The Journal, Thursday, 6/2

The Day

Rolled out a little after 2.

Well, first, very pleased to report all three of my blogs are now in one central location. In the upper right corner of my new website, you can now click a link to subscribe to the Story of the Week, The Daily Journal, and/or The Main Blog (Pro Writers category). When you subscribe, your email address will be added to whichever list(s).

If you’re subscribed to The Main Blog, you will receive that post in your email every ten days (1, 11, 21 of each month). If you’re subscribed to the Story of the Week, you will receive a freshly minted short story in your email every Monday. If you are subscribed to The Daily Journal, you will receive that post in your email every day just after 6 p.m.

Not a lot to the day today. Tweaked the website a bit more. Added a My Personas page and then a page for each persona. That was kind’a fun. I also put a new short story on the Harvey Stanbrough page and on the Eric Stringer page. So if you aren’t subscribe to the story per week and you’d like to read a couple of really good short stories, stop by there.

I wrote a little bit, then had to a pretty good walk, then tweaked the site a bit more. Then I wrote a bit more. That’s the whole secret to being a writer, as I think I talked about recently in a topic of the night. It isn’t just writing all the time (nobody deserves that much Heaven). It’s coming back and coming back and coming back.

Topic of the Night: Dean Wesley Smith is Insane

Of course, I mean that in only the best possible way. (grin)

Dean issued himself a new challenge. He’s going to write a new original short story every day during the month of July. Even I am not that insane. But I am thinking of starting a pool to bet on when he’ll break the streak. I might even tell him about the pool. Maybe that’ll keep him going for 31 stories in 31 days. (grin)

Also, remember that his “day” is not like most people’s day. His day begins at around 1 p.m. and goes until around 5 a.m. the next morning.

I urge you to go take a look at his blog today.

Also take a look at his topic of the night. It’s about creating and using a Title Generator. Interesting stuff, especially if you can write a story off a title. I often do that with my short fiction.

The Writing

Decent day of writing today. I feel like I’m building up slowly or something. I could have hit at least another thousand words today. The story’s really rolling. But when NYPD Blue came on, I psyched myself. I decided I’d turn on the TV and turn up the sound and just LISTEN to NYPD Blue but continue writing. Then I’d watch all five episodes on Sunday anyway.

Nope. It’s just too good a show. When I turned it on, I stopped for just a moment, was drawn in by the hook, and spent the next 45 minutes (no commercials on Audience) watching an excellent show.

So I got just a little over 2000 today. No biggie.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 2486

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906

Total fiction words for the month…………… 3538
Total fiction words for the year……………… 408884

The Journal, Wednesday, 7/1

The Day

NOTE: I’m trying something today with this blog post. I’m sending it from my main website at If it goes only to those who are signed up specifically for this journal, then it’s all good. If you are reading this and you are NOT signed up for this journal (formerly, please accept my apologies. Thanks.

Rolled out a little after 2. Wow. July just kind’a snuck up on me. Even as I was posting this note yesterday, I didn’t equate 6/30 with the end of the month.

My goal for the month of June was to mimic the month of May in word count and get 80,000 words. I didn’t. I fell short by about 14,000 words, but I’ll take 66,000 and call it good. (grin)

I have to get labs done at 7:30 this morning for a doc appointment next week so I didn’t want to start anything with the novel yet. So I continued working on websites a bit this morning, tweaking here and there. By the way, if any of you would like to talk about websites, themes, plugins etc. just email me. I’ll help in any way I can.

So web stuff for the first two and a half hours of the day, and then I came here to do this. I’ll finish what I’m gonna do here, and then go over to the main blog and write at least one post (maybe two or three) and schedule it for publication. I like to stay a little ahead over there so I don’t have to worry about it.

Then I’ll go do the labs and then back here to write.

Wound up working with the website again. Sigh. The day’s nearly over for me so I’m gonna prep this for the test I mentioned in the opening sentence.

Topic of the Night: Writers’ Conferences

I was invited to speak at the Missouri Writers’ Guild conference in Kansas City next April. They want me to present in two breakout sessions (45 minutes each) and then teach a master’s class on the final day. They’re paying me pretty well plus airfare, hotel and food, so yeah, I’m going. (grin) It’ll be kind of fun after not having presented at a big deal conference for so long.

