Archive for the ‘widows and orphans’ Tag

Widows and Orphans: Poor formatting or someone’s asinine idea of more work for the writer?   Leave a comment

Up until a couple years ago, I had no idea what widows and orphans were, other than that one was a woman whose husband died and the other was kids without parents. That was as far as my understanding of them went. And then I started writing a book.

Like a lot of others out there, I self-published my fantasy book, The Dark Wolf, instead of going the traditional route. While it means you end up having complete control over your book and making more money, it also means more work, and when you’re self-publishing, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to get every little detail done to perfection. Not that you want it otherwise with the traditional route, but from most people’s perspective, self-published books aren’t formatted as well as those in regular publishing.

I am a guy who is very good at Grammar and English. This is not bragging on my part; it’s something I love and therefore do very well at. My parents homeschooled me and made sure to buy me the most advanced textbooks available, and my mom happens to be a whiz at English. So you can imagine my surprise as when doing some research on self-publishing, I found out about widows and orphans from an article on the internet. For those of you who don’t know about what I’m talking about, here’s a link to Wikipedia explaining it:

My mom told me not to worry, but being a newb at the whole self-publishing biz, I spent a lot of time trying to learn exactly how to get everything done right and panicking at the slightest little thing that I thought might ruin the book. So when I heard about the widows and orphans, I spent days trying to eliminate them. And I mean days. When you get the right emotion and detail into a paragraph, you really take a chance on messing with it. And when you fix one, it either pulls the whole story up or sends it down, creating even more problems. Need I say that I was supremely frustrated by the whole ordeal? I can honestly say that it is only by God’s grace the story didn’t get messed up.

With the initial anxiety over self-publishing fading, I took the time to really consider if widows and orphans were poor formatting as I’d read. After all, just whose decision was it that it should be considered poor? And if it really is bad to have them, why in tarnation didn’t my textbooks mention something? My parents went to school and even they hadn’t heard about them, for crying out loud. Heck, many writers I’ve talked to didn’t even know and they’ve been writing longer than I have.

So I did some digging. Turns out, many of those books published by regular publishing companies have those same widows and orphans in their books. And we are not talking about just one either. The crazy thing is that none of the readers noticed or seemed to know about them either, even the ones who reviewed the authors’ overall writing in general. Granted, I never noticed. If I see something that doesn’t make the book look crappy, I don’t give it a second glance, and it seems that goes for the majority of people out there. In fact, the only people who do seem to even know or pay attention to them are a few self-published authors that claim to be an authority on writing. Go figure.

Now, does every book have widows and orphans? No, but enough have them to make one think seriously about whether they’re really poor formatting, or just another one of those dumb ideas out there in the world. To me, typos and misspelled words make a story look sloppier than a sentence beginning the page. If it wasn’t, believe me, I’d be the first to champion their removal, because if there is one thing I take pride in, it is perfection.

Why am I writing this post when I’ve gone through so much labor already? Because after what I went through, I want to make sure any person new to self-publishing knows that they don’t have to go through that. I remember how I felt, and if I can spare someone else that headache and frustration, I’m all for it.

So for any of you looking to go into self-publishing your own book and leafing through articles and blog posts on just what to do, take the advice from someone who’s been there already. Leave the widows and orphans alone. Trust me, your book will not look any worse than the other bestsellers out there that everybody likes.


Posted June 6, 2014 by J.M. Christian in Random Thoughts

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