Yesterday Kid 2 called me, visibly exhausted.
She is finishing up her second manuscript. We trunked the first one because while it was good, you can only debut once, and this new one is much more her. I’d sent her Maggie and she really loved the way it’s formatted.
In case you’re wondering, this is the Literata Book font, which is the default for Google Play books. Each chapter heading is preceded by an “insert break” to make sure that it starts on a new page. This way, no matter how much you edit the file, the beginning of a new chapter doesn’t slide around and you don’t end up with the chapter heading at the end of one page and the first paragraph at the beginning of another.
I like it because it looks like a printed book. Hehe. Heh. <–Geeky writer chuckles.
Kid 2 is also a fan of this formatting, and she decided to “make my manuscript pretty.” She promptly changed all the settings, but the manuscript didn’t look right.
While in high school, she ended up in the International Baccalaureate program, which required a massive amount of essay writing. They trained her to double-tap at the beginning of each new paragraph, so there is an extra blank line. I don’t know why this was done; nobody uses it anymore; but apparently back then it was a thing.
She’d double tapped the first couple of chapters, before organically switching to a single break for the paragraph.
At which point I said, “You know you can edit that automatically with Find and Replace and if you use ^p code?”
No, she didn’t know.
This is a lateral professional gap, to some extent. High schools and colleges rely a great deal on Google docs, while the publishing industry runs on Word. Word is the gold standard. I’m proficient with Word, but Google Docs always give me that 5 second pause while I try to orient myself.
I told Kid 2 how to fix the double breaks, and that got us started on weird things writers do to their formatting which make no sense.
Every profession has their strange quirks and rituals. Theater people wish each other break a leg before a performance. Wall Street traders tend to be superstitious and do things like avoid writing with red pens or not trading on the third Friday of the month.
When stuck, writers mess with their typography and work place. Here is a short list of silly stuff we try to get going again.
Maybe it will work in Arial – When writers are stuck, they sometimes change the font of their manuscript because it might magically fix things. I’ve done it, other people I know have done, and you know? Sometimes it works.
My butt is connected to my brain – When stuck, some people will switch from desktop to laptop and vice versa, or change which piece of furniture they use because sitting in a different spot might somehow be inspirational.
My talismans are mighty – When stuck, writers will clean their desks and rearrange the sacred objects on it.
Bargain with the devil you know – When stuck, writers will make little deals with themselves, like “I will not refill my tea cup until I have 200 words.” This can backfire in hilarious ways, because whatever we are feeling ends up in the manuscript. I once read a work in progress where the heroine had to pee for about 50 pages. There were multiple references to it. The writer was on a hellish deadline. For a couple of weeks, they locked themselves in their office every day, determined not to leave it until a certain amount of words happened and they were very fond of coffee.
A wise craftsman blames his tools – When all else fails, some people take the drastic step of changing their writing programs. Sometimes they will change OS. This is how I ended up with a MacBook for a couple of years. Full disclosure, I hate Mac OS with a passion of ten thousand suns. I love my iPhone, but for work I love my Windows. But I wanted to try Scrivener and at that point the Windows version of it was rudimentary. I wanted pretty backgrounds to my writing page because it would help. It did not help, but since we spent the money, I was then stuck with a MacBook until it died. Scrivener did not work for me. I tried. I know a lot of people love it, but I need Word’s spell check and structure.
And there you have it.
What weird quirks do you have in your professional life?