Use E-book Technology as an Editing Tool

fast_N_easy

fast_N_easy

All authors are unique and have developed various ways of producing and editing their work. As a long-time e-book fanatic, I have developed a method of using e-books and e-book readers as an editing tool which speeds up and enhances my editing process.  It only takes minutes to set up, saves a ton of time, and allows me to edit virtually anywhere. It breaks up the process into “identifying issues” and then “fixing issues.” Waiting at the dentist’s office is now an opportunity to edit. Waiting for an oil change is another chance to make progress on my story. Downtime is now productive time, whether I’m in an airport or my easy chair.

I’m sure I’m not the only author who uses this method, although I haven’t heard of anyone else who uses it. I’ll share it with you, and you can decide if this method may yield benefits for the way you work.

I am currently editing the sequel to “Ripper’s Row,” which has a working title of “Ripper’s Revenge.” I just got the manuscript back from my co-author, Shawn Weaver, who has already applied his suggestions and edits. Now it’s my turn to read the story again and smooth it out even further before we send it to our editor, Magnolia Belle, and let her work her magic on it. Some of the Screen shots used are from my horror story, “The Hotel California.”

The story is in pretty decent shape at this point, and what I’m looking for are any inconsistencies, awkward sentences or dialog, spelloids, (my name for proper words used in the wrong context that spell-check won’t catch, like “from” instead of “form,”) and other mistakes that still exist in the manuscript.

The first thing I’m going to do, is quickly create an e-book from the Word document that Shawn sent me. It will take me about three minutes to convert the Word doc to an HTML doc, and using Mobipocket Creator, or Calibre (both free programs) I can turn it into a Kindle e-book and have it on my reading device in short order.

Once on my device, I can start reading and marking up the manuscript. At this point, my goal is NOT to fully edit the story on the reading device, but to make notes and highlights that will call attention to areas in the story that need my attention. Later, I will call these notes and highlights up on my PC where the real editing will take place, only much faster and better now that they have been identified and noted.

Android Touch Screen

Android Touch Screen

As I read the story and find flaws that need work, I have a couple of options. I can either use the “highlight” feature or the “note” feature built into the Kindle app for the reading device. I have also worked out a little system for making my marks on the manuscript that will benefit me later on. For instance, if I run across a comma that should not be there, or a missing comma, I highlight the word before and after where the comma should or should not be. Later, when I see two words highlighted together it means I have a misplaced or missing comma. If I run across an awkward sentence, I highlight the entire sentence. I know that sentence needs further attention. If I run across a “spelloid” I will highlight that single word.

If I find a flaw that requires a creative change, I will make a “note” in the e-book using that built-in feature. For instance, I may run across an inconsistency where I need to make a note like “Change POV,” or “Change Tense.” I will make that note at the beginning of the sentence or paragraph it pertains to. Notes can be short and simple, or can be more involved as in writing out an idea that would improve the story.

Using this method allows me to quickly identify problems and make a quick note if necessary, without breaking my stride in reading the story. This allows me to get a better perspective on how the story “flows” as well as identifying issues. After I have completed my reading and have made all my marks, it’s time to really edit, only faster and easier using e-book technology once again.

When I have finished my reading pass, I now have an e-book that is all marked up. There is now a file on my reading device that holds all of my notes and highlights. I connect my reading device to my laptop, and find all the files related to my e-book, and copy them to the “Kindle Content” folder on my PC.

Here is where my efforts will pay dividends. Now I open my marked-up e-book using the “Kindle for PC” application on my laptop. I open the e-book as if I am going to read it, and all of my notes and highlights are still intact.  With my e-book open, I can go to View on the menu, and click on “Show Notes and Marks.” This will open a pane on the right side of my screen, with a complete list of my notes and marks, and their location within the e-book! Clicking on any of these notes or marks will jump you directly to the e-book page they pertain to.

Kindle App

Kindle App

Now I will open my unedited document in Word, where I will make my changes while keeping the Kindle app open and running as well.

