Lockdown does strange things. I’d been thinking for a long time about getting my back list of 10 novels into e-books but, somehow, it’s remained at the thinking stage. Should I edit and re-write my early novels – I could see where they needed work – or I should operate on the ‘sod it’ principle and, after altering any spelling mistakes or obvious errors, publish them as they originally were. I’d begin with my first Elizabeth Hawksley: Lysander’s Lady, and put them into e-books sequentially, ending with my most recent novel, Highland Summer.
I have what I call a ‘portfolio career’. In other words, I do a variety of things which, with a bit of juggling, adds up to a living. I review books and art exhibitions, and write articles; I have taught Creative Writing at a College of Further Education, I give talks at conferences and lead Writing Courses. I have worked for the Hilary Johnson Authors’ Advisory Service, and, of course, I blog.
However, lockdown is here and life suddenly looks very different. A lot of what I do has necessarily stopped – at least for the moment. But, ‘When one door closes, another opens.’ A couple of weeks ago my good friends, Janet Gover (computer expert and author of terrific stories set in the Australian outback) and her husband, John Hocking (another computer wizard who set up my website and showed me how to blog) pushed me into a corner – from a safe distance, naturally – and told me to stop dragging my feet and do something about my back list.
Elizabeth giving a talk at the Caerleon Writers’ Holiday
They wanted me to get my back list into e-books and they would help. I’d got my rights back from the publisher several years ago, so there were no excuses.
I said, ‘Yes.’ However, I decided to start with my last book Highland Summer, rather than my first. I reckoned that it would need far less work doing to it – in fact, it would just be a few tweaks here and there and correcting the occasional misprint. Easy-peasy.
Janet told me the format she needed and explained how to insert a ‘page-break’ at the end of each chapter which automatically moved the following chapter onto a new page.
Doing Highland Summer was a nightmare – and it was entirely my fault. What I had were 10 documents called Chapters 1-10. I created another document called Highland Summer complete. Then I stupidly transferred Chapter 1 there – and forgot that what I should have done was copy it – not transfer it. It took me ages to copy it from Highland Summer complete back into Chapter 1.
Staffordshire Highlander with deer
Somehow I kept getting muddled as to which Chapter I’d corrected, the one in the original folder, or the one I’d copied to the complete document.
It didn’t help that the printed version – the actual book – had been appallingly copy edited. For example, the ellipses (the dots . . . ) appeared to be random; sometimes there were three dots and no spaces between, sometimes there were four or even five. Sometimes there were spaces before the dots, between the dots, and after the dots – as there should be, and sometimes there weren’t.
When I finally finished I did one last check. Highland Summer complete was great for the first five chapters. The page breaks worked, and each new chapter opened on a new page, as they should. But then it stopped.
Where was the rest of the book? Eventually I discovered that the Chapter 6 document contained two extra Chapters 5, two Chapters 6, and then one each of Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10 plus the correct page breaks. Very, very carefully, I got rid of the two superfluous Chapters 5, and one of the Chapter 6s. I was terrified that, somehow, I’d get rid of something that I shouldn’t.
A corner of Elizabeth’s study
Having done that, I copied and pasted the Chapter 6 document which now contained chapters 6-10 to the end of Chapter 5 in the Highland Summer complete document and did the page break bit. Then, just in case, I went through the whole thing and checked it chapter by chapter, and, with my heart in my mouth, I sent it to Janet.
If I’d been a drinking woman, I would then have had a stiff drink. But alcohol tends to make me ill, so I took some Rescue Remedy instead – and had some chocolate.
It was the sort of stupid muddle only someone who finds dealing with computers really difficult could understand.
Fortunately, when I came to do the next book The Belvedere Tower, I discovered that, although the chapters were in individual documents as with Highland Summer, I had had the good sense to create a document called Belvedere Tower complete which contained the entire book. Hurray! It would be so much easier to deal with the whole book already in one document. I would need to correct any copy-editing errors and do various small tweaks, and, of course, make sure that I did the page breaks correctly, but that should be that.
And, this time, it was fine! Fortunately, The Belvedere Tower book had had an excellent copy editor, and the ellipses were properly done.
It’s still going to be a steep learning curve. I have to deal with the ISBN numbers, make sure I get the copyright information at the beginning of each novel correctly noted, and a whole host of other things. Fortunately, Janet Gover and John Hocking are brilliant at explaining things so that even I can understand them.
So, dear readers, I don’t know how long this will take, but I am on my way.
Thank you for your patience. Next week, I shall be back with a proper blog.
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