Signs of Triviality

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Metamatter

Meta Blogging by Toothpaste for DinnerHaving embarked on the new adventure of writing a book I've quickly had to realize that, as with any significant project, there is a lot of meta information to absorb. Not very surprisingly, there are hundreds of websites with information on how to write (and/or self-publish) a book. Some of those websites are then using the example of how to write a book about how to write a book, and you can then by such books to teach you how to write a book (on how to write a book). How meta!

Climbing my own learning curve in this regard opened up an entire new vocabulary: for starters, there's frontmatter, the body (ie actual content) of the book and then there's backmatter. The frontmatter consists of well over 10 different items such as the title page, the introduction, the preface, the foreword, the prologue and a few other parts that I always had not spent a single minute on trying to distinguish from one another.Parts of an ETD

Fortunately, Wiley's resources for authors include the LaTeX templates and style files to use, which make this daunting project at least look manageable. Here's how I started out:

$ mkdir ~/book/tex
$ mkdir /tmp/d
$ cd /tmp
$ ftp http://media.wiley.com/assets/1330/31/latex_macros_7x10.ZIP
$ cd /tmp/d
$ unzip /tmp/latex-macros_7x10.ZIP
$ mv W-BOOKPS.STY ~/book/tex/w-bookps.sty
$ mv WILEYSEV.CLS ~/book/tex/wileySev.cls

However, after first trying to run latex manuscript.tex, I got this error:

Transcript written on mfput.log.
grep: tir.log: No such file or directory
mktextfm: `mf-nowin -progname=mf \mode:=ljfour; mag:=1; nonstopmode;
   input tir' failed to make tir.tfm.
kpathsea: Appending font creation commands to missfont.log.
! Font \tocfonts=tir at 10.0pt not loadable: Metric (TFM) file not found.
l.297 \font\tocfonts=\timesroman at 10pt

?

It took me a while to find the solution to this (which is why I bother to write it up here; perhaps somebody else runs into this problem and finds this page to be useful). At first, I thought I was missing some fonts and went on a big "reinstall anything related to LaTeX" spree. Then I went and searched for the Y&Y TeX fonts. In the end, the solution was much easier and really only required me to take a look at the style file itself:

%% You may need to rename these fonts to match the
%% names of the .tfm files on your system. If you look at
%% the directory where the .tfm files are stored you should
%% be able to make the appropriate substitution.
%%
%% The comment lists the name of the font on a PostScript printer
%% to help you find the correct font.

%%  Change these definitions, if necessary ====>

%% Times-Roman
%------------------
%% Berry Names:
%\def\timesroman{ptmr}
%\def\timesbold{ptmb}
%\def\timesitalic{ptmri}
%\def\timesbolditalic{ptmbi}

%% Y&Y Names:
\def\timesroman{tir}
\def\timesbold{tib}
\def\timesitalic{tii}
\def\timesbolditalic{tibi}

Yes, looking at the source actually helps you figure stuff out, who'd have thunk? Anyway, so switching from the Y&Y to the "berry" names fixed the problem and the document compiled at last.

The sample .tex file provided by Wiley is very useful -- it contains examples for all the different sections, which makes it easy to start filling things out and creating something that makes you feel like you're being productive, when in effect you are just producing meta information. But it sure looks good!

Having finally gotten around to actually writing something, I'm slowly getting into the whole process, and filling in the front- and backmatter was a good start. Next I fleshed out the Table of Contents (ending up, for the time being, with 20 chapters), including a few subsections using my lecture notes as rough guidelines. This gives me some structure and an idea of how much work is left (a lot).

Chapter 1At this point, I have produced an impressive looking (thanks, LaTeX!) PDF of over 100 pages. Sadly, the amount of actual content is amusingly small: the frontmatter makes up 30 pages in total (including 5 pages of introduction, ie content I actually wrote - yay me); the backmatter (appendices, glossary, topic index, author index, all of which are again a pleasure to create using LaTeX's awesome macros and auto-generation) makes up 6 pages so far. But, after a good amount of minor edits, I believe I just finished the first draft of the first chapter, coming in at 15 pages of actual content.

This represents a laughably small percentage of the final result, but at least it made me feel like the task is actually doable. It'll require a lot of dedication and work, but for the first time I'm actually starting to believe that this is going to happen. Hooray!


P.S.: I have absolutely no idea how anybody could ever have written a book without constant access to the internet. I spend a lot of time on Wordnik, Thesaurus.com, Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, Wikipedia, Wikiquote and the LaTeX Wikibook...

January 1, 2012


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