I’m lucky that I have two screens on my computer, so I will open Word on one screen, and the Kindle app on the other. On the Kindle app screen, I will click on a note or mark and identify the change that needs to be made. Using the “search” feature in Word, I will then type in a few words that appear near the note, and use them to find the same location in my Word document.  For instance, if the sentence that needs attention starts with “William ran across…”  then I will type those words into the “search” window and click “find.” Unless I use those same words over and over in my document, Word will take me right where I need to apply my edit. That’s when I make the required change, and then move on to the next note or mark, and then repeat the process. I type in just enough words to find the location in Word, which only takes a second or two.

If you don’t have the luxury of two screens, you can have both apps open and simply re-size the windows so that both apps are visible at the same time. However, I love having two screens, so consider doing that if you can. It really makes a difference in how I work and my productivity.

Dual Screens

Dual Screens

I have described how this process works for me using the Kindle app on my Android touch-screen phone and on my PC, but it should be adaptable to about any reading platform and device.

I have found this method to be very useful for the way I work. It allows me to escape from my “writing chair” for some portion of my work, while allowing me to concentrate on identifying issues in one step, then quickly finding and fixing them in another. Perhaps it will work for you as well.

So, that’s my process. If you happen to see me in an airport messing with my phone, don’t assume I’m playing “Angry Birds.” I might just be editing my next novel.

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I’m iPod Touched

iPod

iPod Touch

I recently became the proud owner of an iPod Touch.  You know, of the iPod family from Apple?  Those little gizmos that play MP3 music files?  Yeah, that’s the one. I don’t listen to much music, and when I do it’s usually satellite radio.
So it was only about 3 months ago that I got my very first MP3 player.  Heck, my sons have put more than a few MP3 players through the washing machine, and here I am getting my first one.
The whole reason I bought it was to listen to Podcast audio books.  And I did listen to a few books, and I enjoyed the experience.  That little MP3 player kept me entertained on a few long and lonely drives.
But then, just a couple of weeks ago, I stepped up a level and got a new device that would play MP3 files – and a whole lot more.
Enter my iPod Touch.  A friend has one, and gave me the iPod Touch tour.  I was impressed.  I got one a couple of days later.  Now I’m out evangelizing about them.
It’s a Wi-Fi enabled computing device.  While in a wi-fi hotspot, I can go online and check my Facebook account, my Twitter account, my personal e-mail and a dozen other things.
I have downloaded some free “Apps” that allow me to check the weather, have my favorite blogs sent to my iPod, track my daily expenses, see what’s on TV tonight, and a bunch of other cool things.
Now for my favorite part – the ebook readers.  I have downloaded the Kindle app from Amazon that allows me to read Kindle content on my iPod Touch.  Clean, crisp, and responsive.  Highly customizable to fit my reading preferences.  I can hold it in one hand and turn the “page” by simply touching the screen.  I can set the font size, and even choose between three screen/font color combos as I prefer.  And the coolest thing – I can shop the Amazon Kindle Store and download free samples of any Kindle book.  Then, if I like the sample and want the entire book, it’s simply one click and about 30 seconds away.  Clean and simple.
I have also downloaded the Barnes & Noble eReader app, which provides a similar reader program, and allows me to shop their ebook offerings as well.  Very cool.
So aside from being very quick and handy for checking all my online sites and e-mail, it also a premium eReader device.
Oh yeah, it can play music too…

