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Starting a New Manuscript

May 18, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Writer’s Word
by Jenny Hansen (aka Jen Crooks)
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 month’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 I’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 month’s article: no more fretting about setting up a manuscript properly!

Dana, one of our OCC e-zine editors has titled me the “Word Dominatrix” (in fact she wanted to change the title of this column from “Writer’s Word” to “Word Dominatrix.” I guess that’s better than “Software Slut,” the undercover title most of my software trainer friends go by). Since it’s probably bad form to cuss on OCC’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, “Templates are for people like legal secretaries or whiz kids like YOU, not for an old computer klutz like me.” 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): “Horse Pocky! Templates are HUGE for writers and I’m going to show you ten (10) easy steps to make one in Word.”

Step 1 – 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 can’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 –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 you’ve saved your writing before you proceed.

Any of the following three methods will allow you to save your changes to this document – pick the way you like best. 1) Hit the Ctrl + S buttons on your keyboard (you don’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 – Go back to the File menu and choose the Save As command. If you are a keyboard person, hit the F12 key – this takes you to the Save As dialog box (shown below).

Step 4 – Click the drop down arrow in the “Save as type” drop-down list.

Step 5 – 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 – 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 template…don’t forget this. Everything you do from this point on is done to your new template, which is still open.

Step 7 – 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 I’ve forgotten this and pounded my forehead against my desk in exasperation.

Step 8 – Go to the File menu and choose the “New…” 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 “On my computer” as shown in the example below.

Step 9 – Choose your template that you have saved and click OK. This will open the template that you previously saved.

Step 10 – 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.
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Writer’s Word

April 20, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Writer’s Word: The 25 Lines Per Page Secret!
by Jen Crooks
In my first column for OCC’s e-zine, I found out a few important things.

The first thing was that it is REALLY fun. I had a blast seeing the stories our OCC authors posted every day. Book voodoo, articles on writing…you name it, our members are writing about it.

The second thing I found out was that, while I might be a goddess with business applications, I don’t know diddly about posting blogs.

My screen shots of all the wonderful things I told you about Word’s save functions did NOT show up. I’m going to have to get training from one of our OCC web goddesses (think online class moderators) so I can add in some visual aids.

So take heart, all of you who feel technology challenged – even the gurus muddle around until someone trains them. My “note to self” for this month’s article: Leave the screen shots off until there is time to have a conference call with Marianne.

Last month, Dana asked me if I could “please, please, please write a blog about how to get 25 lines per page” and I responded “of course I will.” Now mind you, I have never done this setting in my life, mainly because I’m half blind and the traditional manuscript requirements ask for ugly fonts (Times New Roman and Courier New) in addition to the 25 lines per page. Times New Roman makes me particularly crazy because when there is an “r” and an “n” next to each other, to me they look like an “m.” I secretly believe that if my manuscript is in an easy-to-read font like Arial or Tahoma, the editor (that poor soul who reads thousands of pages a week) will be more kindly disposed to buy my book. It hasn’t worked for me yet, but I’ll take all the help I can get.

To get back to Dana’s question, I figured there must just be a quick Paragraph setting (this is located in the Format menu) and it would be a snap – four or five steps at the most. The Paragraph dialog box is one of my favorite places in Word. . .there is so much to do here! All you have to do is select the text you’d like to change (hit Ctrl + A on your keyboard to select the entire document) and go to Format. Then Paragraph.

For example, this is where most people go to set Line Spacing to single, double or 1 ½ space. Of course, you can do those with key strokes too:

Ctrl + 1 = Single space
Ctrl + 2 = Double space
Ctrl + 5 = 1 ½ space

While in Paragraph, you can choose the Indent setting of “First line” and indent the first line of each paragraph in your manuscript (the most common setting is .5 inch).

That pesky “Widow/Orphan control” feature is located here. This is what makes all the lines in a paragraph stay together, even when you want them to separate to help you get 25 lines on a page. I have people tell me all the time that they can’t find this sucker – it is located on the second tab in the dialog box, titled “Line and Page Breaks.” The default setting in Word is that the “Widow/Orphan control” is set to ON. (Obviously no one polled us writers when they were deciding which features made the cut in Word.)

Are you catching on yet that the Paragraph dialogue box is a veritable party for us writers?

The last thing you need to know about before I give you “the 25 line secret” in a step-by-step list is that margins and font size – even font type – matter when you are trying to get your manuscript formatted to have 25 lines on a page. That being said, all of my examples use Word’s default margins of Top/Bottom – 1” and Left/Right = 1.25 inch because I like the extra white space. I know, I know…the rules that date back to 1980 say 1” margins only – once you learn how to use your Paragraph settings you can be the Word Dominatrix and MAKE your margins work for you.

Note: For anyone who has never changed their margin settings, there are two easy ways to do it: click on the File menu and choose Page Setup OR double click on the vertical ruler to the left of the document when you are in Print Layout View. You will not see the ruler to the left unless you are in Print Layout View.

