Help for dyslexic writers

I’m a bit of a font nut, so I often spend valuable writing time chasing around the web for new fonts to try out. What I tend to look for is something neat and clear that’ll allow me to work for extended periods without eyestrain. So far, the best font I’ve come across for this is Microsoft Consolas, a font designed for people who need to work for extended periods without eyestrain: programmers. I should take more breaks really, but sometimes you’re so focussed . . . Anyway, I’ve been happy with Consolas for years, but I may be about to make a change.
A few months ago, a dyslexic friend of mine said I should take a look at the Andika font.
Andika is a free font (still under development) geared towards teaching literacy to young children. The letter forms are clear, distinct and evenly-spaced, all which makes it very comfortable to read on a decent screen. It has excellent support for non-western character sets and, if I didn’t mention it before, it happens to be free. (Though if you use it then I’m sure they’d appreciate a small donation.)

Book #3 is back from the cleaners!

Six weeks of pacing around the study came to an end yesterday: the draft of my next novel came back from the editor. Well, the report came back; the actual manuscript will need a van to get it here (more on this a bit later).

First of all, I read the letter, then I read the advice on how to use the report (though I’ve used Cornerstones before), and then, after a good stiff drink, I read the report.

To say that I’m rather pleased with myself doesn’t begin to cover it.

I’m not going to bore you with the whole thing, but there are a few things that I look for in an editor’s report which will tell me whether or not I’ve hit the mark. I hit all of them, but the one I’m most proud of is ‘effortless’. I’ve hit three out of three effortless‘s so far and I’m pretty chuffed because that’s exactly what I’m aiming for: I want to make writing look easy, even though it isn’t. This was especially difficult for the current novel because, at seven hundred pages, it’s the longest piece of work I’ve attempted so far, and holding a reader’s attention over that length is no walk in the park.

Of course there are a fair number of problems that will need reworking, but the biggest problem with the draft is that from a commercial point of view it’s way too long. It’s unlikely that any agent would pick up a seven hundred page book from an author who has never been published through the traditional channels. Even more worrying is that I’m not even sure how eBook readers feel about erotic literary epics.

I did know this would be a problem, but I wanted to get the story down on paper (metaphorically speaking) before deciding what to do about it. So now, I need to take a few months away from the manuscript and mull over what to do about it. My editor suggested two possible courses of action:

  • Leave the novel structured as it is and see what happens.
  • Rewrite the book as a series of three novels  and go again.

I don’t have a preference yet, and that’s probably a good thing. Hurrying a revision means you’ll just paper over the cracks while the underlying problems remain untouched. This is my finest work to date; it deserves me at my best to make it even better.

And it reinforces my view that no book (no matter its genre or how it’s published) should go out unless it’s been looked over by an experienced editor.

What’s in a title?

No two ways about it, book titles are important. They always have been and that won’t change any time soon. I’ve forgotten the names of my friends, the university I attended, and my own birthday, but I have never forgotten my favourite book titles:

The Forever War
The Hydrogen Sonata

And though I’m not a huge fan of Fifty Shades of Grey, I love the title for being both poetic, evocative and memorable. (Admittedly, that was before discovering that the male lead was called Grey, then it somehow seemed a little less clever.)

In ancient times when people bought books from shops, the book’s title had to capture someone with little more than a passing glance, and the title had to fit on the spine because only the best sellers could be seen face on. Each book competing with thousands of others just to be noticed. Now, most buyers use Amazon where a book will be competing with hundreds of thousands of others just to be found. And so the book title has taken on an even greater significance, along with the keywords and tags that you can attach to the book to help guide potential readers towards it. I’ve seen some clever tricks used to elicit the attention of the Amazon search engine: dropping the name of a similar, more popular book in the keywords, using another author’s name or book title in the tags. The thing about Amazon is that it’s not really a bookshop you pop into for a quick browse during your lunch break; chances are that if you are on the Amazon site looking for a book then you have a pretty good idea what you’re looking for, even if you don’t have a specific title in mind. In this case, a simple, straightforward title that leaves nothing to chance might be your best option:

The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories

Okay, that’s a little extreme, and yes, I’ve been looking for excuse to drop that cover on the blog for quite some time, but it does illustrate a point: that title is no-nonsense and the cover design tells you immediately that you’re looking at a pastiche/parody of fifties erotica. You’re not expecting a literary tour-de-force (though it might be), but you might be in for a decent read and a bit of a laugh.

In my own writing, I don’t usually have a title until the first draft is completed. I usually pick an idea, or a notion or an image from the book and settle on that. Now, I’m wondering if I should have a title before that, perhaps before I’ve even started writing on the book. The title is the draw, and if I don’t have a good title from the outset then do I have a marketable book later on?

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