heartening. I’m taking both the self-awareness of the movie and the audience’s laughter as hope that this judgmental and intolerant trend is phasing out.

image And finally, in the first three books, Bella is courageous and she wants desperately to fight for herself, but she is human and not a match for vampires. (Though she does fight, in her own way, but I don’t want to go into that debate.) For the most part, Edward and Jacob protect her.

When the Twilight trilogy was written, we were still reeling from 9/11. Even when it was first published, the average U.S. citizen was passively living their lives while others protected them from terrorism, which they were powerless to actively fight. While this is still going on today, I see less fear. The 2004 election was mostly won because Bush promised to protect us and played on our fear of terrorism. I don’t see that same tactic working as well today. Eclipse does a great job of making Bella more proactive and showing how she does fight, even when she doesn’t.

I enjoyed the trilogy immensely, and still love the storylines. As I sat there, though, I wondered if Twilight would have had the same popular resonance it did if the first book had been released in 2010 instead of 2005.

Although sitting in a packed movie theater isn’t my favorite way to watch a movie, it was fascinating to observe the audience. Eclipse did a great job of spanning both times and cultures, and the audience always laughed with the movie and never at the movie. The first two movies showed signs of… aging.

What do you think? Have you watched the first two lately? Are you going to the third? Do you think that if Twilight were released today, that it would have the same resonance it did in 2005?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Movies | Tags: , , ,

Kindle Formatting for Novels V

Coding the chapter headings is where most of the creativity and design comes in. Make sure to check out Kindle Formatting for Novels IV: Chapter Design for ideas. Almost anything is possible, so get creative!

If I were working along with this series, I would apply each of these changes to my first chapter. When I finished working with this post and the next post, I’d copy the lot, then paste it at the beginning of each chapter, making the appropriate changes. I’d wait until after the next installment, because the styling for the first sentence of the first paragraph can easily be pasted right along with the chapter heading.

Style Code

We’ll be manipulating the style code today, even though I won’t cover the coding for the head portion of your html document until the next installment. You may decide to change parts of this later, so think of this as a foundation. You will almost definitely change the “margin-top” numbers. For now, at the beginning of your document, above the </head>, paste this code:


p.noindent { text-indent:0; margin-top:60;}
p.right { text-align:right; }
p.left { text-align:left; }
p.image { text-indent:0; text-align:center; }

.center { text-align:center; }
h1 { text-align:center; margin-top:120; }
h2 { text-align:center; }
h3 { text-align:center; }
h4 { text-align:center; }
h5 { text-align:center; }


Absolute Must-Have

Start each chapter on a new page. If you do no other formatting, please do this. Nothing looks sloppier than a chapter starting only a hard enter away from the last paragraph of the former chapter, helter-skelter in the middle of the page. It will be the first code you enter at the beginning of a chapter:

 <mbp:pagebreak />

Header Sizing

Decide which line in your chapter heading will be largest. If you have “Chapter 1” first, and the next line is the title of Chapter 1, you probably want Chapter 1 to be <h3> or <h2>, and the title to be <h1>. Here is a sample of what each heading looks like on the Kindle.


You unfortunately do not have control of the font, unless you use an image instead of text.


For your table of contents, put a bookmark after the page break and before the chapter heading. Something like this is fine:

<a name="chap1"/>

Obviously, you’ll want to change "chap1" to "chap2" for the second chapter, and so on.

Heading Style

If you wish to make any part of the heading in italics, you have two choices: the first way is to surround the text with the <i> tag. If you decide not to use italics with the <h1> tag on your title pages, then this way might be the easiest way to go.

<h1><i>h1 Heading, Italics</i></h1>

If you wish to universally apply italics every single time you use the <h1> tag (or <h2>, <h3>, etc.), then alter the <style> code at the top of your document:

h1 { text-align:center; font-style:italic; }

(If you know CSS, you can create separate classes, but I’m trying to make this simple for now.)

Once you decide the sizing and style of each line of your heading, you need to decide whether you want them aligned to the left, center, or right.

Heading Alignment

To align the heading left, center, or right, alter the style code with your choice of one of the following:

h1 { text-align:left; }

h1 { text-align:center; }

h1 { text-align:right; }

The other alignment we need to alter is how far you’re pushing down the text from the top of the page. As a rule of thumb, I generally push the first heading down 120 pixels. You don’t want to push it down too far, because if your reader is resizing the text to be bigger, then you still want all of your chapter heading and at least the first line of your text to show up on the first “page.”

