It’s not something most people think about unless they are a writer or a publisher – and here’s the thing – STYLES CHANGE!
I read only yesterday that the guide to use when formatting a book should be the Chicago Manual of Style (which is a paid-for online service) self designated as ‘recommendations on editorial style and publishing practices for the digital age’.
‘Recommendations’ … a style guru for the digital age of publishing that seems to be trying to be the go-to and one and only way to set-up a book.
Today I went to my book shelves and picked up a couple of books, one published in 1998 and one in 2012. What did I find?
The style of speech-marks – 1998 — all doubles “…” – the 2012 — all singles ‘…’ . I did wonder if it was just the ‘House’ style – as the old book was Penguin and the new was Orion.
Not at all, I found a new Penguin on my shelf and that also had single speech-marks.
(click on any picture to enlarge)
Then there is the ‘one gap after a full-stop (period) or two?’ This has just about reached the final stage – two seems to have been dropped – though you will still find people citing that it should be used in manuscripts. (Often difficult to tell – as the full-justification of pages evens out all the spaces making it look like two sometimes)
So publishing style is mutable and does mutate over time – and I, for one, am wondering why the idea that all speech should be indented still hangs on. I think, as a reader, that I am perfectly capable of reading the speech-marks and that, alone, telling me that someone is speaking. I even find some novels with a lot of speech – all indented – annoying to read / look at. Especially the convention that has a line beginning indented but not with speech-marks … because a piece of speech is coming up. NOW that just looks like it is a new paragraph to begin with – and can actually be confusing when the speakers are in a full-flow conversation!
To Indent or not to Indent – that is the question
so … I’m doing something different – I’m missing these speech-indents out on my formatting. What do you think – does this make my books weird or just ahead of the game?
A couple of weeks back I was talking about reviewing books and I mentioned that a good review can help someone choose what they want to read (as well giving the author a boost – especially newbies and Indies) and it made me think of how I choose my next read … and wonder how you do it.
Right now I am on a Lee Child ‘Reacher’ string … I had read one of these before a while back but I wasn’t too enamoured, then I happened to pick on one last week and enjoyed it so I headed straight back to the Lee Child section and took up the next one I could find.
Most recently before these, I read two authors recommended by friends. One was Lisa Scottoline’s ‘Look Again’ – which I followed up by reading her ‘Lady Killer’ as I had enjoyed the first one. The other was ‘Azincourt’ by Bernard Cornwell, which, though I like historical novels, I found not to my taste. Perhaps not enough engagement with the characters, even though they had all the makings of people I could have been empathetic with I felt too much of an outsider, not involved, partly, I think, due to the historical research getting in the way of getting to feel close to them – though I love (and expect) my historical stuff to be accurate I do not want to be browbeaten by it.
Prior to those my reading was a pick and mix; what did I have loaded on my kindle? Ah! An Elizabeth George ‘Inspector Lynley ….’ which I must have loaded a while back after reading another (which had been recommended to me as ‘set in Cornwall’) A Terry Brooks ‘The Measure of Magic’ the second I have read – but wouldn’t choose another, Snuff – Terry Pratchett – always clever, social and historical commentary in the guise of fantasy and funny with it (I think I’ve read all the disc-world series – except the last). A Sarah Paretsky and, at the same time, three collections of poetry’ (in hand) that have come my way.
How Do YOU choose your next read? By recommendation? By Author? By Genre (all crime or all romance for example) Lucky pick? Whatever is on the library ‘best reads’ shelf?
Which Authors would you recommend and why?
Do Share – I’m looking forward to hearing what you are reading and seeing what you’d recommend!
Are you always having to listen to tales of what happened in the ‘old days’ – what your parents did way back when? We are often too busy to stand and listen just when they have remembered something in particular, and as for the grandchildren listening …
I am in the process of creating a book from my fathers memories – for him. He is eighty-nine and has really LIVED a LIFE and would like his grandchildren and great grandchildren to know something of ‘where they came from’. He is writing it all in longhand and we are getting it typed up – then I am putting it into sentences, paragraphs and chapters – as the memories are written down as one long narrative.
Here is part of the first chapter …
I was born on 12th June, 1926, in Harrap Street, Poplar, in the East End of London, the first child of my parents and what follows in this first chapter is what I was told by my parents and memories that nobody could have told me – because I was alone in hospital from the age of eighteen months until the age of four years.
