Houses of the Broken and Other Stories

Formatting a plan.

I pride myself on thinking ahead. It’s my blessing and my curse.

When I decided to self-publish for the first time, I had what many new writers had. A nicely formatted manuscript. Take the data from manuscript to print-ready resource took some time and effort, but in the end all was well. As I tinkered and tweaked, and caught typos, I reloaded the CreateSpace file more times than I can count before it was finally, truly, done. All was right with the world.

It’s a little less than a year later, and the need for a nice, clean manuscript has arisen. It’s now time for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – 2014 edition. But guess what… the final edits? They’re all in proper book print format.

Formatting a manuscript is hard enough. “Un-formatting” a manuscript is a a good way to drive yourself insane. It’s amazing how many things are just different enough between the manuscript and the print template. Reverse engineering into a publisher friendly format takes a methodical mindset and a chunk of time without distraction.

How do we combat this in the future? In truth, there’s no real good way I can think of. There are still going to be tweaks to the final print files. There’s no way around it. That means maintaining both a fully up to date manuscript AND a fully up to date print file. It’s a recipe for disaster but in the long run I think it might be better than reverse engineering things down the road. Of course, this only applies if you want to submit your work to something that requires a traditional manuscript format. If you’re content with self-publishing, problem solved!

As my next work in progress hits editing and formatting, I’m going to keep in mind the backwards slide that happened with the first one and strive to do as much editing as possible in the manuscript format. But I know there will be tinkers. And tweaks. And things that don’t look quite right once I see it in a proof.

But for now, the lesson has been learned. My manuscript is official in for ABNA 2014, and let’s hope that the effort to re-convert it can also be used for sending out queries. Yes, I’m taking the step of trying to find an agent, but I’ll still self publish if that doesn’t work.

File management has never been so important.

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