Hello all. As you may or may not be aware, I wrote a novel. I began writing it in I believe 2014, and I finally finished and published it in June of 2016.
That is to say, I “self-published” it in June of 2016. And I do mean “self-published”: beyond a few words of encouragement from a friend or two who indulged me after I asked them to read an early chapter or two, I had approximately zero input from any other person while writing, editing, or formatting it.
Although to be fair, I did do quite a bit of Google-ing about how to format a novel for Kindle. And I may have asked friends for help regarding the HTML necessary for said formatting (I honestly don’t remember); nonetheless the actual formatting was done entirely by me.
That’s why the indents in the Kindle version are uneven, matter of fact. Anyone who is familiar at all with HTML probably knows that web browsers (and the Kindle app) do not recognize spaces or tabs at the beginning of paragraphs. You can literally hit the space bar a hundred times before you start typing a paragraph in an HTML document, and the browser (or Kindle app) will not recognize it. The same goes for the “tab” key.
So, in short, when I got ready to transfer the 200+ page document from OpenOffice Writer to Kindle, every paragraph indent in the entire novel disappeared. Which was kinda discouraging.
And even though every professionally-formatted Kindle book I own has regular indents (i.e. “indents that are all the same size/length”), and even though I scoured the internet for tips on how to achieve said regular indents, the best I was able to do was to manually insert the HTML code for a space five times in a row in front of each paragraph. (FYI the code is an ampersand [&] followed by “nbsp” followed by a semicolon [;]. I would just type the code out here in my WordPress blog text editor, but it would just appear as a space when I publish this post.)
At any rate, I copy/pasted that bit of HTML code (times 5) in front of every single paragraph in the entire novel. Or at least I attempted to; there may be a paragraph or two I missed. I will undoubtedly find out as I periodically work on this post, or perhaps series of posts.
I intend to read and comment on each of the novel’s 25 chapters. But I am getting ahead of myself:
I assumed that forcing 5 spaces to appear at the beginning of each paragraph would result in even indents. And it did, at first, when the text of the novel was left-aligned. The indents looked great, but the right margin was choppy and uneven.
And while that’s fine for a blog post in my opinion (no indents here, either), for my one genuine attempt at literary glory (if such a thing still exists) I wanted it to look as nice and presentable as possible.
So I changed the alignment to full justification. I.e. the left and right margins line up evenly with the edge of the page/screen. The thing about full justification is that it stretches (or compresses) text to make it fit the margins. Which means, spaces are no longer uniform size.
Which means, my manually-coded indents ended up being anything but uniform. Some appear more or less “regular,” others are much longer than they should be.
It was at this point that I decided that between a choppy, uneven right margin on every page and wonky indents, wonky indents were the lesser of two evils.
Why didn’t I just hire someone to format it for me, you may be wondering?
Because I was broke. As in flat. As in “Jesus Christ I hope at least a few people buy this godforsaken thing so I can afford to buy cat food this week.” I was between jobs when I did the majority of the writing, and I forestalled actively looking for steady employment while I was finishing it.
Suffice it to say I eventually had to secure other methods of procuring cat food and other necessities, and I eventually did. But on the topic of going broke while writing a novel, despite the fact that they may share articles on Facebook about how J.K. Rowling went broke and “got on the dole” (the UK equivalent of food stamps) while she was writing the first Harry Potter book, I am going to go ahead and let you know that your friends and family are not going to be impressed when you decide to sacrifice financial security for a vanity project that may or may not pay off. To be clear I am not saying I wouldn’t act the same way toward a mostly unemployed friend or family member spending hours a day on a novel or something similar; to be clear I probably would advise such a person to get over themselves and get a job.
Nonetheless, I got my novel finished before I got one. And I formatted it the best I could under the circumstances. And it isn’t perfectly formatted, but it’s formatted as well as it’s ever going to be formatted, at least on Kindle.
Why don’t I hire someone to format it for me now, now that I am once again employed and no longer destitute?
Because kiss my ass, that’s why. For good or ill, I did every damn bit of the work on that novel by myself (including the cover photo and design), and I have no interest in sacrificing that accomplishment for cosmetic purposes.
At any rate, I wrote a novel. And despite the fact that sales have been abysmal so far, and despite the fact that only one human being on the entire planet has actually read the novel and told me what he thought about it, it’s a novel I am proud of.
It’s chock full of references that may or may not be obvious, depending on the reader. No doubt there are parts I consider to be “clever” or something that readers may consider to be hackneyed, hokey, or worse. Especially considering that certain parts of the novel were intentionally hackneyed and hokey, given that the narrator is himself a failed fiction author who quotes his own work from time to time.
At any rate, seeing as how this initial foray into hardcore navel-gazing is already over 1000 words long, I will end it here and let this post stand as an intro to the series of posts that will (eventually) follow. As much as I would enjoy critiquing my own work for another hour or so, or for that matter all damn day long, I have an actual paying job I need to get to.
But I will leave you with one factoid, regarding the somewhat cryptic dedication at the front of the book. That is to say, I will “decrypt” it for you. Here is the dedication:
And for K.T.
“H.F.” refers to “Horselover Fat,” the fictionalized protagonist of a novel called “VALIS” by Philip K. Dick. “Fictionalized” because Horselover Fat and Philip K. Dick are more or less the same person.
“K.T.” refers to “Kilgore Trout,” a fictional, recurring character in Kurt Vonnegut’s novels.
The protagonist/narrator of my novel was inspired by those two fictional characters, and the tendency of my novel’s protagonist/narrator to go off on tangents about bizarre sci-fi stories with ham-fisted cultural/political references was more or less ripped off from Kurt Vonnegut’s tendency to do the same thing with “Kilgore Trout” stories in his novels.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so they say.
At any rate, have an awesome day, and thanks for reading.