The state of the economy was low and, though my father had a job, the wage was poor, as there were a lot of unemployed. It was a struggle to make ends meet. Consequently they were already in a bad nutritional state, and then the employers wanted to cut wages by a shilling a week. The miners called a national strike and evidently all the small employers locked their workers out, so my father lost the little income he had. Mum and Dad went to the relief office to ask for a bread voucher, and the officer said “Why don’t you send your wife out to work?” and Dad said she was not in a condition to work. The officer said “Bring her in and let’s have a look at her – is she crippled or something?” (nobody mentioned the word ‘pregnant’ in those days) When he saw Mum, he said “That’s not my fault, and if you can’t feed your wife, you should keep yourself to yourself, and not come here begging”. Dad grabbed his shirt front and hauled him over the counter. Immediately the copper on duty took Dad to the magistrates who were sitting full-time. Dad explained what had happened, so the magistrate sent for the relief officer who came, full of self-importance, and was soon told his job was to issue tickets, not pass obnoxious comments on the applicant’s condition and to go back and do the job he was paid for. Then he told Dad to go back and get the ticket. Dad thanked him and said that if that was what it took to get a loaf of bread he would sooner starve.
The strike was soon over because of starvation and the employers took their shilling off the wages, and then I was born. My parents struggled on, and when I was slow to crawl they asked the older women in their street what they thought was wrong, and in my case it was obvious to them that the child was just lazy in one leg. The only health service at that time was a scheme called ‘The Panel’ which only applied to actively working people, not wives or children, but at the end of eighteen-months they realised that I could not and would not be able to walk. I crawled, but only dragging my left leg, or stood, by standing by a chair with my left leg hanging free. So my parents tightened their belts and took me to the GP, who watched me crawl along the floor, and, for one shilling and sixpence, told them that I had a congenitally dislocated hip – just a bald statement – and then left them to get on with it.
Now, to add to their troubles, they knew their first-born was a cripple, doomed to wearing a leg-iron for life, useless and dependant on relief. Remember there was no NHS at the time but I think Dad had always belonged to the HSA (Hospital Savings Association), which, for a subscription of about three pence a week would finance any serious hospital treatment, the full cost of which you paid back in weekly instalments. (My father was still paying this back when I reached eighteen)
I was taken to Guy’s Hospital where they started the attempt to rectify the problem. The ball joint now was above the pelvis and had grown in, so over many weeks it was loosened and, by a system of pulleys and weights, the leg was stretched until the ball was in line with its socket.
My parents said that they couldn’t visit much, as they couldn’t afford the fares, so would walk when the weather permitted. I was only aware of strange faces swarming in and out of my vision. When the doctors were satisfied with the alignment I was put in a plaster cast from lower ribs to ankles for four months (my parents did visit at this time at least once, for years later I was told I was almost unapproachable because of the stink). At the end of the four month period the plaster was removed and I was fitted with a corset to keep the hip in place until it became stronger, and I was removed to Shadwell Hospital, where the muscles in my leg were to be exercised and strengthened. Bearing in mind that I had never walked, it must have been very difficult for the nurses.
The life was very confusing for me at the time – apparently during this time I caught all the childhood complaints, and I understand at this time my mother became ill, and visits were even less often.
Eventually I reached the age of four, still not walking unaided, and was fitted with a leg iron for support. I went home, except I didn’t know it was home, and my mother was ‘Nurse’, and when Dad came home, pulling faces, trying to make me laugh, I would say ‘That funny man is here again, Nurse’.
How many other people should be getting their memories written down? What rich heritage are families losing if they do not? What rich heritage of everyday life is the country losing – for instance if the memories of being a midwife in the East End in the 1950s hadn’t been written down then we’d never have had ‘Call The Midwife’ for instance. We have plenty of the rich and famous lives of each era – but, perhaps, not enough of the everyday people.
Here’s a thought, if your parents have retired*, get them to use some of their time in writing it down. (yes – I know this means they may be still quite young – but it takes a long time to write up fifty / sixty / seventy years – Dad began writing his story when he was about 68!) You don’t have to ‘publish’ the book to get it in print – Create Space is a wonderful set-up that you can use almost for free and only get as many books as you want printed for the family by Print On Demand POD (rather than the old way of having to have a lot done all at once)
*or this may be YOU?
What did you think about this excerpt from my father’s memoirs?
Are you, or your parents, on this task right now?
Do share – you know I love to hear from you.
ps – the grandchildren – now in their twenties and thirties – are, at last, standing still long enough to listen – and I am sure they will love the completed books
Has your summer holiday provided you with that luxury of luxuries – time to read one book after another, to finish whole books rather than odd chapters before you have to do something important that keeps life on its usual tracks?
How many books have you read over the summer? One, three, half a dozen?
How many made you want to look for another by the same author?
