Tag Archives: WORD

#amwriting: search and destroy

Timid Words

When we submit our work to writing groups, we may get our excerpts handed back with certain words circled or crossed out. Sometimes these are words that fluff the prose and add a timid flavor to the narrative.  When I see these in my own work, I look at the context and often change them, because ‘timid’ is not how I want my work perceived.

My current manuscript is genre fiction. This means I need to write active prose, and these words have no power behind them. When they are overused, they don’t add to the narrative and increase the wordiness. They can also separate the reader from the experience.

In my first draft, these words are like tics–they fall out of my fingers and into my keyboard randomly, and out of my voluntary control.

Now, in the third and final draft, I am in the process of a “search and destroy” mission, seeking out instances of these words. I look at each and see how they fit into that context. If they weaken the narrative, I change or remove them. Often simply removing them strengthens the prose.

I am preparing this manuscript to be edited professionally and want to make the process as smooth as possible. In order to find the offending words, I am doing  a “global search.”

With your mouse or stylus, highlight the word you want to find every occurrence of. On the far right of the home tab, click ‘find.’ This will open the navigation pane.

Or, on your keyboard press the ‘ctrl’ key and the ‘f’ key at the same time. This is the keyboard shortcut to the navigation pane. Follow the instructions in this image:

LIRF Global Search all steps

Caution: if you are hasty or impatient a global search can be dangerous and can mess up an otherwise gorgeous manuscript.

First, the wise author realizes she is about to embark on a boring, time-consuming task. If you get hasty and choose to “Replace All” you run the risk of creating inadvertent bizarreness in your work.

Suppose you decide to simply eliminate every instance of the word “very” because you have discovered you overuse it. You open the navigation pane and  the advanced search dialog box. In the ‘replace with’ box you don’t key anything, thinking this will eliminate the problem.

Global Search prnt scrn 2

Before you click ‘replace all’ consider how many common words have the letters v-e-r-y in their makeup:

  • Every
  • Everyone
  • Everything

You can see how that could mess things up on an incredibly large scale.

To avoid tragedy, take the time to look at each example of the offending words and change them individually. What’s a day or two spent doing the job right, as compared to the year or more you’ve already spent writing that novel?

As always, while I am going through this, I look for awkward phrasing and other things that pop up when you look at your manuscript from a different view.

stop don't click replace allSo is there a quick way to do this? I’m sorry, but if there is, I haven’t found it. Every aspect of getting your book ready for the reading public must be done with the human eye, patience, and attention to detail.

There are editing programs out there, Grammarly is one, but the problem is, these programs are unable to see context. They operate by finite rules and will often strongly suggest you insert an unneeded article, or change a word to one that is clearly not the right one for that situation:

“The tea was cool and sweet, quenching her thirst.” Grammarly suggested replacing quenching with quenched, I am not sure why.

Context is defined as the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect. 

At this time in our technology, understanding context  is still a human function. Because context is so important, I am wary of relying on these editing programs for anything other than alerting you to possible comma and spelling malfunctions.

I don’t mind taking the time to visit each problem and resolve them one at a time. What I will never do again is ‘rush-to-publish,’ because that will only lead to tears. Readers can’t unsee work they despised. They won’t know how much you’ve improved because they’ll avoid all your future work like the plague.


Filed under writing

Create a Hyperlinked Table of Contents

TOC 1One great convenience that an indie author can place in their Kindle, Nook or Smashwords e-book is a Hyperlinked Table of Contents. This is something I use all the time –it allows me to easily page back and forth.

The one I am using for this is an ancient file for the book that spawned Huw the Bard,  so ignore the page numbers. In those days I didn’t know that page numbers are like prisoners—they just weigh you down!  If you have seen my previous post on this subject you can quit now and I won’t hold it against you.  However, if you are in the middle of formatting your first manuscript, this post may be of use to you!

For print versions, I keep costs down by not wasting precious pages on something the reader won’t use. However, printed technical manuals, textbooks, and cookbooks must include a TOC. In print books, every page you can do without when publishing your novel in paper form will keep the final cost down and make your paperback more affordable for your prospective reader. Very few people will pay $18.99 for a book by an unknown author.

