The making of, Part 1: The original story

Welcome to the first in a series of posts about the making of the book. In this instalment I want to discuss the original book that I made for my wife, as a birthday present, in 2004.

This book was fairly amateur in its production. I was always a last-minute person and knew that there was no way it was going to be professionally printed or bound, and so I simply went ahead and created the book using my trusty computer and printer.

I typed out the story using OpenOffice, without any regard to formatting. I simply typed and typed until the story was finished. After some editing and proofreading, I changed the paper size and margins manually, so that each page would print out on one quarter of an 8.5"x11" paper.

Then I had to count up the pages and determine how many sheets would be required for a two-sided booklet. When printing a booklet with 32 pages, pages 1 and 32 are on the same side of one sheet, and on the other side are pages 2 and 31; the next sheet has 3 and 30 and 4 and 29, and so on. Once this was determined, I printed the text out by manually feeding in the sheets and printing a single page at a time. The booklet printed, I then began the illustrations.

Note: I am a terrible illustrator. When I (years later) showed the book to a friend and asked him what he thought, and then showed him LeBinh's concept sketches, he was shocked to see the sketches, and said "... but these are GOOD?!" Once I explained that I didn't draw the new sketches he understood.

Despite my poor drawing ability, I still had only myself to rely on. I decided to be very conservative about the illustrations. Since each sheet of paper had 4 illustrations on it, if I made a mistake after the first illustration it would mean starting all the illustrations over again. I'm certainly not practised enough to do a sketch the same way more than once. And at that time I didn't have a scanner or suitable digital camera to allow me to digitize the images. So I used a pencil. That way my trusty STAEDTLER MARS PLASTIC eraser (which I still have, from grade school, barely used) was able to cover for me until the drawings were just the way I wanted them. Or at least, not so bad that it would hurt your eyes.

The final result was then bound in a hand-made hardcover. It was easy to glue cardboard to the outer page of the booklet and then wrap it in a handsome white paper wrap. At this point I didn't trust my artistic skills enough to make a nice cover and so that was it! Voila, a "finished" product.

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