Microsoft Word for Writers: Find & Replace

by Harvey on April 21, 2015

Hi Folks,

Find and Replace_150The Find & Replace function is the most useful tool in Microsoft Word. With the Find and Replace function, you can pretty much do magic. As one example, some narrators insist on writing “try and” instead of “try to.” If the writer knows his narrator has that particular problem, he can key in (without the quotation marks and where a # equals a blank space) “#try#and#” into the Find What box and then key in “#try#to#” into the Replace With box. Then hit Replace All and in a flash, every instance of “try and” is replaced with “try to.”

Or say for example you’ve learned (erroneously) somewhere, sometime that you’re supposed to put a comma after the word “but” pretty much any time it’s used. You can key (again, without the quotation marks and where the # equals a blank space) “#but,#” into the Find What area and then key “,#but” into the Replace With area. Hit Replace All and your error is corrected throughout the manuscript. (Again, remember where I’ve inserted the pound or hashtag symbol, you should insert a space with your spacebar.)

You do have to think your way through using this feature though. For example, if you want to replace all instances of “try and” with “try to” and you don’t include the space before and after “try” and the space after “and,” when the function finds “He left the country and moved into the city” it will end up reading “He left the country to moved into the city.”

17aFigure 17a

The next figure shows what you will see if you click the Format button at the bottom left of the Find and Replace dialogue.  When you click the Font drop-down, the Font dialogue box will open. When you click the Paragraph drop-down, the Paragraph Formatting dialogue will open. you can then apply font and/or paragraph attributes to anything in the Find What area and/or in the Replace With area.

17bFigure 17b

17cFigure 17c

You are limited in your use of the Find & Replace function only by your imagination. There’s more about Find & Replace in the Paragraph Formatting Tool segment and in the Overall Example, both coming up in the next post).

That’s it for now! Until next time, happy writing.

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

{ 3 comments }

Food for Thought

by Harvey on April 15, 2015

Hi Folks,

From the time I rolled out this morning, I spent the first two hours doing a brief edit for a friend. In that two hours, I inserted and deleted words and sentences, and I imbedded thirty-three instructive comments over the space of four pages.

After that, I offered a requested critique for a friend from a few years back. That was about another half-hour.

Four pages and some poems. Two and a half hours.

In writing time, that’s about 2500 words.

Of course, all of that led me to come here to write this “in-between” blog post, meaning it isn’t part of the usual series, and that plus some smaller related stuff ate up another two hours.

So four and a half hours, which for me equates to 4000 to 4500 words of new original fiction. Ugh. I’m a writer. I need to be writing.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not begrudge my friends the edit or the critique or the time it took me to provide them. They’re both good writers who are striving to improve. I encouraged the fiction writer to send me his stuff so I could provide an edit. The poet kind of popped up on me, but that’s fine too.

I gave them both what they wanted, and I know they’re both appreciative. So no regrets there at all.

But for strictly selfish reasons, I shouldn’t have done that. The experience this morning drove home to me again why I retired from editing last year.

The fact is, I’d rather be a fellow writer than an editor.

As an accomplished fellow writer, will I still drop some quick instruction on another writer who’s serious about improving if he or she asks me for advice? Yes, I will. But I won’t devote a chunk of my day to it. If I did that, I’d have to get paid, and as I wrote earlier, I’d rather be a fellow writer.

Back in August, I spread the word that I wasn’t taking anymore editing jobs effective the end of that month. I held to that, and I finished my last full editing job sometime in October. I retired from editing for a reason. I should have left it at that. From now on, I will.

I’m a full-time professional fiction writer. Since October 19 (the date I started my first novel), I’ve written five novels, a novella, and twenty-seven short stories. I just finished the fifth novel on April 14. That’s yesterday as I write this, and today I will begin the sixth novel.

Can I still help other writers? Sure.

For one thing, everything I’ve ever learned and taught about writing is in my own stories, so I can hold those up as an example of what to do. And really, if you’re going to seek advice from any writer, shouldn’t you  know whether he or she can write first?

Now, will my stories (novels, novella or shorts) appeal to everyone? No, of course not. Everyone has different tastes.

But will the techniques of dialogue, dialect, narrative, paragraphing, character development, character voice, etc. hold up to scrutiny across genres? Absolutely. If you’ve heard good things about my editing and you want to see how my edit could help your writing, study my writing.

But what if studying other writers’ works is not your bag of cotton candy?

Well, you’re still in luck. Most of what I’ve learned and taught “live” (and put into practice in my own writing) also is available in my nonfiction books and/or in my Audio Lecture Series of writing courses.

They aren’t expensive in either venue, especially considering what you get for your money.

