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Does Formatting And Font Change The Way You Write? (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Mentor
This is a really odd one and I've been thinking a lot about it lately. I've been struggling to understand why it is I've started breaking down The Glass Tulip into 'little separate events' and why the writing has changed slightly over time. The first thing I did is go back and read some of my older work. I immediately noticed how my older stuff has more fluidity and confidence, albeit less tightness.

Today I think it suddenly dawned on me: It's the fonts and the formatting that are altering my thinking process. I changed The Glass Tulip from Book Antique to Times New Roman because I am also working on another story set in a city and the word 'neon' suggested Times New York to me (for some reason). It gave me a different feel, and so I thought I'd change The Glass Tulip too.

But the biggest thing I noticed was the formatting. I used to write with no gaps in between the paragraphs and rely entirely on indents. That 'new' gap between each paragraph has forced me into thinking of each paragraph as a separate entity, leading to me ending paragraphs with 'solidity' and 'resolution' before moving to the next, breaking what was once an easy flow from one idea to the next.

I'm loath to change this now, having only two scenes to complete but it's something I'm seriously going to consider with my next story. Has anyone else felt this with their work?
 

Kensa

Senior Member
I use a mardown editor to write. When I want to edit, I open the file with my ebook viewer, the "look and feel" is more "book-like" and it's easier to spot issues.
But I don't think it changes the way I write.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I use a mardown editor to write. When I want to edit, I open the file with my ebook viewer, the "look and feel" is more "book-like" and it's easier to spot issues.
But I don't think it changes the way I write.

I've just taken a look at that. It looks a bit complicated. Why is that helpful, or don't you have Word/Scrivener of any other package?
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
I have found authors discussing the different way hand-writing changes their pace and the way they write. Someone I was reading a while back said that an ancient type-writer would take so much time moving back to the front of the line that it completely changed their usual quick pacing to a more thoughtful plodding. If I remember correctly, this author liked that and thought it made them a better writer.

I have lately moved away from hand-written. What I miss about hand-written is that I see my old process, where I was going with it to begin with. I make bubbles and arrows and I feel like I see what was the core or the embellishment more clearly, and I think it helps me think about the process in a more layered and chronological sense.

I'm sure fonts and spacing would make a difference as well.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I have found authors discussing the different way hand-writing changes their pace and the way they write. Someone I was reading a while back said that an ancient type-writer would take so much time moving back to the front of the line that it completely changed their usual quick pacing to a more thoughtful plodding. If I remember correctly, this author liked that and thought it made them a better writer.

I have lately moved away from hand-written. What I miss about hand-written is that I see my old process, where I was going with it to begin with. I make bubbles and arrows and I feel like I see what was the core or the embellishment more clearly, and I think it helps me think about the process in a more layered and chronological sense.

I'm sure fonts and spacing would make a difference as well.

Now, that's fascinating. I'm thinking of returning to handwriting the first draft of my next story, so it's worth noting the 'flow' aspect of this. I think that's how I wrote some of the draft for those stories I wrote 25 years ago but can't rightly remember. I just need to flow again because The Glass Tulip has been a horrendous struggle for me. It's tightened many aspects for when I finally let loose, while at the same time made it more difficult to let loose.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Now, that's fascinating. I'm thinking of returning to handwriting the first draft of my next story, so it's worth noting the 'flow' aspect of this. I think that's how I wrote some of the draft for those stories I wrote 25 years ago but can't rightly remember. I just need to flow again because The Glass Tulip has been a horrendous struggle for me. It's tightened many aspects for when I finally let loose, while at the same time made it more difficult to let loose.

I do like my handwriting for flow as well. I think I am going back to it. Then you do have to type it, but that can be like a third draft. The 2nd draft is the cross-outs and the arrows and bubbles on mine. There is something satisfying that I get from going back over it in handwriting that I also don't get from typing. It feels more familiar and artistic. Everything stayed where it was and if I go back to something I know just where it is. But everyone is different. Everyone can find their own process.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
Yes. It's somewhat frustrating that I write differently for paragraphs separated by a blank line than for not, because it means I don't want to make any changes in format.

Paragraph size is affected by page width. This is slightly embarrassing to have something so physical affect paragraph size.

And I have made the suggestion that the use of semicolons should be affected by font, because some fonts don't display semicolons very well. My only actual accommodation to that is simply not using New Times Roman.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Yes. It's somewhat frustrating that I write differently for paragraphs separated by a blank line than for not, because it means I don't want to make any changes in format.

Paragraph size is affected by page width. This is slightly embarrassing to have something so physical affect paragraph size.

And I have made the suggestion that the use of semicolons should be affected by font, because some fonts don't display semicolons very well. My only actual accommodation to that is simply not using New Times Roman.