At one time, I presented at 18 in a year. That was rough. Anyway, I say that so you understand where I’m coming from here. I’ve presented at a lot of conferences and I’ve always given attendees something of value. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case at all conferences or with all speakers.

Many speakers have no problem taking the fee and then dropping names for half their presentation time, telling attendees all about the famous people they’ve met.

Other speakers will do the same thing and then spend half the presentation time hyping their own books or other products.

Yet others simply don’t know what they’re talking about. Some people take a great deal of pleasure in teaching things they don’t know. Perhaps it makes them feel better about themselves or something. I don’t know. There are FAR more of this kind of presenter at conferences now than there used to be, probably because of the money crunch.

But my point here is just this: Before you attend a conference, do your research. Unless it’s Breadloaf or the Iowa Writers’ Conference or something like that. Do your homework. Look up the presenters. What have they accomplished, especially in the topic they’re presenting?

Actually, the same goes for speakers at any gathering of writers. If you go and listen and buy into bad information, it’s really difficult to dislodge that and replace it with valid information.

I think it was Mark Twain who once said it’s much easier to fool people than it is to convince them that they’ve been fooled.

So hey, be careful out there.

The Writing
Weak start to the month. I’m not stuck or anything. Allowed my attention to be diverted by this new bright, shiny obejct. (grin) Back on the writing tomorrow.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 1052

Writing of Book 8 in the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420

Total fiction words for the month…………… 1052
Total fiction words for the year……………… 406398

Exclusivity = Professional Suicide

Well, maybe not suicide, but at least a really severe professional mangling.

Hey Folks,

I’ve recently become aware there are still some writers out there who have made a conscious decision not to publish their work through Smashwords. Frankly, I suspect that’s due in part to the Smashwords Style Guide being so stinkin’ convoluted that it’s difficult to read, much less understand.

That’s okay. I agree.

In fact, I agree so much that after I finally figured out the process (back in 2011) I wrote an alternative instruction book titled The Essentials of Digital Publishing.

I’ve sold a few thousand copies of that ebook around the world. I’ve sold several hundred copies through Amazon, a few dozen through Barnes & Noble, several hundred more through Apple, and the rest through Library Direct, Baker & Taylor, Page Foundry, Scribd, TXTR, Oyster, Flipkart, Kobo, OverDrive and the Smashwords store. (Before they went under, I also sold many copies through Diesel and Sony.)

The thing is this: If I had sold exclusively to Amazon, I would have sold several hundred copies (around 800) of that book over the past five years. Because I did NOT slice away a massive chunk of the reading public by bending to Amazon’s exclusivity clause, I’ve sold just over four THOUSAND copies instead.

Now, The Essentials of Digital Publishing sells on Smashwords for $9.99. My royalty is $7.99 for every copy sold through Smashwords. For copies sold through other stores (for those listed above, Smashwords is the distributor), my royalty is $6.63 per copy. For copies sold through Amazon, I receive $6.99 per copy.

You can do the math. (This doesn’t give you exact figures because I’ve changed the price on the book a couple times, etc.)

Now understand, I don’t just have the one book up there for sale. I currently have around 90 short stories up for sale as well as 9 novels and around 14 nonfiction books, including The Essentials of Digital Publishing.

All of those are for sale in all of the venues I mentioned above.

Imagine all the sales I’m missing if I go exclusively with Amazon?

But like I said up front, I suspect a lot of you are toddling off into exclusivity land because you have trouble following the Smashwords Style Guide. And as I also said up front, I don’t blame you.

So here’s the deal. You can go, right now, to my new daily blog over at When you get there, click on the new Downloads page I just put up. You can download any or all of the documents listed there absolutely free of charge.

That includes the third item, The Essentials of Digital Publishing. It’s a $9.99 value and it’s FREE. C’mon, you can’t beat that deal with a stick.

And I don’t want anything in return.