Are you an aspiring poet? You can learn time-proven techniques directly from a National Book Award nominated poet by purchasing my Course 9. Just visit http://harveystanbrough.com/lecture-series/ and scroll down.

If you actually want to BE a professional writer instead of just talking about writing and thinking about writing and taking part in critique groups (the blind leading the blind) and attending endless conferences and presentations so you can FEEL like a writer, click that same link and scroll down to Course 12.

If your dialogue is stiff and linear and sounds as if it’s being delivered by robots or The Coneheads, visit the same link and check out Course 1.

While you’re there, read all of the course descriptions.

And understand this: unlike MOST courses and writing books out there, my stuff is no-fluff, nuts and bolts information you can put to use in your own writing immediately.

Also what I offer is information directly from a successful former editor and full-time professional fiction writer who practices every day what he preaches.

Even if you choose not to take writing advice from me, consider this freebie:

  • If the person who’s trying to give you advice on writing a novel hasn’t published several novels? Stop listening.
  • If the person who’s trying to give you advice on writing dialogue can’t write his way out of a paper sack? Stop listening.
  • And if the person whose writing book you just bought writes nothing other than writing books? Take it back to the store.

Seriously, don’t listen to that stuff and don’t read that book. Either one can do horrible harm to your writing career.

What you find in my writing books, my Audio Lecture Series courses and these blog posts is being put into practice every day on my writing computer. I’d love to welcome you into my world as a professional writer. There’s plenty of room. Come on in.

Next up, back to the Microsoft Word for Writers series.

Until then, keep writing!

By the way, if you want to see an excellent blog post that coincides wonderfully with this one, click on over to Steven Pressfield’s Blog. Excellent stuff.

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks! If you can’t make a monetary donation, please at least consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. Again, thank you.

{ 8 comments }

Hi Folks,

Options_240Here come your Word Options, and there are a ton of them. The good news is, setting them isn’t that difficult and many of them need to be set only once.

To access your options in Microsoft Word 2010, click File > Options. (Note: While the File menu is open your document will seem to disappear, but don’t be confused. It’s still there. To get it back, just click File again.)

Once you click Options, the following dialogue will appear. All dialogue boxes have an OK and Cancel button in the bottom right corner, but to save room I trimmed it off. The first screenshot contains your General Options:

11Figure 11

Look over each set of options carefully. For example, in this one you’ll note that I’ve unchecked the block that says Show Mini Toolbar on Selection. If this were checked, when you select a word or sentence or paragraph, a mini toolbar would pop up asking whether you want to cut, copy, paste, hyperlink, etc. the selected information. You might find that useful, but it drives me nuts, so I unchecked the box.

On the left pane in Figure 10 you can see each of the categories: General, Display, Proofing, Language and Advanced. The next several screenshots will illustrate those categories. We’ve already talked about customizing the Ribbon and the Quick Access Toolbar, and you can explore the Add-Ins and Trust Center on your own. They’re of no consequence to writers that I’ve ever seen.

Here’s the Display dialogue box:

12Figure 12

When you aren’t sure where your paragraph marks or tabs or extra spaces are, you can come to this dialogue box and select Show All Formatting Marks, then click OK at the bottom. When you return to your document, you’ll see all of the normally hidden formatting marks. This can be a very useful tool.

Here’s the Proofing dialogue box. Note that you can set your preferences for correcting and/or checking spelling and grammar. Be sure you check the Use Contextual Spelling option. Doing so will save you a lot of headaches later on:

13aFigure 13a

You’ll notice the AutoCorrect Options button in the upper right of Figure 13a. The following five screens illustrate the various settings you can affect when you click that button. The last one, Actions, is more for business use. I’ve never used it and can’t imagine a use for it in creative writing.

13bFigure 13b — AutoCorrect

13cFigure 13c — Math AutoCorrect

13dFigure 13d — AutoFormat As You Type

13eFigure 13e — AutoFormat

13fFigure 13f — Actions

Here’s the Save dialogue box. Usually, you can set this one once and forget it:

14Figure 14

Here’s the Language dialogue box. Again, it’s pretty much set and forget:

15Figure 15

Below is the Advanced Options dialogue box, albeit in three pieces.

16aFigure 16a

16bFigure 16b

16cFigure 16c

With the Advanced Options box, it’s best that you just get your beverage of choice, sit in a comfortable chair, relax, and go over the possible settings one at a time.

That’s it for this time! Next up, Find & Replace. For my money, it’s the most valuable tool in Word. Until then, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

{ 0 comments }

Epiphany

by Harvey on April 5, 2015

Hi Folks,

This is another in the non-series series of posts that I hope you might find useful.

