By Pat Miller
Want to improve your book’s structure?
Does it have enough action, enough scenes for illustrations. Do you want to identify emotion or trim the word count?
Then you need to self-publish!
Wait--I’m not talking about cartons-in-the garage self-publishing. This kind will be a DIY project and you will publish a single copy.
You will likely be the only person to read it.
It’s called a dummy and might be the smartest helper you’ll have. You will use your dummy to paginate your book, figure out how many words go on a page, where the page turns should be, and much more.
So, how do you make a dummy?
Think first grade. You can make a simple dummy by taking 16 or 20 sheets of printer paper, folding them in half, then staple, staple, staple down the left side.
I quickly moved from a folded paper blank book to ones from Target. They are also sold online. Oriental Trading sells blank books in 12 packs which are perfect for sharing with your writing group.
Here’s how I came to create a Sticky Dummy.
1. DECIDE WHERE TO START There is a preferred way to paginate your book that is determined by the publisher. If your dummy has 32 pages, where do you begin the text? Free picture book templates are available from authors Tara Lazar or Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Or examine how some of your favorite PBs are paginated.
2. CUT YOUR STORY UP Now you will create your first version of the book. You can cut up a draft or an outline. Here are steps I tried in some of my past dummies:
In my first dummy, I simply sketched in the outline of my story. Not a bad idea, but doing it this way made moving events around or changing things nearly impossible.
Next, I wrote the outline on sticky notes. They were much easier to rearrange, expand, or throw out. The headache came when the notes curled up, and over time, stuck to each other or fell out of the book.
I had better luck with typing up my stories and outlines, then cutting them apart and taping them to appropriate pages. They were easy to move. Problems came when there was a single skinny sentence per age. They bent as I turned pages and sometimes snagged each other. Repeatedly moving a taped strip can tear your blank book.
My hobby is making greeting cards, and that’s how I heard of this invention. These are Post-it Super Sticky Full Adhesive Notes. They are available in 3 inch squares or 4 inch squares in a large variety of colors. If you look closely at the green pad, you see a thin gray stripe on the right side. This is the only part of the pad that is not sticky.
The stickiness is stronger that the typical notes, but just as repositionable. Because the glue is edge to edge, there is no curling up. You could write your story or outline on the individual pages, but I thought of a way that works better for me.
Here is my hardcover blank book. The pink is the Super Sticky Post-it note.
Before printing my draft, I made the margins fit better on the notes. I then attached each with a glue stick. All four of these were cut from the same sheet of Post-it Note. The pink part makes them easy to move and reattach, and they stay flat.
3. MOVE THE FURNITURE Now that you’ve made or bought your dummy, it’s time to cut your story up and see how it fits. Will you have enough for so many spreads? Is there material to illustrate on each double-spread? What about the action, the emotion? You might even want to use one color of the Super Sticky Post-its for scenes, another for the connectors. Or maybe one color for text and another for sidebars.
For specifics on how to use your dummy, see Lisa Amstutz’s post, “Ninja Writing Tip: You Need a Dummy!” I think you will find that a Sticky Dummy will be just what you need to make your story deserving of a publisher’s hard cover!
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