Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Road to Pandemonium: What?? No Page Numbers?

I watched the movie Pandorum quite late last night. Good movie for suspense, though some elements were very familiar. I could go into more detail, but this isn’t meant to be a review of the movie. The title of the movie refers to a psychosis discussed at one point by two characters in the film. This psychosis, called pandorum, is brought about by spending too-long in hypersleep. The resulting paranoia can be catastrophic.

So, this morning, I woke up with a serious sense of panic and paranoia based on the fear of copy errors in my text. I’ve decided to call this Typorum.

In my state of abrupt awakening, this fear immediately equated to packing for a trip. Here's how that train of thought works: my son is in another state. We dropped him off in June and at the beginning of next month, we have to pick up him and his stuff and bring him home to prepare for college in the fall.  We have a lot of planning to do to squeeze this into our budget. Taking enough supplies, making sure we stay in cheap inexpensive hotels, that kind of thing. For me, preparing for part of this journey into e-publishing has been merged with that trip. I'm dreaming about duffle bags and auto-correct functions. I spent the last two days thinking about packing and "packing" as it were. You know, setting up my word processing software to follow the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. You know how it is when you pack - this goes, that stays home - "But, I can't LIVE without that!" Breathe, don’t panic; yes, you can. Besides, if you forget you’ll just pick one up at the front desk.

"But, page numbers??" Typorum!

Sure, I get it. The design of e-readers is such that page numbers just screw things up with potential screensful of white space and links to the table of contents are all you’ll need. This, of course, doesn’t hold true for print copies. Those still need the familiar old friend the page number. When I realized that my books won’t need page numbers when e-published, I panicked. I thought I couldn't possibly live without page numbers, I really did. Don't laugh! That’s how I learned things should be set up way back in the Dark Ages of my life when being a Published Author (it needs the caps, it is that important) was insanely out of reach. But e-publishing has made the possibility of being a Published Author literally days away instead of years.

But no page numbers… Wow. All my life I've been hopeful that "some day" I'd be quoted chapter and page number. I thought how impossibly cool was it that Spock referenced Hamlet in Star Trek: The Voyage Home, by Act and Scene. Of course, Star Trek is famous for literary references since its beginning which was a contributing interest in my love of Science Fiction.

What’s this got to do with panic and travel and writing? Only this: suddenly, this morning, it hit me that my expectation was never accurate in the first place! You’re thinking about now that I need more sleep … Maybe, but follow this: I have lamented for years how no one encouraged me to do what they used to insist children do in years gone by - memorize things. Scenes from plays, poetry, philosophy … I’ve got some of that, but not a lot.  Scripture, yes. I learned lots of scripture, for which I’m very thankful and know I could do with a bit more of that. But I can’t just spout things off anymore. Antony's Speech is a vague memory. Juliet's Solioquy? I've forgotten most of it even though I acted it out in theater class. In fact, I’ve forgotten a great deal of what I memorized in my youth and those things I never learned, I fear I may never learn. It is harder as we get older, right? Memorizing Poe’s “The Raven” is on my bucket list* as is learning to play the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. But, wait! All is not lost! If it is a whole new world with e-publishing, if I, who despaired of ever getting a foot in the door with traditional publishing houses can potentially upload a book and have people read it - then, isn’t anything possible?

Back to my fear, greatly lessened by my realizations this morning …When I say copy errors, I don't mean spelling errors, mind you, but honest-to-God mistakes. Boo-boos. Those things that happen when we've read our own story too many times and that "your" that's supposed to be "you" doesn't get our attention because there's no little red line under it telling us it is a spelling error. That's because it isn't. It's a typo. We don't engage the grammar check (don't ask me why, we're tired maybe!) so it goes unnoticed. Next thing you know, it's out there in our print copy or our electronically published stories making our audience say, "Oh my, that's sloppy, isn't it?"

Yes, frankly, it is. I read a sample on Smashwords that surprised me because it had two glaring errors in it. It was … discouraging. Still, I am reminded that perfection is rarely attainable. I know this despite also knowing that there was a time when my author idols, (Tolkien, Lewis, McCaffery, Silverberg, Seuss and Kipling - it's true I tell you!) seemed perfect to me! I wanted to be like them. Maybe I needed them to be perfect so I could imagine I could be. It is better now that I'm all grown up and I realize that my perceptions were a little bit skewed. Okay, a lot skewed.

Here's what I have learned from this:
1) Panic is no one's friend. Have some strawberry pie, like Neil Gaiman, and relax.
2) I made typorum up. Frankly, it's still scary.  However, though I still fear it, you don't have to.
And …
3) E-publishing is young yet. It is going to grow out of its infant stage to be a gawky teen, then to be a fit and trim young adult. This is a great time to be a writer. Author. Both. I suspect there were a few typos when Gutenberg printed his first sheets on the press, eh?

Revelations are wonderful things. Have a great weekend.

(*Note from the future Jan 7, 2012: I have a Nook now and there's a bucket list app. How cool is that??)


  1. Typorum... I like it. :D

    I think it's very important to remember that epublishing *is* still young and growing. I have read several ebooks, and I will confess that I have been somewhat dismayed by the sloppiness of the formatting (the content is another issue entirely). That Mark Coker has taken the time to produce a guide (a free guide!) to help people avoid those messes is admirable. Even more, it is amazing – and heart-warming - to discover how open, helpful and supportive the indie community is. However, as you are worrying about typographical errors, keep in mind that *many* professionally edited books have them. Take advantage of your editors - and that grammar check!

    As for being quoted... I've seen some fairly long passages from Tolkien that had no reference to page nor chapter. It's all right. You don't need page numbers; we'll love you anyway.

  2. I feel the love! thank you Robin!

    The funny thing about the sample I read was it was one of the two Coker linked to in the Style Guide! Yet, the story was good. I even want to go back and buy the book (when I have the money). I've seen some glaringly obvious errors in copies of books written by very popular authors and I wonder to myself, "How did THAT happen?"

    We're all human, that's how.