Whichever heading tag is first on this page, add the “margin-top” styling to the style code:

h1 { text-align:center; margin-top:120; }

If you have more than one line using different header sizes, you might want to put a little space between each line. Or not. Whatever you decide, you can use this method to push text down.


To insert an image, whether for decoration or as a replacement to chapter headers so you have more design freedom, use the following code:

<p class="image"><img src="image.jpg" alt="name of image" align="top"/></p>

The Kindle accepts .bmp, .gif, .jpg, and .png files. If you want to the image to span the width of the Kindle page, then 520 pixels wide is your best bet. The Kindle resizes images with varying results and more complexity than I’m going to go into in this series. Also, keep your image under 64 kb. (You can compress it when you save it as a .jpg in Gimp or Photoshop.)

In the style code, you can alter (or add) the "margin-top" and "text-align" attributes in the style at the top of your document, just as I’ve shown you above. In the place where you’ve inserted the image (such as the beginning of the chapter), you can change the "align=" to top, middle, or bottom, which will align the image vertically to the top of the line, the middle of the line, or the bottom of the line.

Next Installment

Tomorrow we’ll style and code the first line of the first paragraph after the chapter heading and for each section within a chapter.

Any questions? And what will help you most for the post after that? Should I include pictures and the precise coding I used, so you can see examples? Or should I move on?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Kindle Formatting | Tags: ,

Life in the Dark Ages

Time passes quickly, doesn’t it? I was just thinking how much my life has changed. Ten years ago, I hadn’t started writing. I spent time on the internet, but it was on a desktop computer and my laptop was not connected to my hip.

I read a lot more. I slept with piles of books.

I did have a little blog! On Diaryland. Cool place. I’m sorry that it never grew big like Blogger.

I finished working, and then I’d start a fire and either watch TV or read books. Or both. I’d get up, do yoga, practice piano if I was able to sit up (that was still when I was sick), teach, and then read more. On days off, I would generally stay in bed all day. Back then, it was such a relief because it was always such a huge effort to try and walk around like normal.

It sounds like a leisurely life, but I was working six days a week, nearly sixty, seventy hours on piano teaching alone. It did not help my illness, LOL.

I don’t miss that life, except for the reading part. The slower part. Man, has my life gotten cluttered with the internet.

On one hand, I’m glad. I’d be dreadfully lonely without someone to chat with or status updates to read while working. But I’d really like to finish working by 6 or so, so I can spend the evening reading.

I miss how fast I read books then, but I wouldn’t want to have a life without writing. I wouldn’t want to give up the friends I have online. Just musing.

What was your life like, ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? How much is the internet a part of your daily life? Reading?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags: ,

Finding What You Love

The longer I’m on this writing journey, the more I see the most difficult challenge and greatest factor in improving is knowing thyself. Oh man, is it hard!

I read lots of fantasy growing up. The classics, too. I don’t know what happened, though, but after awhile, I stopped reading fantasy. Maybe I read a lot of romance? Romantic suspense was in there somewhere. And then it was chick lit and women’s fiction and literary novels (what a combo!), then spy thrillers with a splash of cozy mysteries, and now I read lots of paranormal YA with a splash of fantasy and some literary stuff.

It’s hard enough to find what you love to write and an idea you love to write and a world you want to write in, but you know what’s really tough?

Finding books you really love, love, love. I’m not talking about books you enjoy and books you like. I’m talking about those worlds that suck you in, that you want to stay in forever, that you’d show up at the bookstore at midnight the night before its release because you Just. Can’t. Wait. to read it.

I read plenty of stuff I like a lot. What I can’t find enough of is that stuff I love to death. I’d say only about 20% of the books I read are in that love-love-love category.

What about you? What percentage of the books you read are that upper, love so much you want to cry category? Ever go through a dry spell of finding them?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books | Tags:

No More Grind

Writing is going much better. I’m back to fiction, exclusively, at least for the next two months or so. (Although I’ll probably put my Kindle project on the Kindle. Why not? I’ll continue that series in a day or two.) Nothing like doing something you don’t like to remind you how much love what you do like.

