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In Which I Bow To The Inevitable

The front of the Amazon Kindle DX

Image via Wikipedia

No, I haven’t bought an iPhone, don’t be silly. Anyway, I’m happy with my Symbian based Nokia 5800XM and when I tire of it I’ll get an Android based phone.

No, the inevitable is a little different. For background, I love to read and always have done. As a child, if I didn’t have a book, I would read the back of the cornflake packet. And that is not an exaggeration. As a result, despite losing/giving away/selling/etc many many books over the years, I have more than 700 of them at home. And there is no sign that this number will reduce.┬áSerendipitously, I read something that meant that this could change…

Amazon have finally brought the Kindle to the UK. In fact, if you go to the Amazon UK homepage, there’s an announcement stretching down the centre of the page. We can finally read books on a book sized device that isn’t a book! In fact, there are two models on offer – the all-singing, all-dancing 3G/Wifi version and the Wifi only version. I have gone for Wifi only as I can only imagine needing to download books via a wifi connection and not when I am out of range. Also, I am cynical about the “Free 3G Wireless” offer – in this country it usually means for a time or as long as you don’t use it more than we like.

So, with a capacity of 3,500 books, from late next month, I can stop clogging up our house with dead-tree media and can also carry loads of books with me. The only problem will be “which one do I read first?”

everything in this post has been written by me as a personal post. I am not being paid by Amazon or any of their businesses to write this. though if Amazon do want to give me money and gadgets so that I’ll write about them, I will not complain or stop them.
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Writing a Book? Use WordPress

Slightly misleading title maybe. If you have written a book (or books) and would like to put it online, you can use WordPress (either .com or .org) to organise the book to make it readable. These instructions will probably also work on other blogging platforms, but please check your software first and make necessary adjustments.

Thanks to the WordPress FAQs for these instructions. The FAQs are necessarily short, so this expands on those instructions. With screenshots! As there is no real difference in the software itself between the self hosted WordPress blogs (.org version) or the WordPress hosted (.com version) blogs, I won’t be making changes to reflect this.

Enough with the chat, let’s get on with it!

Firstly, you need to create a new page to be the front cover of your book. Go to your WordPress Dashboard and select Manage and Pages.

Manage>>Pages

On that page, select Create a new page

Call this new page “Front” as it is the Front page of your new book. If you are artistic, I suppose you could call the page after your book’s name and create some cool artwork, but that sounds like more work than it’s worth.

If we now look at the header of my site, the Front page has been added:

Front Page(I added the red box for emphasis, it won’t show normally)

If we follow the FAQ, it then says to continue by creating another page called Index and a third called Chapters. My problem with this is that it assumes that you only host your book on the site and don’t have (as I would) other things that aren’t necessarily related. Luckily, there is a workaround for this.

When you create the Index page, go to the right hand side of the page creation page and click the plussign.png sign next to Page Parent . This expands the section and you can then choose to make the Index page a child page of the Front page. What does this do for you? Well, if you plan to host multiple books, you can use different titles for Front and keep all your books separate. It also stops your header from being cluttered and incomprehensible.

If we continue reading the FAQ, it says that we should make Front into the front page of the blog and the Chapters to be the posting pages. My method does away with this though. Obviously, if you create one blog per book and only have your book there, you can happily continue along the path shown by the FAQ.

If we follow my method, however, we have some more similar steps to follow. To recap, we created 3 pages and made 2 of them children of the main one. This means that right now we have 3 pages, all blank and ready to go.

Go to your “Front” page in the dashboard (Manage >> Pages and then click “Edit” in the list). Under the Page Content you will need to create a link to the Index Page. I use the Code editor because it’s less clicking around.

Create your Index Link

This will then give you a small “Front” page:

Front page with Index link

By clicking the Index link, you will see the Index. Obviously. Next steps are very similar, but again I am diverting from the FAQ:

Rename your Chapters page to Chapter 1 and rename the Post Slug to be “Chapter-1” so that link in the index will work correctly. Create as many more child pages as you need, naming them after each chapter – so Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and so on. Then edit your Index page to link to each of the chapters in turn:

Chapter List

This makes your Index page look like this:

Index page with chapter listings

Once you have set up the bare bones of your book, you can then add the meat of it: this means, write the book and put each chapter into the relevant page. Since the Front page looks a little bare, I would also suggest putting a brief outline of the book itself onto the page, to let your readers know what’s in store for them. Additionally, I would also add a link at the end of each chapter to take the reader to the next chapter – if they have to keep clicking “back” they may just stop reading.

Setting up your site to host your work needn’t be difficult. It can be used for any book and, because WordPress also allows you to post pictures, you can illustrate it too. There are plugins out there which will do something similar, but you end up doing some parts by hand and then letting a plugin do the rest. This is fine as long as the plugin works and doesn’t conflict with another, different, plugin. This how to also disregards protecting your work, you could make each chapter an image of the page or use a plugin to provide a digital fingerprint, but really that is beyond the scope of this.

Writing Dialogue

While noodling around the internet, after following a number of links and then following their links I happened upon an interesting site: Write and Publish Your Book. In fact, I landed on the current lead story: Common Mistakes for Beginning Writers (written by Nancy Moore).

What leapt out at me the most was that I have been guilty in my own writing of at least 3 of the errors and, had I written more, I am sure I could hit all 8 easily. I won’t list out all the errors since I have linked to the site and believe that you should read the page itself. What I will say is that I have read many many books and errors number 1 & 2 on the site are something that really annoy me.

If your character says something, have them say it, don’t have them declare, speak breathily, announce or anything else unless it is necessary to the character or their situation – if they are in a coffee shop they would usually “say” something. If they are secreted in a warehouse watching a drug deal, then have them whisper. Any other words are usually unnecessary, if your character is announcing something and you have already set them up in a situation where they will announce, don’t say “they announced”, it’s redundant. He expostulated.