I love finding an author whose way of writing I enjoy. Sometimes the quality of the writing will carry me even if the story seems mundane. Sometimes the story will carry me even if the writing is a bit clunky. Sometimes the quality of the writing and the story just take me away from where I am and immerse me in the new situation and place that the book is set in – and when I finish I feel withdrawal symptoms – and that’s when I go hunting for other books by the author.
These books I take the time to pop over to Amazon or Goodreads and leave a review because it’s good to spread the love, let others know what works (despite the plot or the clunkiness) as well as that which transports. You see, I know that a review is worth writing, the author (unless they are mega mega) will read it, they will take heart and write on.
Give your favourite Author wings
If the author is an Indie (not published by the Big Boys of the publishing world) or even one of those but just starting out, they will be so heartened, happy to see a positive review, that it will give their typing fingers wings and they’ll press on with their latest work in progress. It makes it all worth while.
Give YourReview – not a précis
I have heard some people say they ‘don’t leave reviews because they don’t want to take notes while they are reading’ – it is unfortunate that people have come to think that they have to write those type of reviews, you know the ones that summarise the whole plot – that is a précis; not a review – but has become quite a popular way of doing things – sadly. Not to forget the ‘spoiler’ element of giving away the plot in this way of ‘reviewing’ – disastrous for a thriller / crime / mystery book!
A review should be the reader’s reaction to the book, how did it make them feel; excited? sad? emotional? enjoyed the ride? What sort of pace was the book ; a page-turner? a steady, building, read? a sorry to come to the end? type book. Would they read another by this Author? Was there something they liked about the writing? Did they learn/gain insight/experience something from reading the book? With a few examples of why the book made them feel that way – if they wish. That would cover it!
But what if the book was one of those that I didn’t like, didn’t get on with. First I remind myself that it may not be the book, it may be me. The most popular and biggest selling books in the world have hundreds of 1* reviews – you cannot please everybody and personal taste comes into this. Then, as an author, I tend not to write a review for anything I’d give less than a 4* or perhaps a 3 – it just feels like bad karma. So almost all my reviews will be those books I got on with fine – all except one which I have to admit to.
Whatever the book – I finish it – and it is the finishing it – that time spent – that drove me to that one 2-starred review. It was for Danielle Steel – yes, I know, well known, best selling author alive (according to Wikipedia), highly rated with tons of books on her list. I wrote my review and explained why I was giving it a low star rating, the points which spoilt the book for me (treating the reader as if they had no memory by repeating every key point multiple times; research-information dumps; dishonest head-hopping) It is the one review that I have written that has garnered likes… many likes. I seem to have hit the nail on the head for many other readers with this one – but not the die-hard Steel fans – they continue to rave 5* wonderful reviews. Like I say – you cannot please everyone all the time.
It could become addictive.
Each notification of a ‘like’ for that review seems to vindicate my stated opinion, and I know this could become addictive. In fact if you look into two star and below ratings and see what else they have reviewed, you often find that the writer is locked into only giving out bad reviews – almost troll-like. I won’t be writing a low starred review again for a book – even though that author will probably never read it as she is mega mega – I feel bad for her. I know how even a 3* (my only one so far) made me feel – it did not make me think ‘I’ll show them!’ It made me hesitate and wonder if my writing is worthwhile at all – wonder if it is worth the incredibly long time and deep effort that it takes. This does not make the writer write better or faster, it just builds a wall, of the type commonly known as writer’s block.
But what of potential readers? Surely reviews are to warn people of rubbish as well as to extol? I agree, then the review needs to explain what it is that didn’t suit the reader in particular in specific terms without revealing the story – then other readers can judge properly whether they are likely to agree with the viewpoint or not. If you enjoyed the story and the way it was told but found errors, in punctuation for example, it doesn’t mean you have to de-star it drastically – even giving it afive-star as a story you can say what you liked about it and add your comment about the punctuation to show you noticed, to tell other potential readers and to alert the author for the future.
The Much Kinder Way would be to see if there is an author contact in the ‘About the Author’ in the back of the book or on Amazon (there often is – maybe as a link to a blog or a webpage) – this wayyou could start out as a critic and end up as a friend! The author would be happy to receive this privately as they could then make adjustments to the ecopy and the next edition in printing. If you comment in a review it would remain there forever, even after the corrections were made.
The big boys and girls of the publishing world garner reviews easily – there is a lot of advertising power, and marketing to the big-name reviewers, behind them so they barely notice an actual review – though their publishers will note the numbers and stars.
A review is worth a lot to the new and the Indie – you can really make a difference here – so, if you liked the book, give your favourite Authors wings – Review 🙂