I’ve noticed, over the years, that I have a tendency to write a ton in summer and fall, and dry up a bit in the spring. Isn’t that weird? Maybe it’s because the summer solstice has been approaching, but I’ve been feeling much better.

Whenever I go through a dry spell, and I really go through about one a year (even if I’m still writing during it), I always fear this is how it will be forever.

But this time, I have a few new rules for myself.

No more grind. When I grind words out and write things that aren’t who I am or what aligns with the universe’s plan for me, everything dries up and writing becomes a chore. If I can’t bring a little enthusiasm and spirit to the table, forget it.

No more practical ideas. I used to believe that I could write any idea. Probably I can, but that quickly turns into the grind. From now on, I refuse to waste my time on projects that don’t capture my heart and imagination. My imagination has to want escape to the world I’m writing in.

Oddly, I’ve learned a couple things about myself. I would be very hesitant to say I write fantasy, but my best work has fantasy leanings. I need to embrace that side of me more.

And the other thing, when all my ideas seem to be lackluster and I lose your mojo, it WILL come back. It really will. Eventually. I always fear it won’t.

So what did you learn during your last dry spell? How do you get through them? And what rules do you have to protect the writing?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags:

Kindle Formatting for Novels IV

I first design the beginning of each chapter. It makes my coding easier. I’ve seen several guides to formatting books for the Kindle, but as far as I can find, this is where my guide becomes of specific use for novelists. (Although much of this formatting applies to non-fiction as well.)

There’s about three or four more posts in this series. I’m really trying to make it easy, but if I lose you, I am available to format books for the Kindle. I’ll make an information page with pricing when I finish this series, but I really hope I can teach you to do it on your own. It’s fun!


The HTML allowed by Kindle is limited. You cannot choose your font. You can make it smaller, you can make it bigger, you can futz with it to make it looks like small caps, but unless you use an image file, you’re stuck with Kindle default font. The supported HTML is limited, too. You can manipulate the margins on the left side, but not on the right side.

Design Ideas

These images are taken from the print books, because they generally have better formatting than the ebooks, with the exception of the last example.

(Frostbite by Richelle Mead: Razorbill)

I love this formatting. The “One” has a regular cap “O” then small caps for “ne.” The backdrop “VA” is VERY beautiful. (Yes, I’m gaga over this simple thing, and if when I get published by New York, I will fly to NY and kiss the book designer if they do something this beautiful for me. It’s on my dream list.) For the Kindle, you’d have to create this image with Gimp or Photoshop or somesuch. You’d have to create a separate image for each chapter heading, and be sure to save as .jpg and compress them a bit.

There’s a lot of detail to admire in this book. The first five words are small caps. Also note the chapter starts with an up cap—one of the few up caps I like—which could be created by an image file or tags:


upcap The up cap appears often in Kindle design as seen in the picture on the right. To me, this looks lazy and boring. No small caps, no italics, no first-line or first-few-words formatting, no nothing. Except one weird, slightly-taller letter. This was fairly standard for awhile, but New York is starting to design their ebooks with as much care as they design their print books, thank goodness.

(Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith:
Grand Central Publishing)

Okay, wow, this is another beautiful example of book design. Look at all that typography! I would probably use <h3> tags for the “ONE,” an image file for the separator, <h1> tags for “Exceptional Child,” a blockquote for the quote, centered, italicized text for the attribution, a centered and bold Roman numeral, and a drop cap image.

The challenge for this one would be to make the top and bottom margins small enough that you could fit this heading on one page. If it’s split between two pages when a reader adjusts their font size, it’s going to lose its beauty. If I were designing it, I might just force a page break before the Roman numeral.


(Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife by Francine Prose: Harper)

First notice the chapter number is right-aligned with a right margin. The Kindle does not allow for right margins, so you’d have to right-align the heading and put a couple non-breaking spaces after the “1” by adding &nbsp; a few times.

The chapter title is right-aligned, all caps, italics, and bold. The quote is within blockquote, and the attribution is right-aligned. Notice the name is in all caps and the title is italicized. The drop cap could be created with an image file.

(The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien: Mariner Books)

I featured this design because it starts with an illustration. The “Chapter” is not actually highlighted in real life. (Ignore that.) The separator would be made with an image. “Chapter I” would be done with the <h2> tag and “The Childhood of Turin” would be done with the <h1> tag. Aside from the “noindent,” no formatting is applied to the first line. Works perfectly.

(The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

This formatting surprised me, because there was no blank space above the “Chapter I.” It started at the very top of the page. Everything is left-aligned, including the fancy image. This drop cap is beautiful, because it drops down and goes up.

(Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer: Little, Brown Books)

This is a fairly standard design. Notice the Chapter Heading is done without the word “Chapter,” but with a number, a period, and then a title. There is letter spacing applied to the title. Throughout the book, the first line is always in small caps and non-indented. Because the Kindle can change font size, you can’t control how many words will appear on the first line, so you’d have to decide to small cap, say, the first five or so words.

(The Devil’s Pitchfork by Mark Terry: Midnight Ink.)

You’ll notice this chapter heading has only the number, underlined. The first paragraph is not indented, and throughout the book, the first four words are written in small caps. This transfers well to the Kindle. All sections are begun with the same formatting as the first paragraph of the chapter.

The time and location is in italics, and we’d need to toy with the style a little, probably creating one noindent style with a top margin and one without. (If this is Greek, no worries, probably tomorrow will help.) 

(Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Ballantine Books)

Notice that there is no chapter heading at all. The first letter is an up cap made from an image. The first line is made of all small caps. Kinda cool!

(Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris: Ace)

I find this formatting interesting, because the chapter heading is not centered. For this, we’d have to add a margin-left to our h1 code. (Tomorrow.) The first line is in both bold and italics. Again, this wouldn’t transfer to the Kindle, but you could choose to do that with, say, the first five words.

(Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey: Tor Fantasy (Paperback))

(Kindle version)

The Kindle image doesn’t do this design justice. I snagged the image from Kindle for PC, but on the real Kindle, that top bar sizes to the width of the Kindle page, so it aligns with the text below it. It looks FANTASTIC on the Kindle. Above the Kindle image, I included the paperback image, so you could compare.

The Next Installment

Tomorrow we’ll finish the coding for the start of the chapter. I know I’ve included some of the coding above: it was easiest that way. I’m thinking of putting this all in a Kindle book, so if you have any suggestions on organizing this information a little better, I’d sure appreciate it.

Now it’s your turn: check out the books on Amazon that say “Look Inside!” and notice how the chapters are begun. Go to your bookshelf. Browse the bookstore and the library. Almost any design, with the proper coding, can be replicated on the Kindle, so let’s give our e-books the same, quality design as print books.

Are there any examples I left out? Anything you like that’s not included? What are some of your favorite elements from above?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Kindle Formatting | Tags: ,

Kindle Formatting for Novels III

The first step is to convert our document to HTML and do some basic cleaning on the code. As far as “confusing” goes, this part probably looks the scariest, but it’s not that bad. Just take it one step at a time.

Quotations and Apostrophes

Let’s get our quotation marks and apostrophes straightened out. Or, rather, curlied out. :-) If you’ve come from a text editor, then you’ll notice some of your quotation marks are straight rather than curly.

Go to “Word Options,” click “Proofing,” and then click “AutoCorrect Options.” (If you’re not using Word 2007, there may be a slight variation in finding these menu items.) Under “AutoFormat,” make sure “Straight quotes with smart quotes” is checked.

  1. Do a Find and Replace operation.
  2. Put a ” in the “Find” line, and a ” in the Replace line. In the dialog box, they will both appear as straight quotes, but don’t worry.
  3. Click “Replace All,” and your entire document will be filled with curly quotes instead of straight quotes.
  4. Do a second Find and Replace operation.
  5. Put a ‘ in the “Find” line and a ‘ in the Replace line.
  6. Click “Replace All,” and your entire document will be filled with a curly apostrophe instead of a straight one.

When copy-editing, you should check to make sure your curly quotes are all going the right way. We can fix these things later, but it’s harder to see them.

Prepare to Find and Replace

At the beginning of your document, put a left curly quote, a right curly quote, left apostrophe, right apostrophe, and em dash. (Am I forgetting something?) Like this:

“ — ‘ ’ ”

And it wouldn’t hurt to do this one, too, just in case.

—“ (Only do this one if you never use this sequence. I never have this sequence, and if it’s there, then it was supposed to be —”. So below, when I put it in the Find and Replace, I’ll make it —”. Please don’t do this one if —“ would be correct in your document.)