I don't mean like that. I mean the 'feel' of the font guides my thought process.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Slightly. At it's most extreme end there's potential for lack of intelligibility (can't exactly write in wingdings) but even using 'normal' fonts I don't think it changes the writing so much as changes the mindset, which can obviously change the writing indirectly.

For instance, I think I would struggle a little more than otherwise to be 'in the zone' of a horror or sex scene if I was writing in comic sans.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
But the biggest thing I noticed was the formatting. I used to write with no gaps in between the paragraphs and rely entirely on indents. That 'new' gap between each paragraph has forced me into thinking of each paragraph as a separate entity, leading to me ending paragraphs with 'solidity' and 'resolution' before moving to the next, breaking what was once an easy flow from one idea to the next.
I see what you're saying. The white space of the skipped lines between paragraphs is acting as a more significant barrier to you than simply using an indent and moving on.

This may not serve to be as big of a stop to your readers as it does currently to you but it is a stylistic choice based pretty much on what you're talking about. For some people having that skipped line between paragraphs lessens confusion. But if indents work better for you, that's a legitimate choice to make! That still separates paragraphs just fine.
I don't mean like that. I mean the 'feel' of the font guides my thought process.
Different fonts are different fonts to give different impressions so I guess this could affect you. I'm curious about something, are you able to see your work in various ways?

What I mean is, when I look at a piece of writing I've done, all of these are true at once depending how I look at it:

  • Every word is significant
  • Every word is replaceable
  • How it looks on the page is important
  • It's just characters that could be typed, handwritten, spoken, or drawn
  • It's great exactly as is
  • It's subject to me, the creator, ripping it completely apart and reassembling it differently

That's my point of view as the work's creator, I'm curious if this is also your experience.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Fonts and spacing have no effect on what I write, or my production.

However, I can tell you from 40 years of experience in print design and more than 20 years of experience in web design that you want a serif font to appear on paper, and a sans serif font on the computer screen. The serif font on paper helps the reader's eye stay on the same line without wandering. I have no idea why the same phenomenon doesn't occur on a computer screen, but it doesn't seem to for most users. The sans serif font on monitors also looks "cleaner".

I also like a small space between paragraphs. I use a half line rather than a full line. No space at all can still give the "wall of text" impression, even with the first line of the paragraph indented. If you have full "manual line breaks", at format time you can find a macro to delete those, then format your paragraph with a half-line "space after" or "space before". Your choice. However, I have the paragraph styled that way as I type.

While I'm writing, I use Calibri. I switch to Times New Roman for both ebook and print publication, my feeling being that e-ink readers are close enough to the printed page. I do the formatting in Word. I start at 12 point, and get the ebook done. The font size is less important for the ebook, since the reader can adjust it on their device.

Then I save to a new file name for the print version, still using Times New Roman, take it down to 10 point, and justify it. You typically won't get satisfactory results with justified text at larger point sizes (big spaces between words). You also don't want larger point sizes for Print on Demand, as you run up the page count, thus the printing cost, significantly.
 
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TheMightyAz

Mentor
I see what you're saying. The white space of the skipped lines between paragraphs is acting as a more significant barrier to you than simply using an indent and moving on.

This may not serve to be as big of a stop to your readers as it does currently to you but it is a stylistic choice based pretty much on what you're talking about. For some people having that skipped line between paragraphs lessens confusion. But if indents work better for you, that's a legitimate choice to make! That still separates paragraphs just fine.

Different fonts are different fonts to give different impressions so I guess this could affect you. I'm curious about something, are you able to see your work in various ways?

What I mean is, when I look at a piece of writing I've done, all of these are true at once depending how I look at it:

  • Every word is significant <- It's what I hope, yes.
  • Every word is replaceable <- definitely, yes.
  • How it looks on the page is important <- absolutely. If I can see it as it would look 'if' published, I have a more positive outlook as a whole.
  • It's just characters that could be typed, handwritten, spoken, or drawn <- Nope. Formatting is far more than that to me.
  • It's great exactly as is <- never. I hate everything I've ever done until I read it a few months later.
  • It's subject to me, the creator, ripping it completely apart and reassembling it differently <- I find it difficult to rip apart but can adjust. It's like when you fill in a crossword incorrectly and you can't get that wrong word out of your head.

That's my point of view as the work's creator, I'm curious if this is also your experience.

I'm obsessive about anything I undertake. It's the only way I can improve in my experience. :)
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Fonts and spacing have no effect on what I write, or my production.

However, I can tell you from 40 years of experience in print design and more than 20 years of experience in web design that you want a serif font to appear on paper, and a sans serif font on the computer screen. The serif font on paper helps the reader's eye stay on the same line without wandering. I have no idea why the same phenomenon doesn't occur on a computer screen, but it doesn't seem to for most users. The sans serif font on monitors also looks "cleaner".

I also like a small space between paragraphs. I use a half line rather than a full line. No space at all can still give the "wall of text" impression, even with the first line of the paragraph indented. If you have full "manual line breaks", at format time you can find a macro to delete those, then format your paragraph with a half-line "space after" or "space before". Your choice. However, I have the paragraph styled that way as I type.