I was looking around on the internet to see “how everyone else was doing it” and I saw at least four different methods for how to get 25 lines on a page, zero of which worked for me. I saw one blog where a guy actually went through a formula to calculate the 25 lines. There will be no formulas in my writer-friendly Word column but if you would like to see this craziness, I’ve included the link. (If you follow the link below, just scroll down a bit to see what Allen, the math wizard, advises. Bleck!)


The easiest way to achieve the hallowed 25 lines per page is to follow the steps below:

I used the following font combinations:
Courier New – 14 pt
Arial – 12 pt
(The dreaded) Times New Roman – 12 pt

Right about now, I’m hoping that you see that your font doesn’t really matter – this is ALL about the Paragraph setting.

1. Select all the text in your document that you want to change (for example, you’ll probably omit your title page)

2. Go to Format menu. Then Paragraph.

3. If you haven’t turned off the Widow / Orphan control, do it now

4. On the Indent and Line Spacing tab, go toward the bottom of the dialog box where it says “Line Spacing:” – click the drop down arrow and choose the word “Exactly”

5. In the “At:” field to the right of where it now says “Exactly,” type in “25 pt”

6. Click OK

You have now achieved manuscript formatting perfection!

By day, Jen Crooks 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, Jen 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.

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Writer’s Word

March 21, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

by Jenny Hansen

If you’re a writer some way, some day, you’re going to need help with Word. So when I found out OCC has our very own software trainer in our midst, I begged, pleaded and probably promised things I shouldn’t have to get her to share her Word Wisdom with us. Please give a round of applause to our Word Guru, Jennifer Crooks. She’s been training Word-challenged users like me for over twelve years. Thank you, Jen!

At last, a computer column for us creative types! All you Word-challenged non-techies can breathe a heavy sigh of relief. You now have a place that won’t give you phrases that contain thingies like yottabytes (yes, that’s a real word) and will give you practical tips like how to format a manuscript.

Rule #1

Your computer is stupid.

It’s very important to always remember that your computer is a dumb machine. Contrary to popular opinion, it does not have a brain or a little green gremlin inside and it cannot do anything that you don’t tell it to do. It follows your commands completely and exactly, which means that it’s vital that you learn the proper commands to give.

I highly recommend some of the software manuals that are on the market, especially the Dummies series. The first chapter in the PC’s for Dummies book that I bought twelve years ago was titled, “Your Computer Will Not Explode.” (And it really won’t!)

You’re reading this blog so you already know most of the basics about your computer. Additionally, Mac users who struggled for years in a PC world received a huge boost with the release of OS X a few years back. Microsoft Word is pretty much the same now whether you’re on Windows or a Mac.

The first thing you need to know, no matter which version of Word you’re using is: How to save your book and find it again later with all your changes intact.

Usually, a document is saved to diskette to transport the file between computers or to provide a backup copy of the original file that resides on your computer’s hard drive. This blog document is currently saved on my computer’s hard disk, commonly referred to as the “C:” drive or “Hard drive.”

First, let’s define the difference between the terms “Save” and “Save As” since they mean two entirely different things. Both can be found in the File menu of your word processing program (see example below).

← File Menu

You must always “Save As” first. In fact, if you hit the “Save” command first it will automatically take you to the “Save As” dialog box.

When you choose “Save As,” you are giving the file a name and a location to reside on your computer, the same as you might make a folder and put it into a filing cabinet. (Any of you have seen my office can just STOP LAUGHING now…my computer files are pristine.)

The “Save” command saves your latest changes OVER the original—this is what you will do as you make changes to your manuscript.

In the “Save As” dialog box below, the most important places to look are:

“Save in” drop down list (top of the box) which lets you choose what folder you want to file the document in, somewhat like you would open the second drawer of your filing cabinet and grab the folder titled, “Current Manuscript.” .

“File name” (line at the bottom) where you name the file something descriptive that you will recognize later. Document1 is a really bad choice.

“Save as type” drop down list (just below “File name”) let’s you choose whether this document will be saved in Microsoft Word format or in something else, such as Rich Text Format (will give the file an RTF extension instead of DOC), that can be opened in a different word processing program.

Last but not least, the next paragraph is the most important one in this entire column.

When you want to save a copy of the file you are working on, first save your latest changes by choosing the “Save” command from either the File menu or the toolbar (third icon from the left), then choose “Save As” to save the file to a new location. This ensures that you have the latest copy in both places.

All of you who have forgotten this in the past are likely sitting back with a smug smile saying, “Uh-huh. Yep, she’s right. I lost 3 hours of writing that one time…” Because trust me, you only make this mistake once or twice before you either head to a computer class or head to the nearest bar for a round of dirty martinis.

One last word of advice until next time…If you save to a place like a flash drive or a diskette that you plan to travel with, make sure that you have closed the file before you pull out the flash drive/diskette. This is the number one reason why people can’t open the files that they have saved onto an external source.

Tune in for my next column where I’ll be answering Dana’s question:

Are you going to show us how to format a manuscript…especially that 25 lines per page setting?

Of course I will.

If you have any questions for our Word Guru send them to: jennyhansensmail@aol.com

By day, Jen Crooks 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, Jen 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.

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