Do not use two hyphens instead of an em dash, unless you’ve got it set up to auto-correct to an em dash, and you verify that it did become an em dash. Go to “Insert,” then “Symbol,” then “Special Characters,” and select the em dash. (I use the em dash so much, that I reassign the keystroke for the em dash to CTRL+M.)

Check how you handle ellipses. Did they automatically convert to a single characters, such as …, or did you put a space between each period, like this: . . . ? When you do the Find and Replace operation, you’ll need to know which to search for, and how you want it formatted in your final document.

One Last Thing

Check how you handle scene breaks within a chapter. Generally this is done with one extra, hard ENTER. Do you have a space in this line? Do you use three stars or some such thing? (***) We will need to find these scene breaks later, in order to format them, so it’s best to know what to search for.

Convert to HTML

While there are multiple ways to do this, I’m only going to show you the best and easiest way. The other methods require more intensive clean-up, and it’s just not worth it.

  1. Download and install Notepad++ for Windows, or Text Wrangler for Macs. You can use Notepad for Windows, but if you use Notepad, it can add whole hours to your work process later. DO NOT USE MICROSOFT WORD OR A WORD PROCESSOR.
  2. Get a free Gmail account.
  3. Email yourself the novel to the Gmail account.
  4. Go to that email, and under the attachment, click “View as HTML.”
  5. Once that page opens, right-click the page, and click “View Page Source.”
  6. Click in that page source, press CTRL+A, then CTRL+C.
  7. Click in Notepad++, then press CTRL+V.
  8. Click “Save As” in Notepad++, and make sure “Save as Type” is “All files.” Then save your document as “yournoveltitle.html”


Kindle accepts very limited HTML, and it does not accept the font tag, among other things. Probably, at the beginning of each paragraph, you’ll notice something like this:

<font size=”3″ face=”Courier”>

You’ll probably only have one or two of these, and the rest of the document will be the same. Do a find operation for what you have, make sure the replace field is empty (no space, even), and hit “Replace All.” Do the same thing for </font>.

If you have a lot of <p align=“center”> or <p align=“left”>, may as well replace those with <p>.

If you did not already fix the paragraphs, you might see some space after the <p> tag. We don’t want this space. It should be the <p> tag, and then your text. If there is space, highlight it, copy it, and then do a Find and Replace operation, replacing it with nothing, which effectively deletes it.

Now your document should just be your text, with only the following tags in it: <p> </p> <br>

Find and Replace

We need to do a number of Find and Replace operations to do some basic coding of our characters. We’ll take care of the design and format coding in the next few installments. You can use the little cheat sheet you made at the beginning of your document to highlight each character, copy it, and paste it in the Find box. Paste the following code in the Replace box, then hit Replace All.

—“ &mdash;&rdquo;
. . . .&nbsp;.&nbsp&.


Notice you have two choices for your ellipses. This is just a style issue, and the Chicago Manual of Style (the go-to book for formatting fiction, generally) calls for the second version, with a non-breaking space in between each period. (As well as before and after, but I’m assuming you took care of that in the copy-editing phase.)

If you want the second version, but you used the first version in your document, you’ll have to Find the and replace with .&nbsp;.&nbsp&. .

There are other HTML Characters that might need coding, such as 1/2 and 1/4 and the like. Consult this guide to check if you have any other characters to convert.

The Next Installment

The next installment is the most fun, in my opinion: the design! Since we’re all creative types, this will probably be much easier than these. After deciding on the design, I will show you how to code your design, so you understand how it works. (We’ll also fix any lingering html issues at that time, too.)

Do you see any mistakes? Anything I missed in the clean-up process? Anything confusing? Anything I need to correct?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Kindle Formatting | Tags: ,

Kindle Formatting for Novels II

Why should we format for the Kindle? Details matter. In your writing craft, I’m sure you would have no problem arguing this point, but sometimes when we stray outside of our own craft, the details we usually don’t notice seem unimportant to us. In writing, we all know the details and little things of our craft are what takes a novel to the next level; it’s no different for any other craft, such as book design.

The Problem with Converters

Plenty of converters out there will convert your document from Word to Kindle, including Amazon’s own DTP site. If you want a professional-looking book, don’t use them.

