You know, I don’t want to brag but I’m going to. Just for a minute. I promise. My husband is (in my obviously biased opinion) the most amazing person ever. He came home from work last night with a Barnes and Noble bag in hand. In that bag? A beautiful, crisp, fresh, new copy of The Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones which he had the store order in for me because apparently, none of the B&N stores in New Jersey wanted to carry the book and he knew how much I wanted it. That’s a good partner right there. So friends, when you’re in a romantic relationship, I hope you’re with someone who will buy you the books you want because he/she knows it will make you happy. Because love is nice but so reading. I haven’t started reading the book yet because I have a new draft of my short-story collection to read over before sending it back to my editor but the book is sitting right next to my computer, whispering softly, “Alana, come read me, Alana.” And I will, book. I will.
Yesterday, I was trying out some things with my writing. First I did the abstract line breaks. Here’s a line break. There’s a line break. Everywhere is a line break. But I didn’t like all the white space around a line or two of text. It bothered me. So I started merging the smaller lines into larger bodies of text. That led me create giant blocks of text running between 2,000-6,000 words. For a moment, I was pleased. Then I frowned and considered the fact that there are many readers who might have some trouble with all that text squished together. It’s understandable. If it makes editing difficult and I wrote the damn thing, I should be sympathetic to those who have never encountered such a hodgepodge of words. So I went back through it and made smaller paragraphs. The only criteria was that they couldn’t be less than 500 words.
Then this morning (well, it’s still morning so earlier this morning?) I was paging through some books on my shelf, which is something I often do for inspirational purposes, and I started thinking of tabs and such. So now I have the year’s manuscripts formatted a little differently. Imagine, if you will, that I keep my document single-spaced, until it’s formatted for submission. And imagine that each paragraph is indented, while also being joined. And so I have a block of text broken up slightly, while physically being connected, allowing for the long text stretches to be more bearable because I allowed white space, but still having line breaks between each separate section. That might sound confusing so here’s a visual graphic:
This is a little demonstration of the new way I’ve decided to format my work which is probably standard for a lot of other writers but is completely new to me.
And it’s sort of fascinating that it’s taken me so long to write this way but what can you do?
And so I’m going to continue rambling for another line just to demonstrate this little idea before stopping.
La la la la. Here’s the new paragraph section, thus continuing the pattern. Paragraph section with smaller paragraphs, then a new section with more paragraphs. I guess you could it’s almost like an outline, with the paragraphs being the main points, and the smaller paragraphs the details of those points. Kind of.
You get the picture.
Anyway, that’s sort of what I’m doing now. Also, imagine that in that example, the smaller paragraphs are closer together. Since indenting doesn’t really work unless I use the html codes (and I don’t want to), I used five spaces to denote each indentation. That’s the old standard from when tab keys weren’t common. Five spaces. It’s also useful for writing in an online form that won’t accept indentations. When you’re typing in a word processor, go to the paragraph formatting section of the program and check the tab settings. Sometimes, the indentations are set at a little less than .5″ (half an inch). I believe that my word processor has the default indentation set at .49″ (it might be .47″) so change that to .5″ that way you have a full half inch. It’s more even.
There’s a reason for my obsession in trying out different forms. I’ve been very concerned with reader experience. I’m trying to strike the perfect balance between what I want to create as a writer and how people read the book. When Hooks and Slaughterhouse came out last year, my mom said she never read it because the paragraphs were so long. My own mother, people! And if my mother says that the visual elements are a little much for the reader, then that’s something that must be pondered. Because my mom can’t be the only one who thinks that. I would ask my dad but he doesn’t open my books. Literally. He likes to keep them in mint condition. No one is allowed to open the books because he doesn’t want the spine being broken. He’s a weird dude. Anyway, I love my long paragraphs but I also recognize that a writer must have readers. It’s sort of helpful. So my new process (let’s hope this one lasts because we all know how wishy-washy I can be with formatting things) seems to strike the right balance between long paragraphs and brief breaks of white text to rest weary but still-reading eyes. As I continue writing today, I’ll work more on the form. But so far, visually speaking, I like how it looks. It seems like a nice balance. And maybe the formatting isn’t ground-breaking but it’s still new to me.