While you’re there, if you look over a few of the recent blog posts and find them of interest, sign up. That’s free too, at least for the time being. That site takes a lot of my time and I add a new topic of the day almost every day, so I might make it a paying site before too long. But those who are already signed up will continue without paying.

Also, if you find the site of interest or the information there valuable, please consider dropping something in my tip jar on the way out. There’s a link on the bottom of the page there.

And if not, absolutely no worries.

Now go, download, learn to format your Word document for Smashwords AND Amazon and stop cutting off about 2/3 of the readers in the world.

Happy writing!


Note: Eformatting your own work isn’t for everyone, even after following my excellent instructions (grin). If you’d rather hire someone to do that for you, email me at and I’ll pass along the names of some folks who do excellent work at fair prices.

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.

Writing Memoir

Wait! Before you click off ’cause maybe you aren’t interested in this topic, read this:

If you are NOT a subscriber yet over at and if you ARE a writer, you want to do yourself a favor and stop over there to read yesterday’s post. I think you’ll enjoy it. (grin)

Okay, now go ahead and read about Writing Memoir, below.

Hi Folks,

I’m pretty sure a lot of folks who read my blog are interested in writing memoir. This is not a how-to. This is a Go Ahead If You Want To post. Here, I’ll explain some things I think you might find helpful.

I often hear from folks who are considering writing a memoir, but wonder whether anyone other than their family will want to read it. They say things like, “My life just isn’t all that interesting, y’know?”

I always respond the same way. Your life is unique. You are a character on the world stage, and almost everyone is interested. Ever notice how much more interesting a famous sports figure or celebrity or Joe Schmuckatelly down the street becomes when you find out something unique about him? So if you’re considering writing a memoir, stop considering and start writing.

Consider this: Say a person lived his entire life in one room of a basement. He never went out, never saw anything but the basement walls. Aside from the sheer horror of that thought, this person might be said to have lived the most boring life ever. Now, given that, if that same person managed to write a memoir of his life in that basement, would you pay to read it? I would.

A few years ago a correspondent asked whether I’d written a  post about writing memoir. Specifically, she wanted to know whether it was all right to use the techniques of fiction while writing her own memoir.

Here’s my response:

Most of my blog posts pertain to writing in general, and therefore pertain as well to writing memoir. For example, the use of various types of punctuation, quotation marks, paragraphing, using strong action verbs rather than state-of-being verbs when possible, the difference between active and passive voice (don’t let the narrator use the “sense” verbs), etc.

But to answer your question specifically, memoir is MUCH more similar to fiction than dissimilar. Consider…

  • Fiction is how the writer remembers something that hasn’t happened yet. Memoir is how the writer remembers something that did happen. If different people write a memoir about the same event, each telling will be different.
  • Fiction is told from a particular point of view (usually the narrator), and memoir is told from a particular point of view, again, usually the narrator.

But what about using dialogue in memoir?

The writer was concerned that she couldn’t accurately quote dialogue unless perhaps she had recorded the dialogue of the day in her journals, or unless she could remember specifically what was said.

Another memoirist for whom I was editing awhile back had told me I absolutely was not allowed to “adjust” any of the dialogue she wrote down because “it’s written exactly as it was said.” I told her and the current correspondent the same thing:

Actually, you wrote the dialogue exactly as you remembered it was said, and we often hear things differently than they’re actually said. In other words, it’s simply dialogue. And as dialogue it serves more than one purpose.

Although certainly it’s meant to convey an accurate record of what was said, dialogue between characters (yes, even in memoir) immediately makes the reader lean in to the story, as if he’s eavesdropping. It forces the reader to be immediately engaged in the story, invested in it. And again, the dialogue doesn’t have to be exactly what was said word for word. After all, you aren’t transcribing for a court of law. (Yeah, as if THAT isn’t fiction.)

So how does a memoirist handle dialogue? Of course, you don’t want to tell outright lies in your memoir, but many memoirists take certain literary liberties when they encounter “missing” gaps even when they’re writing based on someone’s diary.

When you’re writing based only on your journals or your memory, shouldn’t you also feel free to fill in the gaps with literary license? And if that holds true for narrative, it holds true for dialogue as well.