This morning I rolled out of bed right at 2 a.m. I’ve been getting up between 2 and 3 for quite awhile now. I consider it working the morning shift. Quiet time. Writing time.

And on this particular morning, I awoke realizing I had a short story due. In April 2014, I challenged myself to write at least one new short story each week. To help keep myself motivated, I created a website (HEStanbrough.com) and posted those stories live each week. I left each story up, free for anyone to read, until the next week’s story went up. Some of you, maybe, have been along for the ride. If so, thanks, I appreciate the company.

Well this morning, in addition to realizing I had a deadline due, I also experienced an epiphany.

After a year of following Heinlein’s Rules (Heinlein’s Business Habits) and Writing Into the Dark, I realized the greatest gift that process has given me. It’s rewarded me dozens of times in various ways, not the least of which are 59 short stories in 52 weeks, four novels (plus two underway) and a novella. Oh, plus the compilation of sixteen collections of short fiction and a trilogy. All of that in the past year. Cool.

But the most valuable gift I’ve received as a result of following Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark is the ability to wake up on Sunday morning, suddenly realize that I have a story due on Monday morning, and feel Not One Ounce of Trepidation.

Instead, a sense of calm settles over me. I have no idea what I will write, how long it will be or what genre it will be. But because I follow Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark, I know that sometime during the day, a character will come up to me. He will point to his problem and say something like, “Would’ya just look at this? Now what am I gonna do?”

Then he’ll trudge off into his setting and, being the nice guy that I am, I’ll follow him. I’ll watch and listen carefully as he solves his problem. I’ll also record the result, and at the end of the day I will have written a new short story. Incredible. I am without a doubt the luckiest man on Earth, Lou Gehrig notwithstanding.

To top it all off, this will be the 52nd consecutive week of writing and publishing at least one new short story per week. So there y’go. In April 2014 I challenged myself to write at least one short story per week every week for a year. Today, over on HEStanbrough.com, I posted “A False Sense of Finality” and with that short story completed my challenge.

Of course, I also have a streak going. I’ve written at least one short story every week for 52 weeks straight. So I’ll keep that going for awhile longer yet, but I don’t feel quite as much pressure over it now that I reached my goal. That was a major milestone, and I feel an incredible sense of accomplishment.

Of course, a short story takes only a few hours to write and I was writing only one a week. Seems easy, right?

All I can say is I hope you’ll try it. If you enjoy writing short fiction, set a challenge for yourself to write one short story per week for a year. Lay your ears back and attack. If you fail, what’s the worst that will happen? Nothing. And if you succeed, at the end of a year you will have written 52 short stories and (I hope) compiled them in to ten 5-story collections and five 10-story collections. So you will have written 52 stories and created 67 publications.

But what about Heinlein’s Rules? And what about Writing Into the Dark? Will those things work for you?

In a word, Yes.

But you have to write.

Back on April 11 with the next post in the Microsoft Word for Writers series. Until then, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

{ 2 comments }

This is not some asinine April Fool’s joke, but an actual post. Enjoy!

Hi Folks,

Photo courtesy Can Stock Photo, www.canstockphoto.comTime really is money, and one way to save a great deal of time when using Microsoft Word is to set up your Quick Access Toolbar. Doing so will also give you more screen space, a bonus if you’ve had your eyes more than about 12 years.

We talked about the menu (also called the ribbon) last time, but the fact is, I actually use the tabbed menu items in the Ribbon very little.

For most of my writing and editing tasks, I use the Quick Access Toolbar instead. It takes a little getting used to, but there’s almost no learning curve and it’s much cleaner, quicker and easier once you get used to it.

The Quick Access Toolbar is the small gray horizontal area below the Ribbon and above the horizontal ruler. (If your ruler isn’t there, in the menu select View > Ruler.) Here’s mine:

7_870Figure 7

Whereas with the Ribbon, some commands have to be retained or removed in groups, it’s easy to truly customize the Quick Access Toolbar for your specific needs.

Left to right above are New Document, Save, Save As, Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste, Bold, Italic, Underline, Insert Page Break, and Left, Center, Right and Full Justified.

Then come some features useful in publishing or setting up ebooks. The little blue flag is a Bookmark symbol. I use that to create a table of contents when I’m publishing a new book. Then there are Remove Header and Remove Footer commands (ebooks don’t have headers and footers), then the Add Hyperlink and Remove Hyperlink commands. Next is the font face, size and color. Then comes the excellent editing (and revision) tool, Track Changes. Here’s the drop-down menu for Track Changes:

8Figure 8

When you click Change Tracking Options, you’ll get this dialogue box:

9Figure 9

When I’m working on an edit for someone else or a revision of my own work, I typically uncheck Track Moves and Track Formatting. The other setting in Figure 7, Change User Name, is self-explanatory.

