So CreateSpace sent me my physical proof a few weeks ago. I checked it for formatting and everything looked fine. They recommended I read through it too. Now I've read it. A lot. Like ten times. More if you include early drafts. I was tempted to just let it go, approve it, and have the trade paperback available for purchase. There are some people waiting for it.

But I read it anyway. First I found a hyphen problem. No big deal. Then I found a paragraph that wasn't indented. Not great, but maybe not enough to hold up production. Then I found a sentence that was messed up--on my last edit, I'd changed it's structure but forgotten to delete a word. That did it. Now, this is what it looks like:

I now know how misspelled words, jarring repetition, and wrong punctuation make it into books. Seriously, I had combed through it before. And several people had read it too, catching a bunch of mistakes.

Granted, a few of these are stylistic tweaks, such as fixing a sentence for clarity or trimming some unnecessary words, but most of these are straight up editing issues. (Note: See * below for a special note on Scrivener, smart quotes, and em dashes!)

I'll be uploading the finished product shortly, and the trade paperback will be available soon. The great thing about the eBooks is that I can update them at any time.

So... if anyone who reads it finds errors (or questionable writing!), please drop me a note at oops [don't forget to put at sign here] cometjack [dot] com so I can review it. It takes a village, people. (And, yes, I know I just put "village" and "people" right next to each other.)


* Note: Here's another very specific editing problem I had, and its solution, just in case it'll help other Scrivener users. If you don't use Scrivener, don't care too much about typesetting, then you can probably skip this as it will bore you to tears.

I imported the original text of this novel in plain text, from Word, meaning I'd stripped out the smart quotes (those quotes that "hug" the dialogue, instead of being just straight up and down) and em dashes (those long dashes you see in books, instead of the double dash, like so: --). I realized, for appearances sake, I wanted these back in. No problem, I thought, Scrivener can handle this.

There is a way to convert straight quotes to smart quotes: In Group View mode, select all your scenes, have your cursor in the text window, then do: Format > Convert > Quotes to Smart Quotes.

Next, you have to find and replace all the double dashes to em-dashes. You can just type a double-dash in the text window, followed by a space, and Scrivener turns it into an em-dash. Delete the space, select the em-dash, cut it, then paste it in the Replace box of find and replace. (In Find, you obviously put your double dash.) I found the first one, hit Replace to make sure it did what I wanted, then hit Replace All.

Are you done? Not quite. One more problem: In Scrivener, the smart quotes are backwards following an em-dash in dialogue. (I predict at least one person will find this by googling that exact phrase... unless Scrivener makes an easy fix for this in the next release.)

Here's how I fixed that: in the text box (right in your document), type


The dash will turn into an em-dash. By typing two quotes, you'll get one of each kind. Delete the quote that points away from the em-dash (the wrong one). Now select the em-dash and remaining perfect quote, cut, and paste into the Replace box of find and replace. Copy one of the offending em-dash/smart-quote couples into the Find box, then do your find and replace thing. (Again, I started with one or two, made sure I liked the results, then hit Replace All.)

So there you have it. I'm sure Scrivener will have a more elegant solution soon. Maybe there's one already that I don't know about. If so, please share! If not, I hope this saved you the couple hours it took me to search for solutions than invent this one.

Happy formatting!


Unknown said...

As you predicted, I got here via Google search, trying to find a solution for the em-dash/smart-quote problem. FYI, there's a whole thread on it here:


I hadn't thought about just doing a search-and-replace. Thanks for posting.

Steve Kopka said...

Thanks for the thread. I'm always looking for better solutions but since I hadn't found one at the time I made the post, I figured I'd do throw my Frankenstein solution up to see if it helps anyone.

I also received a very helpful and prompt response from Jennifer Hughes at Scrivener, who said (and gave me permission to quote):

"As far as a convert option for changing double hyphens to em-dashes, I think that has been mentioned before and it may be something that comes into a future update. Something you can do now, which I forgot about, is to set up a replacement for this in your compile settings, which can be saved either per-project (so you can compile to different formats without changing it) or per-preset (so you can save it as part of a preset to be available in other projects). In compile, click the "All Options" tab and then select "Replacements" from the list on the left. Here you'll do essentially the same thing you did in the find/replace dialogue, using Opt-Shift-- to enter the em-dash character in the replacement field.

So setting up a replacement like that might be something useful to add to your custom .mobi and .epub compile settings, letting you not worry about the formatting within the editor itself, just like using the "convert em-dash to double-hyphen" set up does now."

I meant to highlight this in a separate post on her response, oh... back in October 2011! I guess time got away from me. Geez.

Thanks for the comment, Dan.