I’ve been Kindled…

Dark Justice for Kindle… No, I didn’t get a Kindle as an early Christmas gift, but I did finally get my novel, Dark Justice into Kindle format and it’s now available from the Kindle Store at Amazon. It was actually fairly easy once I studied the process enough to figure out the best method.  Of course, that meant doing it twice.
After registering at http://dtp.amazon.com and completely reading the requirements and guidelines, I discovered that I could take a little shortcut and instead of converting my book into HTML, I could upload a .mobi file that I had previously created.  While HTML is the preferred format for Kindle conversion, there are a couple of other formats that they claim will work.
So after uploading my .mobi file, you get a chance to preview the results in a “kindle simulator” window.  What you are looking for is formatting – making sure the layout on the page looks right and there are no blank spaces and such.
My initial conversion looked pretty good in the simulator.  Formatting looked fine.  Images are converted to black and white, and they converted well and looked okay to me.
The next step is to approve your preview and wait for your submission to make it through the Kindle system at Amazon and become a “Live” offering at the Kindle Store.  That only took a couple of days as I recall, although they claim it could take as many as 5 days to complete the process. 
After the waiting period, Dark Justice was a new offering on the Kindle platform! 
I went to check out the Amazon page, and everything looked great.  Since I don’t yet have a Kindle, I downloaded the “Kindle for PC” application from the same page as my book.  Once that was installed (easy install) I downloaded my own “Free Sample” to see what it would look like in the Kindle application.  Again, the Kindle app allows you to read Kindle content on your PC, so I assume it would look like it does on the Kindle.
While the formatting once again looked fine, I was really disappointed in the font!  It looked something like Courier, only worse.  Like really old-fashioned typewriter font.
I wondered if that was the font all Kindle books come in, so I downloaded another sample from a different book.  That sample looked wonderful!  It made mine look even worse in comparison.
I started doing some research on the DTP (Digital Text Platform) website.  I discovered that you should be able to download the converted source HTML that DTP uses in the Kindle book.  But that choice was not available to me.  There was no “download” option on my preview, as the site stated.
I went to the forums and asked the question.  Within a short time, I have a couple of people explain how I should be able to download the source HTML, make changes and then re-upload to DTP.  I just was not seeing what should have been there.
Then one of the DTP forum admins asked if I had uploaded a .mobi as my original source file, and if I did – then the download option would not be available.  That answered that question, as that was precisely what I had done.
I figured since I had not uploaded HTML as preferred by DTP, that I would now do that and see if it made a difference in the finished Kindle version.  Now I face the task of taking my Word document and converting it to clean HTML to upload. 
I did a quick search on Google, and found this site; http://word2cleanhtml.com/  Exactly what I asked for.  An online utility that converts a Word file to clean HTML.
The first time I tried that, the utility choked on my 80,000 word novel, and returned a message that the file was too big.  So I tried a single chapter and that worked fine.  Twenty chapters later, I have clean HTML that I could upload to DTP and try this again.
After uploading and checking out the preview, I submitted the file once again.  A couple of days later, it was again live on the Kindle Store. 
This time it looked much better!  Still slightly different from other books, but still much better.
Now the only thing that bugs me about the Kindle conversion, is that the Online “preview” window on DTP looks different that the version I download for the Kindle on PC app.  In the preview, each chapter is started on a new page.  On the PC app, it starts about two lines down from where the previous chapter ends – regardless of its placement on the page.
So now I’m wondering what it actually looks like on a real Kindle device.  If anyone has one, download my free sample chapters from the Kindle Store and let me know…

Kindle Readers – Dark Justice

Dark Justice for KindleFor you Kindle readers, Dark Justice is now available at the Kindle Store.
Click here for the link.
Even if you don’t have a Kindle, visit the Kindle store to download the free “Kindle for PC” application that allows you read Kindle content on your PC. You can also download free samples of most Kindle books to get a better idea of what’s inside. There is also an iPhone or iPod Touch app that allows you to read Kindle content as well.
Check it all out at the Kindle Store!

iphone ebook reader

I was in a training class all last week, and sat next to a co-worker who just got a new iphone. Very cool device, does a lot of things, and seems to do them all well. Let’s see… you can download and watch movies on this device, access the internet, and make phone calls. I figured you could read ebooks on it! I asked him if he could download an ebook reader app, and he didn’t know. That got me to checking.
Found an interesting article at Read Write Web