In memoir, as in fiction, dialogue must be smoothed out so it both engages the reader and helps the reader through the story. What dialogue does have to be is interesting, and that isn’t hard to do. For the reader, it’s immediately interesting simply because it’s dialogue, a direct communication from the character to the “eavesdropping” reader.

As you write dialogue in your memoir, look at yourself as a translator. You’re translating the Spirit of the conversation, the essence, not the exact words. You’re getting your story out there, and that’s what matters.

And it really does matter. As a dear friend, Marilyn Pate, wrote about memoir, “Your story is unique. It is the treasure you take with you when you pass away unless it is written or recorded.”

Don’t take your stories with you. Write it down, at least for your children and grandchildren.

If you’re an aspiring memoirist, I have the same top two bits of advice for you that I have for all writers:

  1. Start writing.
  2. Don’t stop.

‘Til next time, happy writing.


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.

A New Series of Posts

Hi Folks,

This is to introduce a new series of posts.

Two of my recent posts have been about learning, but many others (especially those on FrostProof808) have been about writing into the dark, a function of the subconscious mind.

The thing is, you LEARN with the conscious (critical) mind. You WRITE with your subconscious, creative mind.

So this series will be nuts and bolts stuff to feed your conscious mind. What is important will sift into your subconscious and flow out through your fingers as you type.

I know some of you believe that is nonsense. Some of you believe you have to think your way through writing a book.

But consider, do you have to stop and consciously think about where each letter goes in a word as you write it? Of course not. Do you have to stop and consciously think about whether to use a period or a question mark after a particular group of words? No.

Note: If you just thought Well, every now and then I have to stop and think of how to spell a word, that’s your conscious mind trying to “protect” you from trusting your subconscious. It’s trying to protect you from writing, finishing what you write, and submitting it for publication or publishing it. If you don’t do any one of those, then you can’t suffer rejection.

Why? Because you LEARNED those things years ago. You absorbed them. They sifted into your subconscious and now they simply flow out as necessary.

So this series will be some more stuff, no doubt a refresher, that you may consider, comment on, ask questions about. Or just take it to the bank and let it seep into your subconscious.

If you have not heard ME talk about some of the upcoming topics, just trust me, you want this series. If you HAVE heard me talk about it or you have my books, this will still be a good refresher and provide you with a place (the comments section) where you can ask questions.

ALSO, all of these topics will be updated with new information I’ve picked up since I’ve been writing full time (since October 19, 2014). Like all other writers, I continue to learn.

In addition to writing about overall topics like Memoir, Priorities, Creating Flow, Writing Great Beginnings, “Show Don’t Tell” and others, I’ll also hit some of the nuts and bolts stuff. And if you haven’t heard MY take on this stuff, seriously, you want to hang around:

Punctuation for Writers — this isn’t the same old stuff you heard repeatedly in school. Come to think of it, if what they told us was so good, why did they have to tell us year after year after year and yet we still don’t quite get it? Hang around here. You will get it.

Hyphens, the Em Dash, Ellipses, Oh My! — A special, more in-depth look at these and more “spelling punctuation”… as well as why I call some of these spelling punctuation and what makes all of these different from regular punctuation.

Writing Dialogue — again, stuff you’ve never heard before or have never heard like this.

Capitalization — when to capitalize, what to capitalize, what NOT to capitalize

Writing Dialect, The Dialogue-Narrative Percentage, The Use of Tag Lines, Writing Characters — all of these and more are coming in this nuts and bolts series.

There will also be posts on newer things I’ve learned, things I’ve not blogged about before, like Pacing, Writing Setting, Writing Scene and more.

This is not the art, the wine. This is the whiskey, the hard stuff, the mechanical stuff, the gears and cogs and little whirring sounds that bring your story to life for the reader. Many of you have heard of deus ex machina, the god from the machine. This stuff is the machinery inside the god.

Stay tuned, and get your friends to drop by. I think you’re gonna like it.


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.

