Picking fonts for your book

When you are designing your self-published book the questions of which font to use and which font size are important ones. A good font can be one of the reasons why a reader picks up your book in the first place. You need your book to be legible and easy to read. It may be necessary to use different fonts / typefaces for different formats.

Every basic word processing program has  an array of fonts and many more are available online. However, not all of them work well on eReaders or in print. The most popular fonts seem to be Times New Roman, Arial and Comic Sans but there are others out there which work for readers as well.

Thanks to computers one of the most popular fonts is Times New Roman. Obviously Times New Roman was designed for the Times Newspapers in the days when newspapers used narrow columns and small font sizes because print and paper were expensive commodities. It was nice, clear and elegant even in small type. Another popular font for word processors is Arial. Arial is a version of Helvetica, a popular font of yore. Helvetica is a clear font without any serifs so it looks clean on the page and is easy to read. As such it is a popular choice for road signs and companies. Arial itself is easy to read and good for people who are not good readers as it is a sans serif font.

Personally, I think Times New Roman is too squashed up with not enough kerning or letter spacing for a modern print book. I use Arial a lot for work publications but I am not sure I would like to read a whole book in it. The original Garamond is a little too fussy for me and I am not fond of serif typefaces. I am not sure it would work on an eReader either.More modern versions seem cleaner and clearer.

Usually I work in Bookman Old Style font which was very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. It has wide characters and lower case letters are 3/4 of the way up the upper case letters giving it a nice look on the page. The letters  look clean on the page as each letter is balanced with kerning which makes for uniformity. However, I have been looking at Granjon which derives from Garamond. It was the font used in Patti Smith’s M Train with a nice line spacing where it worked well. I am not too sure how it will work with literary fiction though as it is a lighter weight font. Similar to Bookman Old Style is Palatino Linotype. In Palatino the letters are more chiselled and the foot of the letters is shorter so the typeface seems cleaner on the eye.

If you are interested in learning more about fonts and typefaces I have found the following article useful: Picking Fonts. For information about typography I recommend  an article by Janie Kliever which is where the illustration below comes from.




Great Apps for writers

This Easter weekend I have taken myself off to a hotel again to concentrate on finishing my novel about the KGB headquarters in Riga. Originally, I planned to cart my widescreen Asus laptop, charger, USB extension hub and mouse with me as usual but balked at the weight of my laptop. Much as I love working on my laptop, I hate dragging it around. I already have the manuscript backed up on my external drive, so that goes everywhere with me, and have emailed it to myself. The thing is, I need a good way of writing and editing on my iPad mini which is dinky and lightweight.

I have tried working in Pages but the App does not recognise the type font I have chosen which causes formatting and downloading issues. In addition, the native formatting of Pages does not sit well with the way I have formatted the manuscript in a Word. I set up my layout and forest before I do anything else do I am ready to convert when the manuscript is done. I need to retain that formatting.

With this in mind, I have downloaded DocsToGo and linked it to my iCloud account. This App allies me to upload Microsoft-made files and work on them as I would on my laptop. So far, things are looking promising. I downloaded the App, paid for the I loud upgrade and emailed my manuscript to my iCloud email address. From the email, I downloaded the manuscript and then sent it to DocsToGo. I opened the document and it looks pretty much like it did on my laptop. So, I am travelling to Lille with my iPad and a lighter bag.

An other useful App for the iPad is Storyist. This is similar to a Scrivener, a program for Macs and PCs, which allows the writer to write and plan books then bring everything together at the end. Storyist allows you to create index  cards, separate chapters and make notes in one package. It is not as useful as Scrivener but fills the gap until an iPad version of Scrivener is available.


It is useful to have the samples as illustrated above, if you are a novice writer or would like to have a template. I have used Storyist and Scrivener to write my shorter books but have gone back to a whiteboard, post it notes and Word for the longer ones. It is just the way I work.

Several of my writing space comrades use journals or creative writing guides to get ideas flowing and practive writing techniques. If the wish to ditch the paper there is an App which combines journal writing and creative writing. Now, I am not a fan of the Virginia Woolf style free writing activities, and I did give up going to an otherwise excellent writing course because we had to free write, but they are popular among the creative writing fraternity.  The following App comes recommend by http://www.theprooffairy.com as a useful bit of software and as it is not expensive and has a journal function am going to download it. The Roller Journal could be the think to kick off ideas and for general journaling. It is available on the App Store.

For those who just want to type cleanly, I recommend the Hanx Writer. This is a basic word processor type App which mimics the sound of an old fashioned typewriter. It is great fun to play with an is ideal foe a basic text.

Since I have managed to disable my keyboard, I am learning to type slowly using the on screen keyboard. I could be lucky and having to think more often about where the letters are I might produce better text.


