Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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Starting a New Manuscript
by Jenny Hansen How can you make it easier, every time, to open a new document in Word 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 in a previous blog. My fellow software trainers have long called me the “Word Dominatrix” and I’m here to show you how to MAKE Word give you a great looking new manuscript every time. My goal for you after you finish reading this blog: no more fretting about setting up a manuscript properly! 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 1Open your current work in progress. Make it look pretty. 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. Here is your chance to make it double space, change the font to the one your editor loves, add in the first line indent and do the twenty-five lines per page setting. 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 2Save 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 in the older versions of Word or fourth button down in the Circle menu in Word 2007) 3) go to the File menu and choose Save (again, the File menu is in older versions of Word and also apply if you are using a MAC) Important Note: Be certain that you have saved all of your writing before you delete it! Step 3Go back to the File menu (Circle menu in Word 2007) 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. Step 4Click the drop down arrow to the right of the “Save as type” box at the bottom. Step 5Choose the Document Template (*.dot) option. Word will automatically take you to the place on your computer where Word templates are stored. Write this down if you feel the need to know this but I can promise with 99% certainty that your computer is the only one who needs to know where the templates are stored. Step 6Name 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 7Save 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 when I open a new template with a bunch of text in it. Step 8Go to the File menu (Circle menu in Word 2007) 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, the New Document Task Pane will show up on the right side of the screen and give you options. You want to choose “On my computer.” Step 9Choose your new template that you just named (I recommend New Manuscript or New WIP as a title) and click OK. Step 10Save the document immediately 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. Enjoy your writing!
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Getting Ready for The Big Trip
by Fae Rowen It's been awhile since I've taken a trip that was more than three weeks long. But when you're paying for airfare halfway around the globe, it makes sense to stay a little longer. More than a year ago I arranged to travel to the Middle East for 24 days. When I woke up this morning I thought, "In three weeks at this time I'll be walking off a plane in Dubai!" Even though I've been preparing a year for the trip--reading, exercising, getting as healthy as I can--the departure date has crept up with the stealth of a tiger. Two months ago I freaked out about Dubai when reading news articles about British women being thrown in jail for ninety days for bringing hormone therapy drugs into the country. Well, I wouldn't have been packing those, but what about all my other supplements? I can't go twenty-four days without my CoQ10 or Vitamin C. And my protein powders? What will I do for breakfast if I can't take my protein powders? At least I made it through that terror. Although I have no definitive answers, I do have, courtesy of our US Department of State, the names of three lawyers in case I get thrown in jail. Nothing like preparedness. And I had a long interview with a Navy Captain who served six months in Dubai and gave me several invaluable suggestions about local customs and shopping. "What do you mean you're not planning on shopping in Dubai?" He convinced me it would be worth it. ("Not a normal woman"--see "Three Weeks Ago at Crit Group" blog!) Obviously I need all the help I can get, so if you have first-hand knowledge of Dubai, Egypt or Jordan and are willing to share travel tips with me, I'd love to hear from you! If my friend and I get through three days on our own in Dubai and one day on our own in Cairo, we're home free. Then we'll join thirty-three other intrepid travelers for an extensive tour of Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula and Jordan. But I've already informed my friend that on the "land safari" trip I'm riding in the Land Rover. I already rode a camel years ago, across the steppes of Mongolia. I have no desire to be spat at and bitten again. I'll send a blog during the trip. That's why I bought my new iPhone--the source of another blog in the Technology Fun file.
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Three weeks ago at Crit Group
Oh, shoot me. It's been three weeks that I've licked my wounds enough to write this. My beloved friends hated, I mean really hated, Chapter Eight. They said my character would never have made the choice she did. Now, normally, I don't argue with their opinions, because they are talented writers and adept readers. If they say something doesn't work, it doesn't work on some level and must be re-written. But this character came about as a form of catharsis after the death of my father. And I know her like the back of my hand. Apparently not, because not a one of my critique partners agreed with what she did. They said she would never have chosen to do what I "made" her do. In the interim, I've thought about my husband's answer years ago to "Why did you fall in love with me?" My alpha-male-to-the max husband said, "Because you're not a normal woman." Well, after I almost cold-cocked him, he explained that I didn't behave like most women. He reeled off his list of "typical" female behaviors. His comment still makes sense because I was "socialized" by a pack of wolves taking the same physics and math classes. My geeky guy friends had no more social skills than I had. With no close female friends during those formative years--thank goodness that's very different now!--I still, obviously, at times think as I did years ago. So I've examined my heroine's actions and revised them for her true character, instead of forcing her to do what I would have done. Interesting how we conceive a character, but that character grows beyond us into her own person. I guess that's one reason I write.
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