Back to the Quick Access Menu, the next item after Track Changes is the Replace feature. The Replace feature is so important that it has its own section later. Then comes the Insert Symbol function and the Change Case function (from All Uppercase to Capitalize Each Word, for example). Following that are a few admin functions: the Thesaurus, Spell Checker, Zoom and Word Count features, and then the Paragraph Formatting function. Again, this one is so important that it has its own section later.

Back to more editing and/or revision tools, we have the Accept Change dialogue and Reject Change dialogue. (These also are important for you if you’re having your manuscript edited by someone else who uses Track Changes.) Then comes the Insert Comment function, then Go To Previous Comment, Go To Next Comment, and the Delete Comment dialogue. Finally, near the end I added a highlighter. I don’t use it very often, but it’s off to the side when I need it. At the end (click the down arrow) is the Customize Quick Access Toolbar menu. If you select that and then click More Commands, you’ll see this dialogue box:

 10_750Figure 10

As you can see, in the left pane I’ve selected All Commands. That’s the best place to start. (If you want to choose from fewer commands, you can begin with Popular Commands.)

To add a command to the Quick Access Toolbar, simply select it in the left pane and click Add in the center. It will be added to the right pane. (Note too at the top of the right pane you can select a Quick Access Toolbar For All Documents or for the current document only.)

If you want to remove a command, select it in the right pane, then click Remove. Finally, to rearrange the order of the commands in the Quick Access Toolbar, select the command you want to move and use the up or down arrows to the right side of the dialogue box to move the command.

I encourage you to spend whatever time it takes to set up your Quick Access Toolbar exactly the way you want it. Once you’ve set it up, you’ll use the Ribbon Menu a lot less.

Finally, here’s an important public service announcement of interest to writers. I suspect many readers of this column have or will consider self-publishing through a subsidy POD publisher. Before you do, I urge you to read this article: P.O.D. Secrets Revealed: Ridiculous Contract Clauses!

Note: I recommend publishing your work yourself (You Can Get Help Here). I no longer recommend ANY subsidy publisher.

I recommend strongly against AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and IUniverse and any other POD publisher who wants to charge you thousands of dollars, no matter what “services” they claim to provide.

If the company you’re considering charges you any up front fees for formatting, cover, etc. AND splits the royalties with you, avoid them. Get a lot more advice in this free PDF guide.

Next up, Setting MS Word Options. Until then, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

{ 0 comments }

To Be or Not To Be

by Harvey on March 25, 2015

Howdy folks,

This is yet another in the “out of the series” series of mid-term posts that might answer a few questions for some of you.

Recently a friend and fellow writer asked me for a recommendation of someone who could read his work. He explained that he wasn’t looking for an edit or even a proofread, but simply wanted someone to read it with an eye toward whether he should continue writing or shuck the whole thing as a horrible experiment gone wrong.

Okay, he wasn’t nearly that melodramatic, but you get the point. And you’ve probably asked a similar question at one time or another yourself. I know I did, many many many years ago.

We all want validation of our work, but you know that old saw about writing being a solitary endeavor? It’s true. And it should be true. If you’re submitting your work for critique to people who are no more experienced than you are, and if you’re listening to their recommendations, you’re writing by committee. And nothing—absolutely nothing EVER—good has come out of writing by committee. Just to get that out of the way early.

We used to get validation from a publisher. Many of you are still chasing traditional publishers and/or agents despite the fact that traditional publishing is currently issuing the worst contracts in the history of publishing. (Note: Don’t take my word for it. Ask your chosen agent or traditional publisher how soon, per their contract, all rights revert to the author after initial print publication of the book. The answer is simple: Never (or long enough that it might as well be never).

But even back in the bad old days when traditional publishers treated writers somewhat fairly and ruled the roost, what one publisher absolutely hated, another publisher loved. So your “validation” didn’t come necessarily as a result of your skill as a writer. It came as a result of having submitted your work to the right publisher.

Today is no different. Today we get our validation straight from the reader. If you write stuff that’s good, readers will like it, buy it, and tell other readers. If you don’t, well, leave it out there. Eventually the readers who like what you’ve written will surface for air.

Yeah, I know. That isn’t really what my friend was asking. He was asking whether I or someone I would recommend could read his work and then tell him, honestly and point blank, whether to keep his day job. Okay, first, if you have a day job and you’re writing around it, keep your day job. You might sell ten thousand copies of your novel this month and only six copies next month. Yes, it works like that.