Learn, But Be Careful Out There

Hi Folks,

Note: I’m not sure why this post missed going out on June 1, but I’m looking into it. In any case, here it is a day late. Harvey

This is an important blog post. I first posted it over on The Journal in slightly different form. I encourage you to sign up for that blog. It is the more important of the two, and if this one goes away, that one will continue.

As you know, I advocate that writers never stop learning. The best way to learn (once you have a good working knowledge of grammar, punctuation, etc.) is to read for pleasure. Then, when you read a passage or a story or a scene that absolutely floors you, GO BACK after you’ve finished reading for pleasure and read it again, this time with an eye to HOW the writer did what he or she did to knock your socks off. Study. You’ll get it.

When you enjoy a particular writer’s style—the way the story flows or the rhythms or the unique word choice, for example—I even advocate writing the passage or scene or story again yourself, word for word, NOT to publish, but just to experience that flow or those rhythms.

I’ve gone so far as to write an alternate ending for a novel of one very famous writer to see how closely I could keep to her style. Others to whom I showed the work couldn’t tell a difference. Writing parodies or take-offs is another excellent way to study.

Now, will such exercises supplant your own personal style? Absolutely not. But they will inform it. They will help you grow as a writer, help your writing improve.

And best of all, you won’t have to THINK about it consciously. What you need will have seeped into your subconscious as you did the exercises, and it will flow out of your fingers into the keyboard as you write.

One of my personal favorite writers is James Lee Burke. The first book I read of his (a few months ago) was In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. I intend to read everything he’s written before it’s all over.

Another of my favorites is whoever wrote the screenplay(s) for The Godfather series. Another is whoever wrote the screenplay(s) for the Lonesome Dove series. And for the film Tombstone (with Val Kilmer). And pretty much every episode of NYPD Blue.

Okay, so learning is good. We probably agree on that. And improving is even better. So what’s the beef? What’s that “But Be Careful Out There” part all about?

I know dozens, maybe hundreds, of writers and would-be writers who listen to and absorb at face value pretty much anything anyone says or writes about the craft of writing. That goes double if they’re listening to or reading something from a successful writer.


Now it would take a whole other blog post to talk about false instructors, people who apparently get some perverse pleasure from teaching something they know absolutely nothing about. On that particular subtopic, I’ll just say this: If they say something that sounds ridiculous (like “get rid of all instances of ‘had’ from your work” or “I can’t explain xxxxxxxxx but I know it when I see it”), stop listening immediately. Seriously. They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about and I’d be more than happy to debate it with them. I DESPISE false instructors for all the harm they do.

But in this post, I want to talk about writers who are successful under pretty much any definition of success: they’ve hit bestseller lists, they’ve made a ton of money, they’ve achieved prestigious award nominations, they’ve sold tons of copies, etc. Any or all of the above.

Doesn’t that mean everything they say is gold?

No. Absolutely not. They are human.

Humans have quirks and prejudices, and no human being knows everything about any topic.

Also, no human being knows the intentions of other human beings. Period.

Please, be skeptical. If you’ve attended my own writing conferences over the years, you’ve heard me say you should Question Everything, even from me. Questioning costs you nothing and it helps you learn. And if the instructor (famous writer, etc.) becomes defensive or angry when you question what he says, listen to his future musings with an even larger grain of salt.

Let me give you an example of a usually great source of information who sometimes completely blows it. This guy has touched all the success markers I listed above. He’s written bestsellers. He’s sold millions of copies of his books worldwide and made good money (I assume) doing it. He’s also been in the business as a writer for over 30 years. Good credentials, yes? But he’s also human, with all that entails.

Dean Wesley Smith is my own unintentional mentor. He and I are about the same age, and we’ve both lived very active, physical lives albeit in different ways. We’ve both endured severe physical trauma (though again of different types) and come out the other side. And we speak at least the same family of languages, those that arose during the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s.

I have learned a great deal listening to Dean and reading what he’s written. I’ve learned more about writing in the past year, mostly from Dean, than I learned over the previous 60+ years combined, and I will be forever grateful to him for that, above and beyond all the money I’ve paid for his online workshops and video lectures.

But again, he’s human.

