‘Living Here’ — Beginner Error

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The proposed first chapter of the proposed first book, ‘Living Here: Growing Up,” in Scrivener (left) and Microsoft Word (right).

Here’s the latest from my first adventure into self-publishing: the curious case of Too Much Information.
Specifically, too much information that I wrote over some 25 years with a weekly newspaper column.

A project like this requires organization and keywording, so I tried Scrivener. Many authors use this app to write, edit and organize their drafts. I imported more than 1,000 files and started editing, clicking and dragging.

It was clear from the start that I’d be dealing with more than one book’s worth. I did a rough sort by collections. Readers liked stories about the kids growing up, so I’m starting with “Living Here: With the Family” to gauge interest in future projects. (I’m told that one of the secrets of book sales, at least on Amazon and Kindle, is to be able to point to “other books by this author.”) If subsequent books never happen, at least we’ll have preserved the family stories.

In Scrivener, I created a Project called Living Here Anthologies. These were broken down into collections on the family, home ownership, holidays, and other topics. Many essays cross over from one category to another, and Scrivener makes it easy to click and drag chapters from one section to another of the project. Using that tool, I reduced my original family collection from 101 columns to 70 by moving some into other groupings or into the Unused folder or the trash.

Each essay is relatively short, but the total still came to more than 53,000 words, the equivalent of a NaNoWriMo novel. How would that translate into print?

It keeps going … and going …

There was one way to find out. I selected the files for that one book in Scrivener, then chose Compile and asked for a Microsoft Word document as a 6″-by-9″ paperback, one of the most common formats. Then I waited as it compiled.

And waited.

And waited.

Scrivener was running like the Energizer Bunny. It just wouldn’t stop. Eventually I opened the Word document and found out why. It was exporting the entire project and was, at that point, on page 1437.

When it stopped, it was 3,219 pages of some 623,000 words — a little long for a paperback, unless you want to carry it around in a pickup truck.

Apparently Compile converts more than the selected files. It picks up everything that you haven’t trashed outright. Still, I learned that the essays I chose for the “With the Family” volume came to more than 230 pages, so it’s back to clicking and dragging — this time copying as a separate Project.

Have you had similar experiences with Scrivener or Word? What other traps should a newcomer to the Scrivener-Word-KDP world be alert to?

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