Okay, this is “yeah I know,” part deaux. What my friend REALLY wanted to know is whether his work was worthwhile. And you know what? Nobody else can tell you that.

This isn’t a copout. Seriously, only YOU can prevent forest fires and only YOU can decide whether you should continue writing (and learning) and writing some more. Only you. Nobody else.

The Truth is, the only lasting worth that can ever be attached to writing (both the act and the product) is up to the writer himself or herself.

Basically, ask yourself this:

  1. Do you enjoy writing?
  2. Is writing a joyful thing for you?
  3. Is the pure unadulterated (or maybe adulterated, I don’t know) joy you derive from writing and stretching the truth and telling stories worth the time it takes to continue?

Only YOU know the answer. Just like you know that’s actually only one question. If the answer is yes, then write.

If the answer is no or nope or huhuh or nuhuh or hell no or areyoukiddin’me or anything else like that, then ohdeargawd by all means please find something to do that you actually enjoy doing and, you know, go do that.

There’s one other thing you can ask yourself, and for me personally this is a biggie. Is your goal to write, or is your goal to be published and make money?

If your goal is to write, then it’s all right to have those other goals too (publication and money). But if you think you’re gonna slap together a few short stories or even a few novels and find yourself rolling in it… well, you might be rolling in it, but it won’t be money.

I write what I want to read. As I write my short stories and novels, I’m constantly amazed at some of the things the characters say and some of the places they take me and some of the situations they get into. Not to mention how they get out of those situations. It’s an incredible experience, and I am awed by it.

Fortunately, I also find it a massive amount of fun. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a writer. I’d do something I enjoy.

‘Til next time,

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Hi Folks,

There are several items available for use in the Word menu (also called the Ribbon), and most of us use the Ribbon as-is out of the box. However, just in case you want to customize it, here are some brief instructions.

In this screenshot, the Ribbon is the horizontal white area that includes the menu tabs: File, Home, Insert, Page Layout, Review, and View. Other tabs are available (see Figure 5), but these are the only ones I use. The horizontal gray area just below the Ribbon is the Quick Access Toolbar.

1_800Figure 1

To set up the menu, place your cursor to the right side of the small down arrow on the Quick Access Toolbar and right click. This small drop-down menu will appear:

2Figure 2

When you click Customize the Ribbon, this dialogue box will open:

3_750Figure 3

You can see that Popular Commands are listed in the left pane and Main Tabs are listed in the right pane. To familiarize yourself with the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box, click the arrow to the right of Popular Commands. You’ll see another drop-down menu that looks like this:

4Figure 4

I recommend choosing from All Commands, but it’s less important in setting up the Ribbon (menu) than a bit later in setting up the Quick Access Toolbar. You’ll see a similar but much more extensive menu in that section a bit later. More important right now is the Main Tabs pane on the right. You can see my settings.

5Figure 5

Furthermore, you can click the little plus symbol in front of each checked item to add or remove menu items from that tab. For example, if you click the plus symbol before Home, you’ll probably see Clipboard, Font, Paragraph, Styles and Editing. In mine, I removed Styles because I don’t want the menu cluttered with them.

When I click my Home tab, it looks like this:

6Figure 6

If you intend to use Styles though, certainly you should leave them in place. You can easily customize the other tabs in the same way. Whatever you select during this process is what will appear in your Ribbon when you click a tabbed menu item. I encourage you to explore, but I also caution you not to delete a submenu item unless you’re certain you aren’t going to use it.

To add or remove tabs from the menu, simply check or uncheck the box that appears before each tabbed menu item (see Figure 5).

To remove a submenu item, click the plus symbol in front of the tabbed menu item. When the submenu items appear below it, click the submenu item you would like to remove. If Word will allow you to remove the item, the Remove button in the center of the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box will be illuminated. If not, it will be grayed-out (see Figure 3).

To add a submenu item, select the item from the left pane of the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box and click the Add button in the center. (There might be some further requirements. If so, Word will provide pop-up instructions.)

Until later, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Defining “A Huge Amount of Time”

by Harvey on March 17, 2015

Hi Folks,

Well, here we are with another post that isn’t part of the usual series. Still, even with these that are not part of the normal series, I try to pass along what I’ve learned as a writer.

This post is the result of an email I received in response to a recent short story of the week. The respondent (also a writer) writes,

[H]ow do you manage to get all these  stories edited?  Congratulations on your many stories…wow, one a week- sort of takes a huge amount of time.

I didn’t respond to him as thoroughly as I wanted to or probably should have, but I’ve grown a bit gun shy recently.

