Tag Archives: open office

Self-Publishing: In Which Our Heroine Wrestles With Formatting

I feel like I just ran a 60 mile marathon. Holy shitkes, I’ve been at it since just about 7:30 AM, and except for a couple of breaks to take care of other pressing business, I have finally stepped back for a breather.

My brain feels like oatmeal. Although, if I’m to be perfectly honest, I’ve had a blast. That is, if you ignore the bald patches, the chewed up fingernails, and the list of things that remained undone today because I’ve been totally obsessed with getting this thing just so.

First off, let me say I believe I probably saved myself a major rupture and hemorrhage by working in Open Office rather than in Word. I used to be in love with Word, but Open Office made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. That would be free. Not only free of charge, but free of annoying bugs designed to drive you straight to the looney bin or nearest bar. (Sometimes, they amount to the same thing, heh.) The other reason I chose OO is because it is supposedly much easier to transform to a .PDF file, and this is a requirement for CreateSpace files. Being somewhat technologically challenged, this is definitely a plus for me.

To begin, I had to format my files into something that looks like a book. I had the material chosen — an assortment of 36 short stories and flash fiction. I had them in a line-up with which I was happy — I added a story and flipped the order around a bit. Then, I had to add a title page, choose a publishing name, and type up the copyright page to include the two people working on the cover (more later) and a disclaimer about everything thing being fictitious and one that prohibits people using the material without my express permission.

I figured out how to add a footer containing the page numbers, which thankfully sorts itself out as you format, add, and subtract pages. Go me!

After that came the table of contents, although I don’t have the page numbers entered yet. Next, the acknowledgments, and two pages reserved for the introduction, to be written by a friend of mine.

Then, the stories.

I had to decide on the font for the titles, which I did to match the title page. Then, decide on the spacing for each story. I kept an eye out and adjusted so no widows showed up on the next page (you know, that odd word or sentence that looks all alone and “widowed”) and added blank pages where appropriate. For instance, a 100 word flash fitting all on one page I’d place on an uneven page number with a blank behind it, because that’s how it looked best to me.

I had to ask for some help with setting the margins, as this was a trifle confusing to me — easy to do on my best days, I have to admit. Heh. Then it was endless re-arranging until the text looked even and consistent. I even managed to pick up a typo or two, which is Very Good at this stage, although I face-palmed at how I missed them in the first place. See? I say it over and over, you just don’t ever see all your errors the first, second, or even seventeenth time through.

Insert the after words, the publishing history, and voila.

That sounds easy, right?

What I learned through this part of the process:

1. Patience is definitely a virtue. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and I don’t know if it’s my flash background, editing background, or just plain old anal-itis, but you really do have to be picky and take your time, often going over and over and over yet again to make sure everything is exactly where you want it. I have long believed in flash it matters a great deal to the story how it appears on the page, and I am quite anal about that.

2. Format the page size before you start formatting everything else. I made this a lot more difficult than it had to be because I was working in an 8×11.5 page size when my book is going to be 6×9. Starting at 6×9 means you don’t have to reformat AGAIN once you realize you need to re-size your page.

3. The inside margin corresponds to the “left/right” margins and the outside margins are everything else — namely, “top/bottom”. I didn’t have to worry about inside bleeds because I have no images in my book.

4. Every time you move something, even something as small as a punctuation mark or to add a space, the whole she-bang shifts. That’s just a fact of formatting life, and you’re gonna have to come to terms with it right quick or you’d better hide the sharp implements and flammable materials.

5. Creating a .PDF from Open Office is as easy as falling off a log. One click. That’s it. HALLELUJAH!

6. I have the most patient friends a girl could ask for.

Is the formatting done, you ask? Oh, hell no. But the bulk of it is done, I believe, although I just took another peek at it and I see some minor things that need fixing. However, my eyeballs are bleeding right now and need a break. I have passed the copy on to someone with un-bleeding eyes to take a look and see if I’ve done the majority of items correctly (not fooling myself for one minute I have) and to get back to me regarding any corrections.

The photo I was waiting for arrived, and it has also been forwarded to a volunteer to morph it into a cover. So, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. At least, this particular tunnel. More tunnels ahead, I’m sure, and I’ll let you know all about the next one.

🙂 Yep, still smiling!