On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Of Widows and Orphans

I've done a second check of the 1st Pass Pages (galleys/page proofs) of my novella Road of Adventure which will be coming out in mass market paperback this June. Since it's going from trade paperback to mass market paperback, I get another look at it. I've changed a little wording and added an important sentence.

However I was concerned by some remarks I saw in the margins. When I see comments in the margins, they're usually from the copy editor or my editor and I address them. This time it was all about "loose line to avoid orphan?" and occurred several times. Well, this novella was very tightly written for me, so every line counted. I called my editor's assistant, then got an email from my editor which I replied to with my concerns. I was then told that my editor consulted with the managing editor (I think this must be the person in production who looks at manuscripts) and I was to disregard the TYPESETTER's comments. I'm a little concerned that the typesetter is messing with my story, but that's a different blog.

Your word processing program should have an on/off option for Widows and Orphans. A widow is when the first line of a paragraph is left on the bottom of the page (or at the top), like this:Image hosting by Photobucket


An orphan is when one word is carried over to the top of the next page, like this:
Image hosting by Photobucket

A widow just looks bad to some people. An orphan wastes space...a whole line which could be printed for one word.

This is not usually a problem UNTIL the galley/page proof stage, and I've never found editors worry about this because the ms. (manuscript) format will change when typeset.

Handling Orphans: If you need to cut pages or tighten for a contest, the first place to look is at orphans (a paragraph ending with one word). If you can tighten that paragraph, you will have one more whole line. This is also good if you want to tighten your work in general. However it does have a drawback, which is altering the rhythm of the paragraphs which can, in turn, make them flat. If you have something like 4-full-line paragraph, 4-full-line paragraph, 4-full line paragraph, you can definitely sound flat.

That's it for today, may the rhythm of your words SING today.
Robin

3 Comments:

Blogger Caryn said...

Thanks for the good information about widows and orphans. I have found several different definitions though. Some styleguides say a widow is the first line of a paragraph at the bottom of a page and an orphan is the last line of a paragraph at the top of a page, which, of course, differs from your definition. I have also been told that a widow is one word by itself on a line and an orphan is an incomplete line of text at the top of a column.

Go figure! I am not sure what to teach my students. It is too bad there is not a consistent rule. I guess you just have to go with your particular style guide and tell students that there are several different definitions for widows and orphans in the world of writing.

BTW: I did a search in MSN and saw your blog posting on the subject on the second page I searched.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous suky said...

I would imagine most of the typesetting problems can be solved with changing the kerning and not messing with the author's words. Kerning is changing the spacing between letters. I believe that was what the typesetter's notes were about, loosening up the spacing in the line so an orphan did not occur. He probably didn't care what it said so long as it looked good.

There are very nice books by a lady called Robin Williams about layout, design & typography. Check out the Non-designer's design book.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good topic. I wouldn't worry that the typesetter is "messing with your copy." In fact, the comments to a typesetter to tighten or loosen a line allows for good line breaks WITHOUT having to edit the copy. The editor is trying to preserve your content. I'm looking forward to reading more of your entries.

9:07 AM  

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