What I did tell him is that I send the stories to a first reader and then publish them. I told him I follow Heinlein’s Rules and that I follow a process called Writing Into the Dark. I said like Bradbury, I believe “plot” is what the characters leave behind as they run through the story. And finally I said I write about 1000 words per hour so writing a short story per week really doesn’t take up all that much time.

Then I got to thinking, I kind of enjoy writing these little interim posts, the ones that appear between the posts in the normal ten-day rotation, so why not write one about this and expand on my answer to him? After all, if even one writer out there gets an aha moment from it, that will be great for that one writer.

For the majority, who will think this is all hooey or that Heinlein’s Rules can’t possibly work for anyone but SF writers or whatever, well, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything to help them anyway. They’ll have to just keep doing what they’re doing, and that’s fine with me.

But for that one guy, that one woman, for whom the little light might come on, here’s what I should have written in response to the gentleman’s email:

I don’t have the stories edited, per se. I do have a first reader (and copy editor) read over them and look for inconsistencies, wrong words (e.g. waist vs. waste), etc. but nothing else. The cost of the copy edit, like the cost of the cover and the time involved in writing the story, is an investment. Whatever that total cost is, that’s all I’m ever going to put into it. Yet the story will earn income for me and my heirs from the time I publish it until 70 years after I die.

If it costs you $150 (time writing plus cover plus edit) to publish a story, and you make only $15 per year on that story from all sales venues, that’s a ten percent Return On Investment. Not too shabby. And if you’re smart you publish every short story on its own plus in a five-story collection plus in a ten-story collection. So for every story I write, I have three streams of revenue.

So here’s what I do. Per Heinlein’s Rules,

  1. You must write. (I write.)
  2. You must finish what you write. (I finish what I write.)
  3. You must not rewrite except to editorial order, and then only if you agree. (I don’t rewrite.)
  4. You must put your work on the market. (I publish what I write so readers can buy it.)
  5. You must keep your work on the market. (I keep it published so more writers can buy it.)

Writing a short story per week isn’t a problem for me because I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Does it take some time? Yes. About one hour per 1000 words plus an hour to design a cover and publish it. But what else am I gonna do? I’m a writer. Writers write.

Would you say to a mechanic, “Man, you put in one carburetor per week? That must sort of take a huge amount of time.” If he’s a mechanic, what else is he gonna do?

As I also told my respondent, writing a story per week isn’t a problem. The problem is having to stop working on the current novel to write the story. Over the first 15 days of March 2015, I wrote 30,852 new words of fiction. That’s only a little over 2000 words per day, so right at 2 hours per day.

From January 1, 2015 through March 15, 2015 (so 74 days), I’ve written 172,354 words of new fiction. Still, that’s only 2329 words per day. That’s less than 3 hours per day. I’m currently working on two novels. For those of you who have read the Wes Crowley series (Leaving Amarillo, Longing for Mexico, and South to Mexico), I’m currently writing a prequel to Leaving Amarillo and a sequel to South to Mexico. It’s absolutely the greatest fun I’ve ever had.

I mentioned earlier I write about 1000 words per hour. If that seems like a lot, divide it by 60. You’ll find that 1000 words per hour is only 17 words per minute. Can you write 17 words in a minute?

Now, my respondent was impressed that I write a short story per week. He said it “sort of takes a huge amount of time.” But I’m a writer. Why do folks—and especially other writers—find it unusual that I want to (or can) Just Do My Job (write) three or four or five hours per day? Is that really “a huge amount of time”? Not if you’re a writer.

Life is all about priorities, and we each set our own. I mean, if you have other things in your life that are more important to you than writing, then spending three hours per day writing probably would seem like a lot of time to you. But to me, walking along the beach for three hours would seem a horrible waste of time. Watching TV for more than about an hour per day would be excruciating.

I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else than writing, because I’m a writer and writing is my priority.

Ray Bradbury once wrote, “I love to write. It’s all I do.” I can relate. At one point during his career, Bradbury was writing a short story every day.

More than one time during his long career, Harlan Ellison set up a small desk and a chair and typewriter in the display window of a department store and wrote stories “live.” As he rolled a completed sheet of paper out of the typewriter, he’d tape it to the window so people outside could read the story as he was writing it.

Writers write. That’s all. Writers write.

If you want to be a prolific writer (if you want to make your living as a writer) you don’t have to write  garbage, and you don’t have to be a “hack” writer. You just have to put the hours in the chair.

What you do have to do is stop rewriting and polishing your original voice off everything you write. Follow Heinlein’s Rules. And instead of being the great Writer God On High directing the little characters, step down off your pedestal and run through the story WITH them. Enjoy.

I promise, it will be the most fun you’ve ever had.

