Monday, February 1, 2016

A Scrivener Tip - Widows and Orphans and TOC

Working on the print version of Discoveries, the next book in the Mercenaries series, and I decided to post on an issue that I've been going back and forth with Scrivener's excellent help staff on. To wit: What do I do when this happens?

For ebooks, you wouldn't do anything to correct the widow, since the reading device will reflow the text depending on the font selected, and the size and a whole lot of other things not under our control as book designers.

For print however,  having two words alone at the top of the page is a no-no; the Chicago Manual of Style denotes this as the classic widow of widows and orphans fame. Having it run into the next chapter's title header block only compounds the error.

Based on what Scrivener support had told me (or maybe, how I interpreted what they said), this error is due to the pdf engine they use, and the only fix is to modify the original text so it doesn't occur. My experience says if the orphan runs into the upcoming heading, it does so when the last line of the section before falls on the first line of the next page.

In this case, I choose to shorten a line by deleting a word that was not superfluous, but losing it won't change the meaning at least.

That yields the following--much better from my point of view:

This look through of the ms should be done as the last step before you upload the pdf file to CreateSpace or whoever your POD printer is. That's because you are going to make minor changes to the text to reduce or eliminate these widows and orphans, so you need to review each page to make sure they meet your standards.

If you complete this step, and then make more changes, you'll need to go back and revisit this check, perhaps undoing some of the changes you made.

Another thing to watch for: When Compiled with the Formatting option Begin this Section on a Recto Page (which begins the specified section on a right hand or odd numbered page), sometimes (although not in this case), the last words falling on the first page of the next section confuses the Table of Contents generator and the relationship between the page numbers and the call-out in the TOC. In some cases, the TOC points to a odd numbered page, but the section actually starts a page later. Sometimes. It's not consistent in my experience, but that's a different post. As above, some judicious trimming seems to do the job by keeping the last line from slipping by the bitter end of a page.

i apologize if this is unclear. Either email me (sidebar) or add a comment if you think you may want to consider this, but find it too obscure in either description or suggestion.

Obviously, you may comment for any other reason also! Well, except the Iowa Caucuses.


  1. So does Scrivener format your ebooks AND your print books? It generates Table of Contents, too? Would you recommend it? I've never self-published anything, but I'm curious about trying, and I'm not sure how formatting would work out. Can it export as a pdf?

  2. Hi, Ms Pan. Thanks for commenting! In short, yes. And Scrivener does generate TOC as well. I've used it for years, and recommend it. If you're interested, they are supporters of NaNo, and with Camp NaNo coming up, there may be a half-price sale available.
    I'll follow up with an email about details ready to trap you.
    Thanks again.