The fact is, sometimes Dean throws a broad blanket of degradation over anything he doesn’t understand or doesn’t like. He tends to generalize, and for me it’s a red flag. Generalizations indicate ignorance. Not stupidity, but a lack of knowledge or a lack of desire to gain knowledge. Just for a few examples, in the past, he’s written that

  • Nobody who edits can possibly be a good writer. (There is no possible way he can know that.)
  • All book doctors and freelance editors are scam artists. (Some of them are, but certainly not all. I suspect he had a bad experience with a bad freelance editor in the past.)
  • The only legitimate editors work for New York publishing houses. (Doesn’t WMG publishing, Dean’s own house, have an editor?)
  • Never have your work edited by anyone who hasn’t written at least [select any number over 50] novels (Huh? I thought editors can’t be writers.)
  • Nobody who started writing in this century can possibly be a polished (“Stage Four”) writer. (I started writing way back in the previous century but I don’t buy this for a second.)

And the list goes on.

These generalizations—like ALL generalizations—are myths, and they’re absolutely as bad as the generalization that “If he writes fast, he can’t possibly write well.”

For one thing, claiming to know someone else’s intent (all book doctors and freelance editors are scam artists) is a massive dose of bovine excrement. That’s no less silly than claiming to know how well someone writes when you haven’t read so much as a paragraph of that writer’s work.

And really? The twenty-something straight out of college who is working for a New York house is a “legitimate” editor whereas people who have a gift for the language and a thorough knowledge of all the rules of grammar and punctuation are not?

Now, had Dean written that

  • SOME people who are great editors couldn’t write fiction well, or
  • SOME book doctors and freelance editors are scam artists, or
  • SOME book doctors and freelance editors are scam artists,

I would agree.

You get the point.

But what bothers me most about this is that, judging from the comments on his posts, a LOT of young writers (in experience, not necessarily age) are ingesting whole everything he says.

So I’m just sayin’, don’t be one of those. Develop a healthy level of skepticism.

Certainly you should continue to learn from those with experience, especially those whose work you admire. When you hear or read something that makes sense to you, use it.

But when it doesn’t make sense to you, ask for clarification. And if when you ask, the source becomes defensive, then I recommend 1) disbelieving what he said and 2) listening to anything in the future from that source with even more skepticism.

And the same thing goes for generalizations.

‘Til next time, be careful out there, and happy writing!


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.

Microsoft Word for Writers: A Few Notes About Styles

Hi Folks,

Drive Carefully_200This post will be the last in my Microsoft Word for Writers series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and gotten some benefit from it. Of course, I’ll be back in about 10 days with a new post on a topic of interest to writers, self-editors and self-publishers.

Some have mentioned that I haven’t explained Microsoft Word’s styles function. That’s because this blog series is intended as a general guide to using Microsoft Word as a writer or editor, not for laying out ebooks or periodicals or other publications. However, I’ll touch on the styles function here just to round out the series.

Per my friend, Chris O’Byrne, “A style is a way of defining how a paragraph (or character) will look.” Working with styles is simply a matter of defining the style, and then applying the style. Let’s work up an example.

Say you want all the chapter heads in a book to be 18 point bold Helvetica. You want the chapter heads left aligned with no indentation and you want a 24 point horizontal space (blank line) before each chapter head and a 12 point space after it.

To Define the Style

in your menu (or ribbon) you would click the Home tab and look for Styles or Quick Styles. This is how mine looks:

Figure 20Figure 20

If you click the Quick Styles icon (in Figure 20 it’s on the right), you’ll get a pop-out menu that looks similar to this (please forgive the warped appearance of the final few pics in this post):

21Figure 21

The third item in the top row is the Heading 1 style. If you right click that icon, in the ensuing dropdown menu you’ll see Modify.

22Figure 22

Finally, when you click Modify you’ll see this dialogue box:

23Figure 23

As you can see, you can change the font face, size and attributes about 1/3 of the way down the dialogue box, but if you click Format at the bottom left corner, you can set the Font and Paragraph aspects as well as several other settings. When you’re finished, simply click OK.