While I'm writing, I use Calibri. I switch to Times New Roman for both ebook and print publication, my feeling being that e-ink readers are close enough to the printed page. I do the formatting in Word. I start at 12 point, and get the ebook done. The font size is less important for the ebook, since the reader can adjust it on their device.

Then I save to a new file name for the print version, change the font style to Times New Roman, take it down to 10 point, and justify it. You typically won't get satisfactory results with justified text at larger point sizes (big spaces between words). You also don't want larger point sizes for Print on Demand, as you run up the page count, thus the printing cost, significantly.

Interesting. Thanks. I wonder, with you saying the change the font like that, is there an easy way to change the font in Word I'm not aware of? I just highlight all the text and then change the font.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I'm obsessive about anything I undertake. It's the only way I can improve in my experience. :)
Notice with that list was the question about all of them being true simultaneously. It has nothing to do with how good or bad of a job you're doing with it. I'm fairly obsessive myself but we're not talking about that here. We're talking about different ways of viewing your own work at the same time.

I suggest that while, yes, formatting is important, that you put that toward the end of your process. Formatting is the hair-and-makeup I'm-ready-for-my-closeup portion.

The only time to get wrapped up in formatting before the end point is if the formatting is important to the story (say you're working out how to create dialogue with an AI interface) otherwise I would strongly encourage you not to be wrapped up in it while you're working on the story.

Why? Because if you submit these stories to an ezine or other publisher, nine times out of ten they'll have specific formatting that you need to follow in order for your work to look as they want it to in their publication.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Notice with that list was the question about all of them being true simultaneously. It has nothing to do with how good or bad of a job you're doing with it. I'm fairly obsessive myself but we're not talking about that here. We're talking about different ways of viewing your own work at the same time.

I suggest that while, yes, formatting is important, that you put that toward the end of your process. Formatting is the hair-and-makeup I'm-ready-for-my-closeup portion.

The only time to get wrapped up in formatting before the end point is if the formatting is important to the story (say you're working out how to create dialogue with an AI interface) otherwise I would strongly encourage you not to be wrapped up in it while you're working on the story.

Why? Because if you submit these stories to an ezine or other publisher, nine times out of ten they'll have specific formatting that you need to follow in order for your work to look as they want it to in their publication.

I'm going to do just that, but I do need the right font for the right feeling. It definitely effects me, as does the music I listen to when I write.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Interesting. Thanks. I wonder, with you saying the change the font like that, is there an easy way to change the font in Word I'm not aware of? I just highlight all the text and then change the font.

Your paragraphs SHOULD all be tagged with style "Normal". There are two ways to do it. You should simply be able to right click on Normal in the list of styles at the top of the page, select "Modify ..", and then all the options are in the dialogue.

Alternatively, you can format a single paragraph in the body, then right click the style and select "Update Normal to match selection".

You want to do the same thing with "Heading 1", and also make sure you do have "Heading 1" for chapter titles and "Heading 2" for section titles (if present) for the purpose of building your Table of Contents.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Your paragraphs SHOULD all be tagged with style "Normal". There are two ways to do it. You should simply be able to right click on Normal in the list of styles at the top of the page, select "Modify ..", and then all the options are in the dialogue.

Alternatively, you can format a single paragraph in the body, then right click the style and select "Update Normal to match selection".

You want to do the same thing with "Heading 1", and also make sure you do have "Heading 1" for chapter titles and "Heading 2" for section titles (if present) for the purpose of building your Table of Contents.

What's a table of content? LOL. All this is new to me. I just know the basics. Enough to get me by.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
What's a table of content? LOL. All this is new to me. I just know the basics. Enough to get me by.

Of course, for short stories you don't need one, but when/if you move along to novels ...

If you get ready to add a Table of Contents, just Google it. There are competent step by step instructions out there. Since I don't do a ToC but once every several months, that's what I do every time. :)
 

Kensa

Senior Member
I've just taken a look at that. It looks a bit complicated. Why is that helpful, or don't you have Word/Scrivener of any other package?

Markdown has very basic text formatting, but I already use it for documentation at work and I wanted to switch easily between my personal & pro computer (when I commute by train).
In fact, I'm a developer and I use the same tools to write code and fiction, I feel at home with my editor since I use it all day long, and I have online versioning tools to keep track of all the changes. It's convenient for me, but you're right, it's a bit complicated ;-)
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
I'm going to do just that, but I do need the right font for the right feeling. It definitely effects me, as does the music I listen to when I write.

All I know is that Calibri is the default for Word nowadays, and I hate it. Then again, I'm a luddite. I don't use anything more complex than default word-processing software. I also yell angrily at clouds sometimes.

All hail Times New Roman - the once and future font. :p
 
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