Writing about Writing

Archive for August, 2014

Single Space vs Double Space

In my search for an editor, I happened upon a piece of advice on manuscript submission – always use single spaces after a period. I’d heard about the single space vs double space battle, yet even though I’d heard about it, I’d never really thought about how it might affect my own work.

According to an article on Slate.com, typographers decided on the single space long ago. It is recommended by both the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Modern Language Association Style Manual.  However, due to typewriters and their monospaced fonts, double spaces became the norm in the interest of readability.

Monospaced fonts are few and far between these days, however, so why do we still double space? With modern fonts it isn’t required for readability anymore. The truth is – it is a waste of both space (consider a book or magazine publisher – space is money – so best to save it any way possible!) and keystrokes (think how many keystrokes you could save a day, a week, or a year).

For me, it is pure habit. When I learned how to type on keyboarding class, it was drilled into our heads to use two spaces after a period. My thumb taps that spacebar twice before I even have time to think about it. Muscle memory is fast!

So where do my readers stand? Single or double?

I know I’m been firmly on the double space bandwagon for years, but I’m switching now, as hard as it is.


P.S. In spite of attempting not to – I still double spaced after every single period while writing this post, except for this one (I hope). 

P.P.S. Whoever came up with the Find/Replace function is a lifesaver! Fixed thousands of double spaces in less than a minute, whew!


Finding and Selecting an Editor

I’ve reached the stage of my self-publishing saga where I need to find an editor. And, like most things, it’s turned out to be more complex than expected.

I have a few qualities I am looking for in an editor.  First, I want someone who is interested in the genre of book I’ve written.  Getting a children’s book editor to copy-edit a psychological literary fiction isn’t necessarily going to be a good fit.  You would prefer someone with experience in your genre.  So that’s my first qualification.  Second, I would like to find someone that either lives in, or has spent time in, the Vancouver area.  A lot of my scenes are based on real locations in the area and I think it would be useful to have someone familiar with the actual location to give input on my descriptions.

Initially, I went to the BC branch of the Editors Association of Canada (EAC) for my search.  They have an online directory of editors where you can input some specific qualities and it spits out a list.  I did this, and picked out 3 editors who looked like they’d be up my alley.  I sent them emails and awaited their replies.  I received responses and, unfortunately, all of them were booked up.  However, one editor was kind enough to direct me to another resource listed on the EAC webpage that I’d managed to overlook – the BC Editors Hotline.

So the gist of it is: I email the hotline my request and key information about my project, the hotline coordinator sends the request out to all of the members, and anyone interested is free to respond to my post.

I didn’t know what to expect with my post, but the response was far greater than expected.  I received 18 emails within a day and a half.  Yay!  People are interested!

So I set about the task of separating out the editors who sounded interesting to me and the ones who did not.  Cutting the list down was easy to begin with.  Three people spelt my name wrong.  My name! How could I ever trust an editor who can’t even spell my name correctly in the email they send asking me to hire them.  It’s not like it wasn’t right there in the hotline post, right above the email address which, by the way, also includes my name.

Boom, down to 15.

Next up was availability.  I posted the date I aim to have the manuscript back by, but a few folks still put their hats in the ring for a later date.  I’m ok with that, and if anything changes they could move up the list, but as is their ranking dropped relative to those who were more likely to complete the editing in the timeframe I need it by.

Next – experience.  Some people directed me to websites, others listed relevant experience in their email.  I tried to pick out the ones who looked like they’d worked on a similar genre.  That relates back to the first quality I posted above.

Then there is attitude – in a tight field of what looks to be really skilled people, I turned to this.  Some emails were very business-like, and that’s ok.  Other’s seemed downright friendly and genuinely interested.  I like kind people, so I gravitated to these emails.

In a related note – I was disappointed with one individual in particular.  I’m not going to name names of course, but I just want to point out that I’m not a fan of overly pushy or rude people.  I’m certainly not going to work with someone who makes me feel uncomfortable just by reading their emails.

Finally – price.  One of the most important and hardest things to talk about is price.  It’s like when you negotiate a salary with a possibly new employer – it’s a little awkward.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much I like someone if I can’t afford them.  And the range of quotes I received has been nothing short of surprising.  The lowest quote was $650USD, while the highest was up to $3700CAD.  That’s a huge range!  And the worst thing is, based off what I’d heard at the self-publishing seminar I attended earlier this year, I was expecting to pay around $600CAD.  Basically, I wasn’t ready for how high the quotes would be, and my bank account wasn’t either.

That said, I slowly whittled the list down from 18 to 3.  And last night I made my final decision.  It wasn’t easy, and I’m really dreading contacting the people I didn’t choose to give them the bad news.  I would probably be a terrible manager – I hate giving people bad news.  And I hope they all know I appreciate their time and understanding.

But I’m looking forward to getting this done.  Judging from the samples I received, this editing is going to be huge for helping polish my novel and ensuring it looks as professional as possible.  And that is something that, in the long run, will pay for itself.

Replacing Books

A few months ago my condo flooded. One of the side effects of this unfortunate event is the bottom portion of my bookshelf was flooded, damaging about 45 books.

Insurance will replace them, of course, but there’s a problem – small to them, big to me:  A number of the damaged books were hardcovers printed 10, 15, or nearly 20 years ago and as such, are irreplaceable.

When questioned, our adjuster simply said to replace them with paperbacks.  While yes, of course I can do this (and am doing so), it really bothers me.

I know there’s nothing I, or they, can really do about it. But knowing that a number of my cherished hardcovers have been scrapped and are being replaced by tiny paperbacks hurts my soul. It really does.

It’s not like I can just accept piles of money and run, either. They have a flat 50% depreciation rate for books, no matter how old or what type. So a $25 hardcover is only worth $12.50 to them.  Besides, I’m one of those people who takes pride in his bookshelf, so not replacing the books was never really an option.

I don’t know if this is something that would bother other people, but it certainly bothers me.

The main lesson here is do not put books on the bottom of a bookshelf. Especially out of print hardcovers!