To Apply the Style

once you’ve defined the style, you’ll select (highlight) each chapter head, then go to your Quick Styles menu and click Heading 1. Word will apply all aspects of the style to the selected text. Of course, you can also modify the definition of any of the styles in the Quick Style menu following the steps above.

The true benefit of using styles comes later. Say you decide you’d rather all the chapter heads would be 16 point Arial instead of 18 point Helvetica. Instead of selecting and changing each chapter head, you would simply right click Heading 1 in your Quick Styles menu and modify it to use Arial instead of Helvetica and 16 point instead of 18 point. Once you click OK, all the chapter heads would automatically change from 18 point Helvetica to 16 point Arial. It’s just that easy.

However, although such mechanical niceties certainly can come in handy when laying out a book or a periodical for publication, as a writer (or editor) that isn’t your job.

As I’ve been telling writers since the mid-1990s, in a manuscript you don’t want any special formatting. You don’t want exciting and flashy. You don’t want anything on the page to distract the reader (meaning the editor or publisher) from the story.

To prepare your manuscript for submission to agents, editors and publishers

First, use Times New Roman 12 point font throughout. No great mystery here. I recommend Times New Roman because if you use an em dash, it will show up as the right length. The manuscript should be doublespaced throughout.

The title of the overall work should be centered (no indentation) and in bold, but the prologue, epilogue (if any) and chapter titles and subtitles should be left justified (still no indent) and in bold.

The body text should be left justified in 12 point font, and the first line of each paragraph should be indented by 1/2″.

Use the paragraph formatting tool (see my post The Paragraph Formatting Tool) to set everything.

Here are some don’ts for you

  • Don’t use the Tab key or the spacebar key to indent a paragraph as they take up valuable kbs and annoy editors.
  • Don’t insert two spaces after a sentence. We aren’t using typewriters anymore. Add one space. Modern word processors adjust that space.
  • Don’t use any special formatting, including underlining, oversized fonts, page borders, lines (rules), or shadows.
  • Don’t use bold other than in titles.
  • Don’t use ALL CAPS anywhere, including titles. Use italics (very sparingly) to indicate emphasis.
  • Don’t insert a page break anywhere, even before beginning a new chapter. Just hit the Enter key an extra time at the end of a chapter to leave a blank line, then type the name of the next chapter, skip another blank line and begin the chapter text.

Thank You

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

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: Odds & Ends

Hi Folks,

ApplesOccasionally I receive an email from a writer who has no idea how to insert an em dash (there are a few ways) or what I mean when I suggest they use the Save As function to rename a document or how to save a document to a different folder on the desktop or to a flash drive, for example. Here are a few notes that might help:

To form an em dash in Word try pressing Ctrl/Alt and the hyphen (minus) key on your number pad if you have a number pad, or the regular hyphen key if you don’t have a number pad. (You can form the en dash (used only to indicate a span of number, and the word “to” is better) by pressing Ctrl and the hyphen key. If that doesn’t work, it’s because your shortcut keys aren’t set up yet. More on that in a moment. If this doesn’t work,

in the Word Menu, go to Insert > Symbols and find the em dash. Select it. (Or go to Insert > Symbols and look for the little blocks toward the bottom of the dialogue box. You’ll see a space for Character Code. Type in 2014 and in From, select Unicode (hex). This will find the em dash and select it for you.) You’ll see the shortcut key just below the Character Code box. You can change the shortcut key and you can also set the AutoCorrect options from here.

Otherwise, to access the AutoCorrect and AutoFormat Options

  • in the Word menu, click File > Options > Proofing.
  • Select AutoCorrect Options.
  • In the dialogue box, select the AutoCorrect tab.
  • In the Replace block put two or three hyphens — and in the With block put an em dash —.

Then be sure to select the AutoFormat As You Type tab  and check the little box that says Hyphens (–) with dash (—).

That’s all there is to it. If you’re still having problems with em dashes, feel free to email me.

Using Save As—In the first item in the Overall Example above, I wrote that typically when dealing with someone else’s manuscript, I will open the document and use Save As to save it as FilenameH (so the original goes untouched). Everything else I do will be on the FilenameH file. This also is an excellent technique to use if you want to keep track of different drafts of your story or essay or novel or memoir.