The first thing you want to do is create a bookmark.  First highlight the words  “Table of Contents” and then go to your ‘Insert’ tab.  Click on ‘Bookmark’in that ribbon. Type in the words ref_TOC


Then click “Add”.  In every ms it is important to name the Table of Contents bookmark exactly that, including the underscore, because that’s what Smashwords looks for and it is simply a good practice to have a uniform system for naming files.

Now it’s time to bookmark  the prologue. Scroll down to your prologue and do it exactly the same way as you bookmarked the TOC, but for this ms let’s name it BR_prologue. You will name yours with your ms initials and the word prologue. If you have no prologue, skip this step.  See the picture below:


As long as you are there, with the chapter title highlighted, click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. On the left, you want to ‘Link to:’  “Place in this Document”.  That will bring up your bookmarks. Select ‘ref_TOC’  and click OK.  This will turn your heading blue, which is called a ‘hyperlinky’. Press control and click on the link. it will take you back to the table of contents. Once you have used the hyperlinky it will turn purple. How cool is that! This is how that screen looks:


Now that you are back at the Table of Contents, highlight “Prologue and click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. On the left, you want to ‘Link to:’  “Place in this Document”. That will bring up your bookmarks. Select ‘BR_prologue’  and click OK.  That will turn it blue. Press control and click on the link. it will take you back to the heading of your prologue.

Do this for the entire table of contents, always remembering to link your chapter heading back to “ref_TOC”, and test each link as you go.  Four more pictures just to help you remember:









I hope this helps you in formatting your eBook manuscript. All my books have Smart TOCs. I build the TOC into my final formatted manuscripts when I am assembling the final proofed chapters and inserting maps.

On a side note, a hyperlinked TOC is an incredibly useful tool to help you navigate within any long manuscript whether you intend to publish it or not. Although I had used bookmarks before in the course of my work, when I first began this journey I had no  idea that the fancy TOCs I admired so in other people’s e-books were such a simple thing to create.

But that’s the way it always goes–things that seem like they should be hard are often the most simple, while something that should be easy turns into a drama of epic proportions.

Here’s to less drama and more simplicity! Learning how to format an e-book isn’t really that hard, and the wonderful people at both Smashwords and at Amazon have a lot of information freely available to you. Remember, as an indie, you are your own publisher, and what you put out there has to be the best you can make it.

Making use of the free information that is out there on the internet can only help you in this regard!


Filed under Adventure, Battles, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, writer, writing

Formatting or The Shape of the Beast

Anne_Anderson05 - Beauty sat down to dinner with the Beast illustration PDArt - Wikimedia CommonsThis is the 2nd post in the series on using Microsoft WORD, “WORD—A Shifty Beast”.  The first post covered naming files and version control.  This post focuses on using the tools WORD gives you to format paragraphs and line spacing, making your manuscript ready for submission to an editor.

Often, an inexperienced author will submit a manuscript rife with the most bizarre formatting. He is terribly surprised and hurt when it is rejected and returned with a bland form letter that tells him nothing of why it was not acceptable. Rejections are rarely returned with an explanation of why, so the author is left to guess what they did wrong.

Most editors don’t have time to deal with badly formatted manuscripts and these submissions are not even considered.  All agents, editors and publishing companies have specific, standardized formatting they want you to use, and these guidelines are posted on their websites.

For the most part this formatting is basically the same from company to company, so once you know what the industry standard is, it’s easy to make your manuscript submission-ready, at least in the area of formatting.

First of all, running across the top of the page is something called the ribbon, and this is your toolbox. Everything you need to create a manuscript is right there, waiting for you to learn to use it. On the right hand side, by the question mark is a tiny arrow for expanding or hiding the ribbon – and we are going to expand it so we have access to all the tools we will need.

Ribbon 2 - formatting for editors and submissions

First, we must select the font. Microsoft WORD has many fancy fonts you can choose from and also has many sizes.

You don’t want fancy.

Stick with the industry standard fonts: Times New Roman or Courier in 10, 11 or 12 pt.  Most say .11 is fine – for me, in a printout .10 is too small for my elderly eyes, I prefer .12.


These are called ‘Serif’ fonts, because they have little extensions that make them easier to read when in a wall of words.