Things like this can happen (The blacked-out names are just to make the text anonymous, LOL.):


As you can see, some of the paragraphs are indented a quarter of an inch, and some are indented half of an inch. The left quotations marks show up as Ò, and the right quotation marks show up as Ó. Sometimes they show up as straight quotes ("), instead of curly quotes (). Apostrophes show up as Õ. The em dash is not a true em dash, but two hyphens. (Acceptable for manuscripts, but not for the final product.) Chapter 2 does not start on a new page, as it should, and there’s an indent in the first paragraph of the chapter, where there shouldn’t be.

Book Design

There’s more to book design than just putting words in order and ensuring there are curly quotes instead of straight quotes. There are universal styles to respect. If you want to compete with New York titles, then you need to design your book as well as NY titles. Last year, this was easy, because NY publishing houses were just throwing their stuff through converters and it looked like crap. I have a Neil Gaiman title where there are whole pages without spaces between the sentences. But they’ve caught on, and they’re doing real design work with their e-publications, just like they do with the print publications.

Grab a couple books off your shelf, or browse through your local bookstore.

You’ll notice that each chapter and each new scene (after a section break) within a chapter all start with a non-indented paragraph. (What’s the section break called? There’s a fancy term for it, I think.) You’ll also notice that usually there’s a drop-cap, or sometimes the first few words have special formatting, such as small caps or italics. Sometimes this formatting is only applied to the beginning of a chapter, and sometimes it’s also applied to new scenes.

These are signals to the reader, and readers are accustomed to them, whether or not they realize it. Anything that makes it easier for readers to read is important.

Front Matter

Also note the front matter, which includes the title page, copyright page, dedication, possibly the acknowledgments, preface, foreword, and table of contents.  The Chicago Manual of Style has, in the past, dictated the order of the front matter, but things are changing for both Kindle and print publications. For the Kindle, for example, it’s unnecessary to put the Table of Contents at the beginning, when readers access the TOC with a simple click from the menu. In addition, the list of “Other Books By Author” tends to be at the end, with links so that a reader can go to the book in Kindle’s store directly and buy, without searching.

For print publications, I was startled to notice that the front matter has been changing these past couple months. I picked up a Scholastic book the other day, which had only the title page, an illustration, and then the text of the story. The rest, including the copyright info and Library of Congress info, was all shoved to the back. I suspect the thinking on this is similar to the thinking of why people are shoving the front matter to the back on the Kindle: when people are sampling or browsing a book, the quicker they can get to the text, the better.

I’m not sure which publisher was the other one who was manipulating front matter to the back, but it was one of the big ones. Random House? I noticed it particularly in the YA section, which I think is important: YA readers grew up reading on computers and the like.

Next Installment

Tomorrow I’ll show you how to strip your document of all the junk Word puts in, and then prepare your document for both formatting and design.

Have you noticed the different styles applied to the first sentence in a new chapter? Do you have a favorite? Drop caps? Small caps? Italics? Any styles I haven’t mentioned? And did you notice anything I didn’t cover?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Kindle Formatting | Tags: , ,

Kindle Formatting for Novels I

Microsoft Word is not a typewriter. My first installation in this series covers the things you can do as you’re typing your document in Word (or a Word substitute) that will make formatting a novel for the Kindle easier later. While none of this can’t be fixed in the eventual formatting, it will save time if you prevent problems.

(Most of this is probably obvious to lots of you. I promise to be more useful in the next installment. I only write this installment because I’ve seen these issues in real life, so they bear mentioning.)

This isn’t just for those who want to go indie. If you’re in the querying race, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to follow these guidelines as well. Several agents forward and read manuscripts on their Kindles. Following these guidelines will ensure that, after Kindle’s conversion, your document will look its best.

No, an agent, as far as I can tell, is not going to reject you because your paragraph indents are a little wonky. But it never hurts to pay a little attention to appearance.

Paragraph Indentations

When you start writing your novel, CTRL+A the entire thing, click “Paragraph Properties” (or the little downward arrow next to “Paragraph” under the “Home” tab of 2007), and set your format. If you do it this way, you can always make universal changes without manually going through your entire document.

Never use the tab key to start a paragraph.

Or multiple spaces.

New Chapters

When ending a chapter, hit CTRL+ENTER to start a new page. Then hit the ENTER key until you get where you want, type “Chapter X,” hit ENTER again, and then start your chapter.