Harvey

PS: If you’d like to learn some of these techniques and you live in or near Tucson, I’m teaching what will probably be the final presentation of Writing the Character Driven Story in Tucson on Saturday, March 28. We’ll begin at 9 a.m. and go all day. If you want in, email me pronto and I’ll send the rest of the info. I have only a couple of slots left.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Microsoft Word for Writers: Introduction

by Harvey on March 11, 2015

Hi Folks,

This post and the next seven are excerpted and expanded from a seminar I put together awhile back titled “Microsoft Word for Writers.” I also posted this series before, a couple years ago, on this blog. However, I have updated the information where necessary.

I encourage you to comment and share new information, but please question, comment or expand only on the topic of the current post. Today’s post briefly introduces Microsoft Word and offers other valuable resources, including alternatives to Microsoft Word and where to purchase it if you don’t already have it.

The remaining posts in this series, which will appear every ten days, are nuts and bolts stuff, and they will include screenshots for your convenience. If you have two computer screens, you will be able to read the blog post on one screen while practicing in Microsoft Word on the other. Of course you can also simply print out or otherwise save the blog post and practice later. The screenshots are sequentially numbered throughout the series:

  • Setting Up the Menu
  • Setting Up the Quick Access Toolbar
  • Setting Word Options
  • Find & Replace (The Most Valuable Tool in Word)
  • The Paragraph Formatting Tool (includes an overall example of the Find & Replace function used in conjunction with the font- and paragraph-formatting tools)
  • Odds & Ends
  • Styles

Introduction

Microsoft Word comes as part of the Microsoft Office package. Different versions of Word have different features, or the same features in different places. This series is based on Microsoft Word 2010. If you’re using an earlier version, your dialogue boxes might look slightly different from the screenshots in these blog posts. Any techniques I mention here will be essentially the same, although you might have to think a bit and alter the instruction to suit your version of Word.

To see which version you have, click Help and then About Microsoft Word. (In some versions, Help is a separate tab in the menu. In others, it’s located under the File tab in the menu or in the upper right corner of the Word screen as a white question mark in a blue circle.)

I work with a PC, but from what my Apple-oriented friends tell me, Microsoft Word for Mac is comparable. Thanks to Alison Holt, a dear friend and excellent author, for providing me with the location of this PC to Mac and Mac to PC Converter. It’s an excellent resource.

Where Can I Get MS Word Without Breaking the Bank?

Of course, it’s always better if you can go to Staples or your store of choice and purchase the full version of Microsoft Office outright, and that’s what I recommend if you can afford it. You can also purchase the military and student version on military bases at the base or post exchange if you have privileges (saves sales tax). However, in the real world, you can also visit eBay or Amazon. Key in “Microsoft Word 2010” or “Microsoft Office 2010” and see what pops up. Even if it’s used, if you receive the OEM (original) program on CD and the Product Key, you’ll be fine. Of course, I do not endorse piracy or purchasing or using products illegally.

If you want to purchase the newer Microsoft Office or Word, it’s available either as a subscription (Office 365) or as a dedicated program (Office 2013). I personally prefer Office (and Word) 2010 because it does everything I need it to do and it’s a dedicated program, meaning once I buy it, it’s installed on my computer (the license I bought is for up to 3 computers) and it doesn’t keep costing me in the future. With the subscription version (it’s called Office 365) the subscription is for one year (about $99) and for up to five computers.

Alternatives to Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office)

LibreOffice—This is a good alternative for Microsoft Word. Not quite as many bells and whistles, not quite as customizable as Word, but it’s free and it’s very intuitive. I used this one for a long time on the small laptop that is dedicated only to my writing. Like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. Get it at http://www.libreoffice.org/download/libreoffice-fresh/.

WPS Office— This is another good alternative for Microsoft Word, and again it’s free. Between this one and LibreOffice, I liked Libre more, but your results might vary. (grin) Again, like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. You can get WPS Office at http://www.wps.com/windows/.

Apache OpenOffice—This suite reportedly does everything Word can do, and it supposedly does it even more easily or more intuitively. You can get Apache OpenOffice 4.0 at http://www.openoffice.org/. According to the OpenOffice site, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s both free and fully compatible with all versions of Microsoft Office. Similar to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice contains a word processor (called Writer instead of Word), a spreadsheet (Calc instead of Excel), a multimedia presentation program (Impress instead of PowerPoint), a drawing program (Draw—here it seems to me they’re taking a page from Corel), plus a database program (Base) and an equation editor (Math). I have not personally used OpenOffice, but I’ve heard nothing bad about it.

