Sunday, June 12, 2011

A tale of two fonts

by: Joelle Charbonneau

A few months ago, I was about 1/2 of the way through writing a manuscript when I got an idea for another story. I hate when that happens. Here I was knee deep in South Side Chicago gang violence and a new light bulb flickered on. A light bulb I couldn’t ignore. I knew it was a story I wanted to write, but I’m one of those writers who can’t write two projects at the same time. I suck at it. So, I told myself I’d shelve the idea and continue to write my thriller. Only, the opening of the new story beckoned – probably because it was once again in a genre I hadn’t written in before. Something bright and new and shiny – and something I had no idea if I could write. The new project requires a lot of fantasy world building something I had always said I admired but never wanted to attempt. What’s a girl to do?

I did what I never do. I opened up a new file and started writing. Oh – I knew I wasn’t going to write much. Just a few pages. Just the beginning. Just enough to see if I could even hope to create the world I saw in my head. To make sure I didn’t get confused about which manuscript I was working on, I decided to write in a different font than I usually type in – Times New Roman. Normally, I wrote in Courier New. For a few days I alternated between the two manuscripts. Once I had satisfied myself that I might have hope of pulling off the world building in the new book, I shelved it and marched to THE END of the thriller.

Now I’m back working on the new project. I think it might be good. Chances are I’ll change my mind about that before too long. However, the one thing I haven’t changed is the font. And I have no idea why. I like writing in Courier New because it makes me feel ultra productive. If I write 1000 words in Courier New I know I have written about 5-6 pages. In Times New Roman I’m lucky if that same word count covers 3 ½ pages. Yeah – it’s the same number of words – the same productivity, and yet the differential is driving me nuts.

Which is ridiculous, right? The font I write in shouldn’t make me feel better or worse about my writing. The fact it does kind of ticks me off – so I haven’t changed the font. I’m determined to overcome.

Yeah – I’m stubborn. Let’s blame it on my hair and move on.

The thing is my love/hate relationship with my writing font made me wonder if any other writers have fonts out there they HAVE to write in. Do you feel most comfortable in a specific font or does it not matter to you? Am I the only one that seems to have this hang-up? If so, I think I might go get therapy. (After I finish writing this book - without giving in.)


Dana King said...

I usually write in Arial, though sometimes in Times New Roman. I have written in others. I'm not fussy about fonts, and have been known to be fickle about them.

Your idea of different fonts to keep the two projects distinct in your mind has me thinking if I might try using different fonts when I draft stories to remind me of the mood or voice of a piece. I never have two large projects going at once, but I do step aside and write an occasional short or flash piece that is entirely different in tone.

Thanks for the idea.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Hey Dana - your welcome:) The two fonts really did help me keep the mood and the stories distinct in my mind. I hope it works for you!

Nancy Kay Bowden said...

Great topic, Joelle!

I wrote a whole synopsis in some breezy font on "sticky notes" (program, not real post-a-note) on my computer.

I swear the font made me not-cringe-quite-so-much about writing the dreaded synopsis. And then I could even rearrange the paragraphs in front of me!!! Dare I say it was almost fun??? lol

I think changing fonts is a great idea. Anything to keep your spirits sailing and maybe just to "shake up" the process a bit!

I haven't been fond of courier, but the thought of filling more pages... :)

Jay Stringer said...

I'm finding it's not just font for me, but it's the page.

I'm trying to write a story on Scrivener. I've still not given hope of mastering the app, because so many people rave about it.

But writing in Word, my story seems to LOOK right, It looks like a story on a page, and at any point i can change to print view or whatever, and it looks like a book.

So far in scrivener it's all very fiddley and broken into little sections and my story just doesn't look like it's on a page.

And that seems to make a big difference to me.

Scott D. Parker said...

I'm using Scrivener, too, which uses some sort of default sans serif font, probably Arial. The fun thing about writing in this app is that I do it full screen. It's only at the end of the writing day, when I print off the section, that the page count shows up. It's like a nice, little surprise.

The default print font is courier, so I get the best of both worlds.

But I really dig the idea of different fonts for different stories. I've thought about different pen names for different types of stories, but haven't gotten that far, yet.

Mike Dennis said...

Wow! Another Courier New person!

Actually, I used to write everything in Courier New. It just looked more authentic, you know, like a real typewriter. Like we were really batting out these novels the way the old guard used to do it.

But then I met Book Antiqua, and my heart melted. I feel it's much more atmospheric for the kind of stuff I write (noir) and yet without any of the frills that annoy most people. you, Joelle, I will occasionally drift off into another project simultaneous with one I am already working on. And when I do, it's Courier New, baby!

p.s.--I love the tags on your post: needs therapy, stubborn to a fault. LOL

James Patrick Schmidt said...

As a newspaper page designer by day, I've become very familiar with a lot of fonts and have a few favorites.

And when I think of fonts, especially the ones I'm writing in, I think of it as my handwriting. It can change and that's fine, but I stick with a font I feel most at home with — American typewriter.

It's a font I use on my resume and my website and have been told is a great representation of me. And I think of it that way too, like the font fits what I'm trying to say.

Adam Christopher said...

Oh dear lord. Don't get me started on fonts! For me, they are the ultimate topic of procrastination (if procrastination can be said to have a topic!). Or it used to be anyway. Now my not-actually-doing-any-writing trick is to choose font and background colour (I use Scrivener's fullscreen mode for writing).

I used to use Times New Roman - it's a standard font, everybody has it, it looks okay. When writing I go by word count, not page count (page count seems to be an American writerly tradition), and anyway, with Scrivener pages don't really exist.

I love typography - I think in a past life I was a frustrated type designer - and over time Times New Roman became incredibly boring. I experimented with a few other fonts but if you start going non-standard, things never look right. And I'm not a fan of sans serif fonts like Arial, etc.

Then I was reading a book and noticed that the font was nice. Really nice. Really amazingly nice. I checked the inside front over and it said it was set in Minion Pro.

Minion Pro is a paid font - and an expensive one too, think - but amazingly, I had it installed on my computer (I suspect it came with an Adobe package I bought). So now I use that. It's a Roman serif font, but extremely pleasant on the eye.

Of course for submitting manuscripts, I switch everything back to Times New Roman. Submitting anything in a non-standard font is a big mistake.

But if you have Minion Pro, or can get it, it's worth a look!

Anonymous said...

For some reason, when I started writing my first novel, the automatic font that the program chose was Cambria. Since then, I just can not write in any other font. I've tried, but it just does not come out unless I have Cambria.

jenmcjen said...

I use Scrivener, and I love the Verdana font. It's so clear and easy to read. The italic version is obviously italicized but not hard to read. And it's rounded out so words don't get smooshed together. I just love it. Of course I won't print the manuscript in it, but I think I read somewhere it was a font specifically designed for the computer screen, and I can totally see why. But now I'm going to go check out Minion Pro as I have adobe stuff and lots of fonts came with that.

Anonymous said...

I draft in Courier New. But I print in Century Schoolbook.