Producing a mock-up of your book
It works wonders for morale to see your book grow as blank pages get covered in words. Although it's not essential to produce a mock-up, you may enjoy doing so. In the days of pen and manuscript you could see the pile of pages growing. Now that 99% of writers use computers, this drug has been withdrawn. You can check the number of megabytes, characters, hours spent and number of revisions but this cerebral input does not register on the Richter Scale of satisfaction. A real folder that gets fatter and fuller, week by week, chapter by chapter, provides the lonely writer with some feedback.
The answer is to produce a mock-up of your work which serves other valuable functions.
An ordinary folder will hold the 200 pages of your novel (just). Thicker, 'ordinary' files are easy to find and they will hold 500 pages. A lever arch file is a bit intimidating and harder to cram into a bag but will hold 1000+ pages. The lever does make it much easier to release the binding. But these can only be found in 2 hole versions. And this is a problem...
Invest in a 4 hole punch and pay the premium (£3.50 rather than £2.00) for files with 4 rather than the normal 2 metal rings. If, or rather when, you drop your mock-up, the 2 rings will unhelpfully spring open, spilling your work. The 4 rings make your work much safer and mean that it will endure much more rifling back and forth before the paper gives way and you need to apply reinforcements to the pages.
The 4 hole punch has a useful bit of plastic sticking out of one end. Some of the upmarket 2 hole punches also have this feature for the first few days out of the box before it is snapped off. The sensibly sized 4 holer uses this guide to ensure that the pages all line up neatly if the page is placed against this stop. And the final feature of the 4 hole punch is that the rest of the family will ignore this bit of low technology, believing that it won't work for their revision notes or bills as it is the wrong size. Let's keep it as our little secret that the 4 holer has the same pitch as the familiar 2 holer. You can find a deluxe hole punch for under £10.
Your mock-up will help you to prepare any index, glossary, table of illustrations or the other pages required for most non-fiction and some fiction. All of these are vital, not just to give the book a professional look but to allow you to do your page count. In the end the total will have to be divisible by a number, normally 8, because that is the way that printing works. This might encourage you to write a bit more or to edit yourself to save on the finished pages but a designer can achieve the same effect by altering the type size. If you are feeling ambitious, you could print the chapters on both sides of the page to give the real look and feel, but you could save that technical tour-de-force for a later revision.
When you have your mock-up, you can begin to imagine where it might find a place on the bookshop shelves. Go ahead and stick some designs on the spine, front and back. Add your biography and some copy to give it the look and feel of a book, even if it is all scaled up. It may be twice the size and the dimensions may be wrong, but it gets you 90% of the way to the real thing. Readers, friendly bookshops and designers will be able to assess, advise and criticise something that now has the look of the book.
This is also a wonderful displacement activity when your inspiration runs out or you are feeling lazy. Others are going to inspect your work. If you put your words in some good packaging these 'invaders' are more likely to appreciate what lies between the covers. A fancy cover or some photos will make it feel much more real. But be careful not to overdo it. Make your mock-up interesting but then return to the lonely business of writing!
© Chas Jones 2002 & 2008
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