Finished the first draft? Now start editing

There are three stages or parts to the editing process: structural editing, line editing, proofreading and copyediting.

A structural edit is the first edit. It tells the author what to keep in and what to take out. This edit helps the writer to get the plot in place and make sure that it is consistent throughout. A structural edit will also deal with Point of View, Show not Tell and Characterisation. A writer may have been attending a writing group or critiquing sessions in which some of these issues have been dealt with as the writer has progressed with the story.

A line edit is more concerned with how the story reads line by line. A line editor is concerned with how each line serves the character, the plot and the Point of View. It is not concerned with the overall structure of the story.

Proofreading and copyediting look at the written words in terms of grammar, spelling, factual inconsistencies and typos. Copyediting and proofreading should, ideally, be done before the manuscript is sent off to t a line editor or structural editor.

The editing process can be an expensive business for a writer, so the writer should rely on readers and writing groups as much as possible to reduce the amount of work an editor needs to do. If a writer lands a book contract then the editing is done by the publishing house. Self-publishers may have to do as much of their own editing as they can. A good self-editor might be able to get away with only paying for a structural edit.

All writers need a good editor as a good editor which help the writer develop the book in the best way possible. A poor editor could destroy both the book and the author’s morale. So choose wisely and get the editor to do what you need them to do.

Why must the best “new writers” always be under the age of 40? Asks The Guardian

An article in the book review section of The Guardian from November 14th 2014, points out that lists of “best new writers” or “writers you should read” tend to be full of writers under the age of 40. What about more senior writers, asks Joanna Walsh.

Is it impossible to be a new writer after the age of 40? Are the best new writers always the young? Walsh points out that there are many mature writers who have been slowed down in the writing process by careers or bringing up children. Should their voice be silenced because the are over 40?

I should admit to a vested interest here. I published my first novel at 50 and at the tender age of 54 am still going strong. When I was younger I was too busy travelling, getting qualified and building a career. On my writing course, I am one of the youngsters. Many of my colleagues have taken up writing and only one has yet to see 40.

Enough of the youth obsession, I say. Let’s look at older writers, value them and their work. Crafting a good novel, poem or play is a tremendous achievement at any age and should be recognised as such.

Does a writer need a website?

Does a writer need a website? Absolutely. It represents you and your writing to the world. You can control what is on your website and how you reach out to your audience. It is your homebase. As Kimberley Grabas puts it, your website is “a marketing and networking hub and a portal that allows communication to flow between an author and his or her readers.” (http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/author-website-elements/) Kimberley has some tips to pass on.

What should the webpage be about? The writer and writings. This is where you sell yourself and your writing. It is not a place for sharing family photos.

What is the purpose of the website? To promote the writer and writings. The website promotes you, it promotes your books and it promotes your ideas.

Who is the target audience? Current and prospective readers. Readers might want to find out more about you and your books; prospective readers might check you out and then be encouraged to read your books as a result.

What should be on the website? Writer bio, book info, contact info, events etc.

Website or Facebook page? Possibly both though people seem to find out more about books by doing web searches and reading websites (http://www.thebookdoctors.com/does-an-author-really-need-a-website-the-book-doctors-interview-annik-lafarge-on-how-to-be-a-more-effective-author-online). Some authors have author Facebook accounts in which they only write about their books and connect with their fans. It sounds like a really good idea.

How often should you update your website? Ideally, monthly. If people return to your website they want to see something new and some evidence that you are engaging with your readership. If you post something new on a regular basis, then you will get return traffic. I bought a template for my website which I have been busy adapting using HTML and Javascript. I have total control over my website, which I think is essential for writers.

What about a blog? A blog is a good way of communicating with a wider community on a regular basis and getting feedback on what you are writing. There is some good information on setting up a blog for writers on  this website: http://www.everywritersresource.com/writers-need-website/.

How expensive is a website to run? If you can do a bit of the HTML stuff then creating a website is actually cheap. Notepad comes free with Windows and you need a little coding knowledge to use it. Professional, and easier, software is Dreamweaver. This is expensive, but you can download a free trial. Dreamweaver allows you to have design view (for non-techies) or coding view (for techies). You can create beautiful website with a little persistance. Alternatively, you can buy and template and adapt it, get someone to make the site for you (very expensive) or build a basic site using Blogger, WordPress or any of the other free alternatives. It will cost a few pounds to buy a domain name and around £30 a year for hosting, depending on the package you buy. I am currently trialling a new version of my website (www.fromthefrozennorth.co.uk) which is a template I bought on the Internet and then adapted using Notepad.

Does a writer need a Twitter account? Not unless you are really really famous and people are going to follow your every word or you have a brand new book out and you want to publicize it. Then, I would consider have a book specific Twitter account.

Indie writers need all the promotion and marketing tools they can get so a dedicated website has to be a must, in my opinion.