Posts Tagged ‘little tricks’
Working at Paizo for the last few months, there are two concepts I’ve picked up on that I’m applying to other books down the road. They’re not mind-blowing ideas, but because we’re all learning this ad hoc, some techniques only get discovered as you’re working with different professionals.
Text Between Headers
If you look at Paizo products, you’ll see that wherever there’s a header, there’s at least one line of normal body copy between that at the next header. Usually it’s more substantial, but sometimes it’s just “The following may be selected at any level.” or similar.
The reason for this? It lets headers breathe on the page. They don’t run into each other, and it makes scanning on the page easier. So now when I’m working on a book, if the structure has me writing one header and then immediately after that a subheader, I stop to put something in between them. (Sometimes just “XXX” so that I know to come back to it later.)
Stop at H2s
We don’t go beyond second-level headers here, which blew my mind. As someone from a crunchy software background, getting deep with headers made sense. (I think we went down to H4s in some earlier Fate Core drafts, though not often.) So to see this limiter was interesting.
If there’s information breakdown after H2, it’s done in the body copy, with a bolded or italicized phrase & colon.
Here’s some more stuff!
Stuff 1: Stuff!
Stuff 2: More Stuff!
Stuff 3: Even more!
And you’ll notice that there’s a line in between the header and the further breakdown. (And the astute will notice that the colon isn’t styled.)
If you flip through some products (especially those over the last year, as the styles have evolved over time in both the editorial and art direction camps), you’ll see all sorts of little things like this. There’s so much I’ve learned here, which gets me fired up to come to work every day (aside from, you know, making games). Occasionally I’ll share what I’ve learned with y’all.
(I’m sure I’ve shared this trick in the past, as I do often with people, but here it goes again.) Say you need to revise a piece you’ve recently written. Best thing to do is shelve it for awhile, until the text isn’t fresh in your mind. But you don’t always have time for that. Such is freelancer life.
What I do in those situations is twist the layout in Word. Let’s start with the first page of a draft, my story from Don’t Read This Book. Here’s how I start, with the defaults in Word for Mac 2011:
Then I do four things:
- I change the layout from portrait to landscape.
- I switch to two-column layout.
- I change the font family. If I’m using a serif font, I’ll go sans-serif or monospace. Vice versa. Sometimes I also change the font size.
- I use line-and-a-half spacing. This is partly a holdover from back when I printed material to revise or edit.
With that done, a really neat thing happens: the line breaks shift. See, we’ll often get hung up on text as it is on the page, not just the words as they are. So by changing that, making the lines look different and the font making the letter shapes slightly different, it shifts from pure visual memory into a fresher space.
See, when we’re reading the familiar, we fill things in our minds — not just textually familiar but visually so. This is to short-circuit that.
See for yourself. Grab the PDF with both versions as two separate pages.
Granted, what I’m showing you is the final version that you’ll see in Don’t Read This Book. I’m a bit too embarrassed by the first draft to share that one. :) Anyway, I hope this trick helps you out.
This idea has inspired Rob Donoghue to try something similar — use one writing tool for initial writing, and another one with a different layout for revision. I look forward to hearing about his results.