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The Most Powerful—and Most Ignored—Tool in a Writer’s Toolkit by Joan Leacott

“Hi. My name is Sandra and I’m a self-pubbed author. I dread preparing my manuscripts for conversion to ebooks. I have to upload over and over, fixing a different error each time. I lose so many hours when I could be writing.”

“I’m Thomas and I’m traditionally published. My editor just sent my manuscript back. Not for the usual edits and proofing, but with formatting instructions! What the heck are Styles?”

“Connie here. I’m entering lots of contests to get noticed by an agent or editor. I keep losing so many points for formatting, spelling, and grammar that I just miss first place and now I’m no place. How do I fix this?”

Are you like Sandra, Thomas, and Connie? Aggravated and confused by technology? Frustrated by wasting your precious writing time not actually writing?

“My name is Holly. I just released my sixth self-pubbed title. I use a Word template for my ebooks and my uploads work the first time, every time. I also use Word to design my print books for print distributors like CreateSpace. Those uploads work first time, every time, too!”

Would you rather be like Holly? Effective, efficient, and productive. She spends her time writing her books—not fighting her books.

How about you? How strong are your Word skills? Do you see Word as a tool—or as The Enemy?

As a writer, your focus should be words on the page. Don’t waste your time fussing with fonts and indents, headers and headings. Your time is valuable. You write, you edit, you submit or upload, you promote. All this along with family and other obligations.

Nowadays, whether your favor traditional or self-publishing, or a combination, your manuscript will be converted to an ebook, and uploaded to online retailers. Printed versions will be available to booksellers and readers.

Word is your primary tool during this entire process. Mastering Word makes sense. You’ll save time, money, and effort. And make life easier for all the people whose desks your story will cross.

Remember Thomas’s problem?

What are Styles?

Every time you change the look of text in your manuscript, you sift through menus and ribbons selecting text and clicking for font, size, color, italics, spacing, indents, and justification. That’s seven clicks or more!

With Styles, you bundle all that sifting and clicking in a single click.

Want a chapter heading?

Click.

Want to denote an email?

Click.

Want a perfectly-spaced scene break?

Click.

When text is consistent, a reader sees only your story. An unexpected change in text size or justification jars the reader out of the wonderful story that you sweated blood and tears over. Doesn’t your book deserve the best presentation?

But what about Sandra’s problem?

How do Styles impact your ebook conversion and print book design?

During eBook conversion, your manuscript is re-written to HTML, a language universal to all computers, ereaders, phones, tablets—any device on which your reader will enjoy your book.

The more consistent your manuscript is, the more streamlined the process, regardless of the conversion program you, your freelance formatter, or your publisher uses. Word’s Styles function eliminates the repetition of frustrating fixes and aggravating uploads, so you can get back to your writing.

When you use templates like Holly does, the conversion from Word file to print book is just as easy. She uses two templates. The first template has the simplified structure required by ereaders. A compatible second template goes all out with your interior book design.

You look like a professional.

And now Connie’s problem.

How can Word help you proof your manuscript?

If you set it and let it, Word will:

  • Spot obvious misspellings like pensil instead of pencil,
  • Find incorrect use of homonyms such as their, there, and they’re,
  • Highlight punctuation errors like missing question marks, and
  • Warn you if you’ve used it’s instead of its.

Grammar-wise, Word will point out passive or confusing sentences and let you know you that your subject and verb tense don’t agree. Word can even keep you politically correct, suggesting “firefighter” instead of “fireman.” If you write historical fiction, you can turn it off so your “housecleaner” goes back to a “parlor maid.”

Even better, tips and suggestions are available to help you understand and correct what Word finds. Expand your knowledge for next time.

Proofing in Word can be customized for fiction writing and for you.

Back to Holly’s success.

How do you master Word?

 

Instructor Joan Frantschuk, Principal of Woven Red Author Services and self-published as Joan Leacott has taught hundreds of newbie and experienced wr...