Friday, March 16, 2012

On Breaking Glass

Have you ever been so frustrated that you just wanted to break glass? Here’s what I mean:

For the last couple of months, I have been working a few hours a day typesetting for Husband’s company. I take existing books already set and reset them for e-publication, and I have a system down that allows me to complete one every 30 minutes or so.

It’s detailed work because e-files have limitations in the same way website have. You can only use certain kinds of fonts, for example, and you can’t use tabs or small caps or double-spaced lines. Because e-files will be custom-sized by each reader, text must flow in a variety of settings, so you can’t break lines manually as you would when setting text for a page, and you can’t hyphenate words in justified text. When you reset existing books, you can do a quick find-and-replace to eliminate the forced line breaks, but you can’t quickly eliminate any manually placed hyphens put in place to break words.

Eliminating all the hyphens would never do—these books I’m working on are romances, so there are plenty of character descriptions of women with copper-colored hair or raven-black tresses. She might be wide-eyed or quick-tempered or have a smart-as-a-whip wit. She might work part-time at the mini-mart, or she might be a top-notch day-trader. She says “good-bye” often and might wear fit-to-beat-the-band high-heeled boots. And here's my favorite—she offers a look "of last-chance-no-clemency-firing-squad resignation." Well, anyway, you get the idea. So, you, or I, have to hunt for each hyphen, leave in the good ones and eliminate the ones that suggest the heroine is search-ing for a man who would make for a good hus-band or who is drop-dead gor-geous. See what I mean?

So, this is what I do, and I don't really mind it. I listen to radio dramas or audio books while I work, and I take breaks to play with the dog. But yesterday, I learned that some of the rules have changed in these re-settings, and I now have to go back through every book I have set since January and switch out fonts and ISBNs and do more hyphen searches, and all I could do was take a good, deep breath and get to work. What I wanted to do, though, was break glass.

The thought came to me as I remembered a long-lost friend, a girl I knew in middle school. Laura was one of my few friends who went to my church, and ironically she was nothing but trouble. My most vivid memory of time spent with her was of walking along some railroad tracks on a sunny, fall day—those days in northern Indiana are glorious for the senses, with sights and sounds and smells. We punctuated our school-girl conversation by picking up any empty beer bottles we found along the way and smashing them on the railroad ties or the metal tracks themselves, and the act was oddly satisfying.

I can’t tell you why that it is, but yesterday, I wished I could walk along those tracks with the troubled Laura and break glass if only for a few min-utes. I could-n’t, though. I could on-ly sit and click a-way to change fonts and elim-inate er-rant hy-phens. Today, when I get back to it, I might be list-ening to this:


Speedway said...

Thanks, Scout. That explains some of the peculiarities in the page layouts on my Kindle, while I got about a month ago. I get weird line breaks, where there's plenty of room for the word on the line above, but it gets sent to the following line. I get the weird hyphens, too.

The first books I downloaded are very old history books, which look to have been scanned with a software program. The page headers and chapters appear in the middle of the body copy, breaking up paragraphs. Once I figured that out, the copy was easier to read, but still annoying. Blech!

Speedway said...

I meant "which," daggone it.

savannah said...

i know i should do the kindle/nook thing, sugar, but i'm book-stuck. and lov-ing-it! ;~) xoxoxoxox

(i do love the idea of breaking glass as a release.)