Writers, You Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do!

book index3

Source: Google Images/illuminationsmedia.co.uk

Afterthought

It wasn’t until well after I’d published my nutrition book in 2016 that I realized an important piece of the Chinese medicine puzzle was missing: an index. I assumed readers with no exposure to or background in Chinese medicine theory would clearly understand my book. It was written, after all, for the general public, I reasoned. It has occurred to me, however, that many of the terms and theoretical premises won’t jive with what most people know (hint: Western medicine). That means I need to add an index.

You Have Options

Not all is lost; an index, while time-consuming to create, can be easily and quickly added to your nonfiction work using MS Word, Adobe InDesign or several other software options. In addition to creating indexes, many of these options (see below) will help you with your writing process. Personally, I’m still a fan of Word; I prefer the wide open, blank page – similar to working on a typewriter (from my childhood school days) – to the more technical-slanted software, like Scrivener. I don’t like breaking up my book into pieces; I prefer to flow from one chapter to the next to maintain the rhythm of the story.

But I digress. 

Take Your Time

Nonfiction book indexes provide information on where the word, phrase or concept appear in your book (page numbers, chapter, etc.). This is the time-consuming part; you have to read through your book and choose the words, phrases and concepts that need to be included in the index. Luckily, MS Word is one of those helpful options.

“Microsoft Word comes with a built-in indexing tool that can automatically create an index based on the entries you choose. All you’ll need to do is use the Mark Entry tool to mark each word or phrase you want to add to the index. Terms in your index can point to specific pages in the document or cross-reference to other indexed entries.” Wikihow

And This Word Points to…

Choose key words and phrases but it’s not necessary to include every single example of a topic. And, according to a recent blog post from The Book Designer, you should “only make sub-categories when it’s important and related to the topic of your book or helps break up a large chunk of long page references.” This option would apply to my book since there are various phrases and words that fall into multiple diagnostic categories. Note: make sure the book formatting is maintained throughout the index.

The standard is to begin every index word with a noun. For example, in my recipe section I might find the term ‘roasted garlic’. In the index, it would be listed as “garlic, roasted.” Index words are not capitalized unless they’re proper nouns, e.g., David, Senator, Massachusetts.

Different But Important, Too

Another aspect to book writing (both fiction and nonfiction) is using a glossary. A glossary is a list of defined terms, not always alphabetized. I created an Indigenous tribe and language for one of the main characters in my fiction novel so it was necessary to define and show pronunciation of each word or phrase. A glossary is useful when there are words and phrases likely unfamiliar to the reader and can be included in both fiction and nonfiction works.

A Short List

The following are software options to help you with an index and writing in general: 

#microsoftword #scrivener #hemingwayapp #nonfictionauthor #googledrive #googledocs #bookpublishing #selfpublishing #writingfiction

Post Script

hemingway app

Source: Google Images

Post Script:

I couldn’t stop thinking about that Hemingway app. Curious about my nonfiction writing score, I added portions of my nutrition book to the editor. I first downloaded a section from the beginning, The Qi of Life, and here are the results:

Hemingway app1Hemingway app2

So my nonfiction scored much higher in readability than my fiction. Hmm…

When I added in another section, this one from the first chapter, the readability shot up to Grade 10! Whoa! I’m practically a NYT bestselling author (snark snark)!

When I added yet another bit from a later chapter, the readability went up to grade 11 but the app still recommended I lower my readability to grade 9. This makes no sense to me. I thought my writing was clear and concise, and readily understood. Guess not. Guess 10th and 11th graders can’t read my book. Not without 9th graders to translate and explain. 🙂

Hemingway app3Hemingway app4

Perhaps the Hemingway app is another of those online tools that has its used but is taken with a grain of salt? Not sure how I feel about it, just that I need to use it a few more times to see if it’s a helpful tool.

What were your scores? Did you try it? Might be fun! Maybe your book is too smart for 11th graders too!

 

Fall Into Your Writing

 

autumn2

Source: Google Images/ townandcountrymag.com

T’is the Season

Last week came the first tease, the first hint that autumn was on its way. I love the word autumn more than fall; to me, it connotes a subtle changing of the guards, so to speak; that those hot summer days are mostly behind us and crispy, breezy, sweet-smelling days lay ahead. We even had to wear jackets for a few days last week, with the morning and evening temps getting pretty low. Some leaves have already begun to change, thanks to those cooler-than-usual nights. I can’t yet smell autumn in the air as the warmer summer weather is upon us once again. Autumn officially arrived yesterday and I wait with baited breath for the scent of those brilliant autumn colors.

Days become shorter this time of year and an indoor activity like writing (plus the PR and marketing) is a great way to stay busy without burning up too much energy. I love to write later in the evening, from around 9pm to 1am, this time of year; it seems everyone gets home and settles in earlier than usual so my corner of the world goes a bit quieter. Does yours?

Ready for the Holidays?

This is also a good time of year to gear up your PR and marketing for the holidays. I’ve published a nutrition book, so it’s a good time of year to get on an anthology list for holiday purchases to help people eat better during and after the holiday binges.

Alli – Alliance of Indpendent Authors – has some great tips for DIY PR for us Indie authors in a post written by Helen Baggott. She posts some sensible advice on pre- and post-publication PR (even though she’s in Great Britain, I’m sure much of this applies here in the U.S. as well). Try contacting magazines related to your book’s topic (hers was genealogy and hand-written postcards); check out trade journals as well, as they are often a good source for some free (or affordable) advertising/PR.

If you utilize Ingram Spark, it’s a good time to check whether your book is getting into libraries (locally and nationwide).  She recommends contacting Resource Managers at the library’s headquarters (or main branch here in the states). Have a 60-second pitch ready in case they don’t yet have your book on their shelves. Another option (which is a bit more costly) is to donate some of your books to your local branches. I did that with my first book and it turned out to be pretty popular, especially with high school kids doing book reports.

Hemingway – A Funky New App

And if you haven’t tried it yet, check out the Hemingway app. Dr. Judith Briles, The Book Shephard, highly recommends it as a way to ferret out bad verbiage, grammar issues, etc. It’s free and easy to use and it provides you with a readability index, meaning at what grade level you’re writing. She suggests hovering around a sixth grade level; sadly, this is the average literacy level in the U.S.  There are color-coded phrases that pop up and suggest fixes.

When I popped in the first chapter of my in-the-works novel, it came up with good readability … but at a grade 3 level. Sigh. Evidently I used a few too many adverbs but only three of the sentences were judged as hard to read (by who, I wonder, if I’m writing at a 3rd grade level). I think I will spend some more time with this app to see where I can improve my writing and the story. I’d even like to get a little above grade 6, in the hopes that some readers are more literate than that.

As I said, now is the time to ‘fall’ into your writing. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so sharpen your editing pencils, your writing mindset and get your desk in order – it’s time to write!