Jarte—This is basically a souped-up version of Microsoft’s WordPad. It has all the basic editing and formatting (both font and paragraph) functions, but it does not have the more advance features like Track Changes. Jarte is available at http://www.jarte.com/. I do have this program and I use it when I want to “just write” without being distracted with all the bells and whistles. Jarte is a free word processor, although you can pay a small fee to get the few extra bells and whistles of Jarte Plus. If you try and enjoy Jarte, I do recommend you upgrade to Jarte Plus just to help support the developers.

Writing Software

I do not recommend or endorse any so-called writing software, but some people swear by it. In case it’s something you would like to try, here are a couple:

yWriter5, for Windows PCs—This is billed at SpaceJock.com/yWriter5.html?yWriter5 as “novel writing software.” It’s a word processor that “breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author…. yWriter5 is free to download and use, but you’re encouraged to register your copy if you find it useful.”

Scrivener—This program used to be available only for Mac, but it’s now available for Windows PCs as well as Mac OSX. Visit the website at LiteratureAndLatte.com/scrivener.php. You can get a free trial (I don’t know what’s included in the free trial), and the cost for the full version is $40. The site includes video tutorials. Among other features, Scrivener enables you to edit multiple documents, store virtual index cards on a “corkboard,” outline your project, and create collections to help you keep track of notes, etc. If this is something that appeals to you, I encourage you to visit the site to see what Scrivener has to offer.

You can find these and many more helpful links—including dictionaries and translators, various conversion engines, and a lot more—on my website at HarveyStanbrough.com/resources.

Next time, Setting Up the Menu. Until then happy writing!
Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

On Being Selfish

by Harvey on March 5, 2015

Hey Folks,

This is another “extra” post, not part of the regular 10-day cycle.

If I could assume the attitude of any other writer, it would be that of Ray Bradbury. There are a lot of quotations about him and from him, but the one biggie I always associate with him is, “I love to write. It’s all I do.”

It’s very easy for me to allow myself to slip into living in the past. Had I found Heinlein’s Rules and WITD (Writing Into the Dark, such a simple, freeing technique) when I was in high school, I probably would never have done anything else in my life. What a wonderful life that would have been.

But as Charlie Task keeps reminding me, all I can do is make the most of the present. It is what it is.

Still, there are some things for which I’m grateful. Chief among them is that I’m very glad I don’t still carry around the illusion of immortality that comes with youth.

A friend recently reminded me that fifteen years ago last month (February), I was recuperating from The Ross Procedure, an operation during which my aortic and pulmonic valves were replaced. If you like medical stuff and science, look it up. It’s interesting.

Of course, me being who I am, the surgery, which should have taken 4.5 hours, took 7.5 instead. And afterward I coded. I laugh and tell people I died three times that day. Twice my heart was stopped and my body temp lowered to facilitate the operation. The third time probably my spirit stepped out for a look around. Or maybe a sip of Jameson’s.

That is when I learned I wasn’t immortal, and it brought with it a lesson on the value of time. And that lesson is why I’m glad I don’t still carry around the illusion of immortality. I know how important priorities are, and there is zero ambiguity in my life regarding my priorities.

Well, for whatever reason, I didn’t find Heinlein’s Rules and WITD in my early youth. But you would think Fate would have allowed me to stumble across them in February 2000, right? That would have been perfect, finding those gems at the same time I learned the true value of time.

Just think. That would have been fifteen more years that I would have been turning out my own work rather than trying to teach others how to write. Let’s see. At six novels per year (minimum) and one short story per week, that would have been 90 novels and 780 short stories. Not a bad body of work.

But it is what it is.

I didn’t find Heinlein’s Business Rules for Writers or the WITD technique until February 2014, a year ago as I write this. I didn’t start using them until mid-April 2014, and even then I was still glued to the notion that I could help other writers.

I started sawing on the umbilical cord in August, and finally, finally, I cut them adrift in October. Between late October and the end of December, I wrote three novels. That’s in addition to writing at least one short story per week since April 15. As you read this, that challege will end in six weeks. Maybe. I might keep the streak alive.

If I keep my one-story-per-week streak going at least until then, I will have written 59 short stories in that 52 weeks. Plus the three novels. Plus a novella. And I published all of those stories individually and in 13 collections.

I’m not bragging here. I’m just saying, like everybody else who has to put up with living in a mortal shell, I don’t get a redo. But that’s all right, because now I know the value of time and that life is a matter of priorities. And of course, like everyone else, I set my own priorities.

Is that selfish of me? Sure. Absolutely. But it is what it is.

Now, at long last, I can say, “I love to write. It’s all I do.” If you’re a writer, I wish the same for you.

Harvey

If you’d care to learn about Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark yourself, visit the Audio Lectures tab on my website and look at Lecture 12.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

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