If you like your Chapter Heading formatted in the middle, without the indentation, then highlight the chapter heading only and adjust the paragraph settings for that alone. (Highlighting and then pressing CTRL+E will center it, but it will be a little off if you’ve got your paragraphs set to indent the first line. So go into Paragraph settings, with the Chapter Heading highlighted, and set to no indent.)

I suggest doing this after you start the first paragraph, because it’s simplest if you’re not already handy at this sort of thing.

Never hit “Enter” a bunch of times to get to a new page, in order to start your next chapter.

Title Pages and Chapter Headings

The formatting for your title page and chapter headings should again be done via paragraph settings. I covered how to do the chapter headings in the paragraph above. The same method applies to your title page. Type the text only, then highlight and format it via the paragraph settings.

Again, never use the tab key or space key to indent.


One space, not two, and that goes for NY Publishing, too. Just do a “Find and Replace” operation: Put two spaces in the “Find” line, and one space in the “Replace” line. Then hit “Replace all.”

If your novel is already written with these issues in it, don’t worry. I’ll show you how to fix it later. The only reason to fix it now is if you’re about to send it to an agent who you know or think will forward it to their Kindle.

If you’re sending it to an agent who you think might forward your novel to their Kindle, it wouldn’t hurt to CTRL+A your document, set the paragraph settings, and then see if some paragraphs are set oddly and some aren’t. If some have larger indentations, then you probably used the tab key or multiple spaces to start the paragraph. Highlight the tabbed space (or multiple spaces), CTRL+C the problematic space, and then open the “Find and Replace” dialogue. CTRL+V the problematic space in the “Find” line, and make sure the “Replace” line is completely empty. Then hit “Replace All.”

You might have to adjust your title page and chapter headings if you make a universal change to the paragraph settings. To avoid that, you can go through and just highlight the body of your text, one chapter at a time, and set the paragraph settings that way.

If you see a disaster after performing a Find and Replace operation, don’t panic. Just hit CTRL+Z, and it will undo. Then make sure you didn’t highlight and copy an extra space or ENTER keystroke.

Next Installment

The next installment will discuss why you should format your novel for the Kindle, and a brief overview of what goes into book design.

How do you use Word? How do you format your novel as you go along? Any tips I missed? Or is this way too basic for you? (Sorry!)

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Lost: Mojo and Confidence

Well, so, I have a piano student. He’s ten. He asked. With big brown eyes. I’m happy to teach him. The father insisted on paying, but I wasn’t going to charge them, so I quoted a figure $40 an hour cheaper than my rate, LOL. When I was ten, my neighbor taught me for free. So I figure this is just turnaround. :-)

It was fun! I enjoyed it.

Sadly, the best thing about it was that I’m so confident about teaching. I know exactly what to do. I feel good at teaching. I don’t have that confidence or feeling of success with writing. I did before. What happened to it?

I haven’t really felt that confident this whole year. I don’t know what’s up. I’m fairly certain I made the right decision, but I think I underestimated how hard it is on the ego to change what has been your identity for thirty years.

I sort of lost my writing confidence somewhere in that.

And I miss my friends. I miss Taekwondo especially.

I can remember plenty of writing sessions where I just sat down and kicked ass. I can’t remember a single one, lately.

I’ve lost my mojo. I feel like I’ve lost myself. I don’t know.

You know, honestly, it’s not just this year. I changed a bit when I hurt my foot. It’s like my Achille’s freakin’ heel, I swear. Seriously, I can pinpoint a ton of things that changed for the worse in my life to that moment. I need it to get better and I need to get back to Taekwondo, and then everything will be better. I hope. I don’t know.

I can pivot now, so that’s a big improvement. I just can’t run and jump. I haven’t tried kicking a target yet. *sigh*

Eek, I hate when I’m moody. Glenn left for Alaska a couple weeks ago, so I think I’m feeling a little lonely.

I’m sorry it took me so long to respond to your comments last week. My computer broke, then I was getting a new one set up and all this other junk. A mess. (I always respond before my next post, at the latest. I think. LOL!) Anyways…

Have you ever lost your mojo? How’d you get it back? Where do you draw confidence from? Where do you get your identity? Have you ever… changed it? What gives you confidence in your writing? Your life?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags: ,

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