Ask the Book Doctor
By Bobbie Christmas
Ask the Book Doctor: About Chapter Format, the Library of Congress, and Using Big Words
Q: Is there a way to reconcile chapter beginnings using the computer?
A: I’m not sure what you mean by “reconcile,” but this much I know: At the end of each chapter, insert a page break. With a page break at the end of each chapter, when you hit Return three or four times to begin the new chapter, the new chapter will always begin on the same line, the one you just designated, even if you later add or delete lines from prior chapters.
To insert a page break, go to Insert, then Break, then Page Break.
Q: How does a self-published poet acquire a Library of Congress card catalog number? I went to the web site but could make no sense of it.
A: The Library of Congress Control Number is assigned by the library at its discretion to assist librarians in acquiring and cataloging works. Assignation of a number is not automatic and not every book is eligible; Library of Congress personnel must first believe the book will be wanted by librarians across the country.
I’m not an expert on what happens after a book is published, but it’s my understanding that the Library of Congress Control Number is assigned before, not after, a book is published. The Cataloging in Progress (CIP) Program allows you to apply before a book is published, and the web site explains the CIP program fairly well. It is for books that will soon be published.
Many small publishers and self-publishers (authors who pay for or subsidize publication of their works, who do not publish the works of more than three authors, and whose works are rarely widely acquired by the nation’s libraries) are ineligible for the CIP program, but they may be eligible for the Preassigned Control Number Program. The web site says, “For each eligible title, participating publishers transmit a completed CIP Data Application form and the full text or, at minimum, core required materials to the Library of Congress. CIP Division staff review the application and text for completeness and eligibility, assign a Library of Congress Control Number, and forward the application to the cataloging division with the appropriate subject expertise.”
Yes, it’s confusing. The phone number for further information is 202-707-6345.
Q: I started writing books this summer, when family problems started. My books are interesting, or so say my friends, but I feel they lack something, like maybe they are weakly written. I know “big” words make a book seem like the author is intelligent, but it makes it harder for ten- to fifteen-year-olds to understand. So I ask, how do I make my book more interesting without using “big” words?
A: You pose an interesting question; should you write to impress your readers or entertain them? Do you want your readers to think highly of you or of your books? Today’s books entertain, rather than impress. You’re already on the right track to avoid words that others may have to look up in a dictionary.
Big words don’t make a book interesting; conflict and tension do. Fascinating characters do. Realistic dialogue that moves the story forward does. Unique plot turns and unusual situations help, too.
Because you just started writing books this summer, don’t despair. Most writers spend years honing their craft. At least you have begun. Not only do you need good ideas and a strong desire to write, you also have to learn as you go. Besides reading books about how to write a good story, spend time reading or rereading books by authors you admire. Analyze what makes you like that person’s writing and why you enjoyed reading the story. Apply those techniques (but not the story ideas) to your writing.
Also, know the market you want to write for. If you are writing for young adults, read the books young adults are buying and analyze what makes those stories interesting.
Above all, don’t get discouraged. Join writers groups and discuss your issues and learn from others. Do not, however, discuss your story lines. Talking about them not only gives your ideas away but also drains energy from the ideas. Instead, use that energy to write down your ideas and turn them into books.
– Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.