Contents? Not with this gutter, margins, serif babble.

When you’re formatting a novel, it seems that there is a near-infinite supply of minute decisions to make. (This is especially true if you’re formatting a novel for multiple platforms, each of which has its own unique requirements.) This font or that font? Do I put my map before or after my contents page? Do I really want a table of contents? They’re so stodgy and, well, I guess you kinda have to include a table of contents for an e-book Kangaroo2clipartmed12cmhighbecause that enables readers to link to that section of text, which is really quite convenient. But for a real, honest-to-god, yes-you-can-smell-it book book? Also, is my gutter large enough? Is the font large enough without being aggressive? Is the presentation original without being gimmicky? Holy hell, why do my margins keep shifting from one page to the next? (I’ll give you a clue: it has to do with the fact that the gutter is larger than the other margins and shifts from left to right on alternating pages.)

And then there are the a-ha(!) moments. Like when I poured the text for my first chapter into a template and justified the text and suddenly my words looked like a book. It never occurred to me, in all my years of writing and reading and, yes, sniffing books, how much a simple formatting move like justifying your text visually transforms the entire document. My book looks like a book. I can’t seem to stop staring at it and, worse, showing it to people. I’m literally carrying my laptop around my office forcing people to look at 30 pages of justified text. (I never said I was proud. Or sane, for that matter.)

And it wasn’t until I’d typed out a (loose) table of contents that I realized how much I’d written. According to Smashwords–a self-publishing site that seems to offer its authors a lot of flexibility and options not necessarily available elsewhere–my book falls into the “epic” length category. I think a lot of publishers are intimidated by that, especially from a first-time author. And when the book in question is a young adult novel, forgetaboutit. But I also remember being a young reader and preferring lengthier novels, which doesn’t mean that I would outright ignore a shorter work, but frankly, if I can read something in two or three hours it’s a lot less likely to linger for weeks and months later, as my favorite books always do. Of course, there’s also the fact that Scourge of the Righteous Haddock is a fantasy novel and it does take awhile to establish your world when you’re working in fantasy. And I have read articles stating that fantasy novels tend to get a larger word count for that reason. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that a 120,000-word novel is nothing to sneeze at. But my ultimate feeling is that I told the story that I needed to tell using the space I needed to tell it. And I didn’t become a writer so that I could play it safe. I don’t say that meaning that I am above being edited, because that certainly is not the case. But if you’re editing merely for the sake of a smaller word count, well, what ever happened to editing for content? And, more importantly, what ever happened to giving readers the benefit of the doubt rather than underestimating their intelligence and willingness to experience something new and original?

While I did not intend to rant about word counts–spending 30 hours per week writing, editing, and formatting on top of my 40-hour a week job writing, editing, formatting has resulted in some strange obsessions–I’ll now offer a glimpse into the madness that is my Table of Contents. (Yes, the rational part of my brain took over and insisted that I do, in fact, need a table of contents for a 120,000-word novel.)

Contents

MAP……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..X

THE FIRST OF THE PINK KANGAROOS……………………………………………………….X

ANOTHER PINK KANGAROO FOLLOWS, MAKING TWO……………………………………XX

THE FIRST AND SECOND KANGAROO HEAR RUMOR OF A THIRD…………………XX

A FOURTH PINK KANGAROO CELEBRATES ITS BIRTHDAY………………………………XX

THE FIFTH KANGAROO LIKES KETCHUP…………………………………………………..XX

THE SIXTH KANGAROO……………………………………………………………………………..XX

A SEVENTH PINK KANGAROO MAKES A DISCOVERY……………………………………….XX

THE EIGHTH KANGAROO DONS A SPEEDO……………………………………………..XX

A NINTH KANGAROO DINES ON GREEN EGGS AND HAM…………………………………XX

THE TENTH KANGAROO HOPS MIGHTILY……………………………………………….XX

AN INIQUITOUS ELEVENTH PINK KANGAROO JOINS THE PACK……………………XX

ELEVEN KANGAROOS PLUS ONE JOEY EQUALS TWELVE KANGAROOS…………XX

THIRTEEN KANGAROOS A’-FLEEING………………………………………………………..XX

THE FOURTEENTH KANGAROO APPREHENDS A BIRD OF PREY……………………XXX

THE FIFTEENTH KANGAROO…………………………………………………………………..XXX

IN MEMORY OF THE FALLEN SIXTEENTH KANGAROO……………………………………XXX

A KANGAROO NAMED SEVENTEEN DANCES ON A ROOFTOP……………………………XXX

THE EIGHTEENTH KANGAROO MAKES WAR….X

A NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD KANGAROO EATS BARBECUE……………………………………..XXX

A (PINK) KANGAROO WRITES IN A TWENTY-PAGE DIARY…………………………………XXX

THE TWENTY-FIRST, AND FINAL, PINK KANGAROO……………………………………….XXX

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