To change your fonts, open your manuscript document, and Click on the tab marked ‘Home’.  In the upper right-hand corner of the ribbon across the top of the page in the editing group, click:

select> select all. This will highlight the entire manuscript.

With the ms still highlighted, go to the font group, on the left-hand end of the ribbon. The default font, or predesigned value or setting, will probably say ‘Calibri (Body)’ and the size will be .11.

fonts post 2 of word series

You can change this by clicking on the menu and accessing the menu. Scroll down to Times New Roman, as it is the easiest on the eyes. Click on that and the font for the entire ms will be that font. Any errors can be undone by clicking the back-arrow.  Once you are satisfied with your changes, click save.

Now we are going to format our paragraphs and line spacing. Standard manuscript format means margins of 1 inch all the way around; indented paragraphs; double-spaced text. Do not justify the text. In justified text, the spaces between words, and, to a far lesser extent, between glyphs or letters (known as “tracking”), are stretched or sometimes compressed in order to make the text align with both the left and right margins. This gives you straight margins on both sides, but this is not the time or place for this type of alignment.

Do NOT ever use the tab key or the space bar to indent your paragraphs. You have no idea what a crapped-up mess that makes out of a manuscript. (That’s editor-speak for a stinking disaster.)  You may have to go in and remove these tabs by hand and it’s a tedious job, but do it now, if you have been using the tab key.

Instead of the tab key, a professional author uses the simple formatting tool:

Locating the formatting tool:

The ribbon- formatting tool

Still on the home tab, look in the group labeled ‘Paragraph’. On the lower right-hand side of that group is a small grey square. Click on it .  A pop-out menu will appear, and this is where you format your paragraphs.

  1. On the indents and spacing tab of the menu: Use standard alignment, align LEFT. The reason we use this format is we are not looking at a finished product here.  We are looking at a rough draft that will be sliced, diced and otherwise mutilated many times before we get to the final product.

The picture below has it all clearly marked out:

paragraph formatting for editors and submissions

1.  Indentation: leave that alone or reset both numbers to ‘0’ if you have inadvertently altered it.

2.  Where it says ‘Special’: on drop-down menu select ‘first line’. On the ‘By’ menu, select ‘0.5’

3. ‘Spacing’: set both before and after to ‘0’.

4. ‘Line Spacing’: set to ‘double’

The editor needs to receive his version double-spaced so he can insert comments as needed in the reviewing pane, which will be on the right side of the page when you receive your work back for revisions. Having it double-spaced allows for longer comments.

doublespaced, aligned lft with comments prnt scrn for lirf

Now we need to make the “Header.”  This is the heading at the top of each page of a word-processed or faxed document, usually automatically inserted and, in this case, consisting of the title of the book and your name.


We insert this by opening the “insert” tab, and clicking on “header.”  This opens up a new menu:

 header menu

Next we add the page numbers. We put these at the bottom right of the page, using this menu:

page number

This is how it looks:

footer page number

SO once we have all these things done, we will have a manuscript that looks like this:

Full ms ready for submission

This manuscript is submission ready, and is:

  1. Aligned left
  2. Has 1 in. margins
  3. Is double-spaced
  4. Has indented paragraphs
  5. Header contains title and author name
  6. Footer has page number
  7. First page contains the author’s mailing address and contact information in upper left hand corner

This may seem like overkill to you, but I assure you, if you are really serious about submitting your work to agents, editors, or publishers, it must be in as professional a format as is possible.

One fun way to become more fluent with WORD is to open a new document, and save it as “WORD practice file”

Type a paragraph, and then go through the above steps, practicing formatting your work.  Use this document to get to know where everything is on the ribbon, and keep playing with it until you have developed your self-confidence on a document that won’t matter if you mess it up.  It’s actually kind of fun, seeing what options WORD has for making pretty documents as well as simple ones.

Just don’t get too fancy with formatting your novel before you submit it to an editor because no matter how pretty you make that manuscript, if it doesn’t follow the submission guidelines for the place you are submitting it, you have simply wasted your time.

The next post in this series will examine the review tab, and take us through the editing process, showing you how your editor uses WORD during the editing process to guide you to a better manuscript, and what your editor expects from you when you send back revisions.

Ohh…the agony….


Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Uncategorized, writer, writing