How can you make it easier, every time, to open a new document and start a new manuscript?
I have friends who angst every time they do this over things like margins, font, headers and footers and the dreaded 25 lines per page setting that we covered last month. Note: I finished up and submitted last monthâ€™s article before I began my work day (read: before coffee), which was NOT good. That article has been corrected of all the embarrassing errors I make when Iâ€™m under-caffeinated so feel free to go back and read the April 20 article at http://occsliceoforange.blogspot.com/search/label/Writer%27s%20Word. The April 20 article gives advice about all the things you can do in Microsoft Word to make your manuscript look prettier.
My goal for you after reading this monthâ€™s article: no more fretting about setting up a manuscript properly!
Dana, one of our OCC e-zine editors has titled me the â€œWord Dominatrixâ€ (in fact she wanted to change the title of this column from â€œWriterâ€™s Wordâ€ to â€œWord Dominatrix.” I guess thatâ€™s better than â€œSoftware Slut,â€ the undercover title most of my software trainer friends go by). Since itâ€™s probably bad form to cuss on OCCâ€™s blogosphere, without further ado, we will open a whole new Happy Place for you as a writer and discuss the easiest way to set up a new manuscript.
Make a template.
How do I do that, you ask? When I told one of my writing friends I was doing an article on templates, I was appalled at her response. She said, â€œTemplates are for people like legal secretaries or whiz kids like YOU, not for an old computer klutz like me.â€ Do you know she actually gave me the hairy eyeball? Like I was insulting her by suggesting that she and her word processing program could be friends.
I will tell you exactly what I told her (though you get the cleaner version): â€œHorse Pocky! Templates are HUGE for writers and Iâ€™m going to show you ten (10) easy steps to make one in Word.â€
Step 1 â€“ Open your current work in progress. Make it look pretty. (See the link above for tips on this.) It is so much easier to format a document with a few chapters in place than it is to format an empty document where you canâ€™t see the results. When you are done formatting and you have completed the next step, you can delete all the text (after you have completed Step 2).
Step 2 â€“Save these great changes to the current work in progress, before following the rest of the steps to create a template. This document is going to be the basis of your new manuscript template but you have to be certain that youâ€™ve saved your writing before you proceed.
Any of the following three methods will allow you to save your changes to this document â€“ pick the way you like best. 1) Hit the Ctrl + S buttons on your keyboard (you donâ€™t type the plus), (2) click on the little blue disc icon (third button from the left on your Formatting toolbar) or (3) go to the File menu and choose Save. Be certain that you have saved all of your writing before you delete it!
Step 3 â€“ Go back to the File menu and choose the Save As command. If you are a keyboard person, hit the F12 key â€“ this takes you to the Save As dialog box (shown below).
Step 4 â€“ Click the drop down arrow in the â€œSave as typeâ€ drop-down list.
Step 5 â€“ Choose the Document Template (*.dot) option. Word will automatically take you to the place on your computer where Word templates are stored. For my computer, which has Windows XP Professional, this is where my templates are stored.
Step 6 â€“ Name your template and click Save. Now comes the most important part, mainly because this is the step where people think they are home free so they leave the next four steps off! You are still in your templateâ€¦donâ€™t forget this. Everything you do from this point on is done to your new template, which is still open.
Step 7 â€“ Save any additional changes you want to add and close the template. You must close this document before you begin to use it or all the things you type will be part of your template. You have NO idea how many times Iâ€™ve forgotten this and pounded my forehead against my desk in exasperation.
Step 8 â€“ Go to the File menu and choose the â€œNewâ€¦â€ command. This is usually the first choice and will help you get to the template you just saved. In older versions of Windows, you will see the list of templates and the name of the one you saved will be right there. If you use Windows XP, as I do, the New Document Task Pane will come up and give you options. You want to choose â€œOn my computerâ€ as shown in the example below.
Step 9 â€“ Choose your template that you have saved and click OK. This will open the template that you previously saved.
Step 10 â€“ Save the document you have just opened as the name of your new manuscript, the same way you would any document.
You may now begin creating your new bestseller without fretting about all those pesky details like font and whether you have the 25 lines per page setting done correctly.
By day, Jen manages the sales and marketing for a national training firm. After 12 years as a corporate software trainer, it’s nice for her to be able to sit down while she works. By night, she writes women’s fiction, chick lit and short stories as Jenny Hansen. She has been a member of OCC since 2001 and has served on OCC’s Board of Directors in a variety of capacities. She is currently the Contest Coordinator for the 2007 Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers.