Writing Versus Publishing Tools

That rather despicable man, Arthur Koestler, once said that a publisher who wrote was like a cow in a milk bar. This has never struck me as a very elegant simile but it does point to the very real conflict which can be caused by combining the two roles. As both a writer and a publisher, I find that the tools which I want for one role are often unsuited for use in the other role. For print publishing and, to a lesser extent, ePub and Kindle publishing, Adobe InDesign is the program of choice. It has the best typographical control and the best built-in indexing software. It produces trouble-free PDFs which can be tailored to the printers' requirements and, with a bit of hard work, can export good ePubs and Kindle books. As a medium for writing, however, it leaves much to be desired.

InDesign is a large, ponderous program which is slow to start up, heavy on resources and almost incapable of exporting even the humblest of rtf files. Perhaps more seriously, at least for those with typographical leanings, is that it is an obsessively visual program, diverting one's mind away from the substance of a writer's work. I have no wish to revert to a manual typewriter, although there is much to be said for writing first drafts in longhand and then typing into a computer, so some sort of program is required.

Some swear by Microsoft Word but I am more likely to swear at it. Word, like InDesign, is large and cumbersome, partly because, like Apple's Pages program (long due an overhaul), it has aspirations to be more than a word processor. On the Mac, a far better word processor is Nisus Writer Pro (or the slightly cut-down Nisus Writer Express). These are good, old-fashion programs which concentrate on handling words not pictures, drop caps and ligated characters. If one is obsessed with function over form, Ulysses offers syntactic mark-up, an idea not unlike creating an XML file without the complexity of an XML editor. For most people, however, especially creative writers, this formal approach is inimical to the writing process.

Ulysses is one of those writing programs, which date back at least to LaTeX, in which a single document consists of many files. This approach offers many advantages in terms of planning and organisation. For the novelist, there is Story Mill and, now a similar French program, Jécris un Roman. Although very good, Story Mill seems to be aimed at writers who have attended writing courses and have learnt a rather formulaic approach. It is also unsuited to non-fiction authorship. I haven't tried Jécris un Roman but I suspect that the same applies. My own favourite writing program at the moment is Scrivener which is equally suited to fiction and non-fiction and is very good at organising both text and reference materials.

<a class="addthis_button" href="http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=250&amp;pubid=ra-4ee39d86551cfb83"><img src="http://s7.addthis.com/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/></a><!-- AddThis Button END-->


Comments

ePub Hell

Here at Schloss Danckwerts, the spiritual (and, indeed, commercial) home of the vast and sprawling Tiger of the Stripe publishing empire, we are hard at work trying to cash in on ebooks, not least because sales of our printed books have fallen off the metaphorical cliff. But what a palaver it is!

I published some PDF ebooks some years ago but the profits were virtually non-existent - in fact they were non-existent as the few pounds profit was paid by a cheque in Australian dollars which would have cost me more to pay in than it was worth. My next plan was to sell PDF books from my own site but I concluded that it was open to pirating and unlikely to be profitable. Than Kindle and Apple iBooks came along. 

Although I have a lot of new ebooks in the pipeline, I've only published one (a Kindle version of Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds) so far because creating either mobi or ePub files from my existing resources (InDesign files) is by no means straightforward. 

The biggest problem is that my books are full of footnotes and/or endnotes. Endnotes are not supported directly by InDesign so I use InFnote but that doesn't create hyperlinks in the ePubs or mobi files so this has to be done by hand. In any case, pop-up footnotes are much more suitable and they are a further complication.

The second major problem is the integration of illustrations. This is relatively easy with fixed-layout ePubs (with Rorohiko's superb ePubCrawler plu-in) but should I really be creating them? They are a nightmare on small devices such as iPhones.

Ah well! It is time to go and feed the vultures who circle around the castle turrets. If I come back alive, I'll return to this topic another time.

<a class="addthis_button" href="http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=250&amp;pubid=ra-4ee39d86551cfb83"><img src="http://s7.addthis.com/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/></a><!-- AddThis Button END-->

Comments

More on Formatting InDesign Indexes

After toying with grep styles to format parts on index entries, I decided that it was unsatisfactory. I had delimited italic with double quotes and Greek (which had to be set in a different font because my main font didn't support Greek) with curly brackets. Unfortunately, the text variable used to put the head words into the index running head displayed the delimiters and there was no way to remove them. 

Fortunately, InDesign allows one to save searches so I simply saved 4 search-and replace operations which need re-running every time that the index is revised: one each to search and style Greek and italic and one each to delete the double quotes and curly brackets.

I'll probably write a short Applescript to automate this but, even without that, it is a very simple operation.

<a class="addthis_button" href="http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=250&amp;pubid=ra-4ee39d86551cfb83"><img src="http://s7.addthis.com/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/></a><!-- AddThis Button END-->

Comments

InDesign Indexes

I love InDesign, even though it sometimes infuriates me. Its built-in indexing is excellent, except that there is no proper way to style parts of an entry. For instance, to italicise book titles.

There are two work-arounds. One is to do a GREP search-and-replace once the index is generated. For instance, one can delimit the italic words with double quotes, than search for text surrounded by double quotes, italicise it and then delete the quotes. The other is to create a GREP style. The former works well (at least if your grasp of GREP patterns is at lot better than mine) but you have to perform these after every regeneration of the index (and, in my experience, that's quite often).

The idea of GREP styles is very clever. You define a character style, say italic, which inherits all the characteristics of the paragraph to which it belongs except that it is italic. You then go to the relevant paragraph styles, such as level 1, level 2 and level 3 index entries and define in the GREP styles tab the circumstances in which the character style is applied.

The picture shows a simple pattern searching for any text contained within any type of double quotes and then applying an italic character style. However, that doesn't get rid of the double quotes so you then have to apply a style to them, in this case a style which makes them very narrow and of no colour.

In other words, the GREP style doesn't get rid of the double quotes at all, it just hides them. This is unsatisfactory for two reasons. First, imagine you, like I, want to include headwords in the running head. This is easy with InDesign's text variables. You can set up a text variable to display the first word of the first level 1 heading on the page and another to display the first word of the last level 1 heading on the page. Great! But if you marked your italics with double quotes they're still there. Moreover, InDesign doesn't allow you to do GREP searches on text variable, so you can't hide those double quotes again, so there they are in the running head.

The second, possibly more serious, problem with this scenario is that you'll probably want to create other forms of this publication, such as Kindle and ePub. All those double quotes will reappear again!

There is only one sensible solution to this, I think: Adobe should support some sort of tagging in the index.

<a class="addthis_button" href="http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=250&amp;pubid=ra-4ee39d86551cfb83"><img src="http://s7.addthis.com/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/></a><!-- AddThis Button END-->

Comments

Show more posts

Login