Inside your Book

One aspect of the physical appearance of the book we write that many of us might not consider is the interior. We spend a lot of time on the cover, particularly for ePublishing, and the back matter, of course. But the physical appearance of the pages? Even as a reader, I’d not considered it.

But it rings true. When staring at a page full of print, unrelieved by white space, uninterrupted by dialogue, or a graph or a picture, how do you feel? A little intimidated, perhaps? When I stand in a book store, idly leafing through various volumes deciding which book to purchase, I am unlikely to select the book with pages and pages of unrelieved print.

Dialogue creates white space (or it should, as Browne & King remark in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers). But if you must write long sections of narrative, and sometimes you must, find ways to break it up by creating new paragraphs where it makes the most sense. The interior appearance of your book is quickly improved.

But there are other, more subtle ways to improve the interior look of your work. One such technique is employed by Steinbeck, particularly in Grapes of Wrath. In this work he creates a rhythm chapter by chapter by structuring the work in movements, much like a symphony, alternating slow movements (chapters that advance the story) with ‘allegro’ chapters (those which adopt a global informative view of the condition he describes). Thus without reading a word, but simply by glancing at the nature of the chapters, one gains an impression of the work.

The suggestion here is to consider approaching your work reflecting upon the overall design of the content, its give and take, its flow. What will be your pace? Will you relieve a story that move at a  furious gallop with brief respites, or will you sentence the reader to exhaustion? It is something to consider.

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