In Figure 19, you will see that using the Save As dialogue, you can choose not only the new filename (in the File Name area) and the file type (in the Save As Type area) but also the location (left pane).

19Figure 19

Say you’ve finished your novel. You’ve put it away for awhile and have decided to read through it and do a revision or rewrite. Here’s what I recommend:

1. Open the original file. Say the filename is GreatAmericanNovel.doc. If dates are important to you, I recommend including the date in the filename. This also will keep the revisions in sequence.

In the upper left corner of your Word menu, click File > Save As (or the Save As icon on the Quick Access Toolbar). When the Save As dialogue box opens, put in the date and then the name of the document, all in the File Name area. I use a YYMMDD format, so if I saved the file on August 17, 2013 the filename would look like this:


If I revised the document significantly six months later (in February 2014), the filename of that new document would be

140217_Great American Novel.doc.

If you don’t care about the date, you might simply use numbers or alpha characters to indicate your revisions from oldest to newest. Then your filenames might look like this:


2_GreatAmericanNovel.doc or



Finally, note that you can also change a file name without going through the Save As function. If you have the file on your desktop, for example,

  • Right click on the file
  • From the dropdown menu select Copy
  • Move your cursor to another location and right click again. This time from the dropdown menu select Paste. A copy of the file will appear.
  • Click the file once to highlight it (select it). Don’t open the file.
  • Click once again in the file name. You’ll notice that the filename is selected, except for the extension.
  • Type the new file name.

Changing the File Location—If you’ve already created the file and simply wish to move or copy it to a new location, that’s easy to do. First, be sure the file is saved and closed.

Next, put your cursor on the file, press the left mouse button and hold it down while you “drag” the file or folder to the new location. If you also hold down the Ctrl button on your PC as you drag the file with your mouse, it will simply copy the file to the new location. If you hold down the Shift key as you drag the file with your mouse, it will move the file (not just copy it) to the new location.

If you want to save the file on a flash drive, here are the steps:

  • Insert the flash drive.
  • In the lower left corner click Start. When that dialogue opens, in the right pane click Computer. You’ll see one or more Hard Disk drives, and below that you’ll see one or more Drives With Removable Storage. Your flash drive will be one of them.
  • Put your cursor on the file or folder you wish to move or copy to the flash drive. Press the left mouse button and hold it down while you “drag” the file or folder to the flash drive location. Again, if you also hold down the Ctrl button on your keyboard while you’re dragging the file or folder, it will be copied to the flash drive instead of being moved.

Selecting Text / Copy or Cut & Paste—You also use your cursor to select text. Simply put your cursor at the beginning of the text you want to select, hold down the left mouse button and “drag” the highlight through the end of the text you want to select. Then release the mouse button.

To select a large amount of text, put your cursor at the beginning of the text you want to select and left click. You don’t have to hold down the mouse button. Now press your Shift key and move your cursor to the end of the section of text you want to select, then click your left mouse button again. The text will be selected.

Finally, you can Select All (select the entire document) by clicking Ctrl/A.

Once you’ve selected the text you want to select, you can copy it (to paste later).

Release the left mouse button and move your cursor up to Home > Copy (or Cut) or simply click Ctrl C to copy or Ctrl X to cut the text you highlighted. This copies the selected text to your computer’s clipboard.

To paste the same text, move your cursor to wherever you want to paste the text. You can paste the text in the same document, in a different document, or even in a different program.

Now either go to Home > Paste or click Ctrl V to insert the text you copied or cut earlier.

If you have each chapter of your novel in a different document, you can put it all into one document by opening ChapterOne.doc. First, rename it (Save As) WholeNovel.doc. Set it aside.

Now open ChapterTwo.doc. Press Ctrl A, then Ctrl C. Now move your cursor to the end of WholeNovel.doc and press Ctrl V. The entire text of ChapterTwo.doc will now be appended to the end of WholeNovel.doc. Repeat the process with ChapterThree.doc, ChapterFour.doc etc. until you’ve moved all the chapters into WholeNovel.doc.

Next up, the last post in this series, an offering on using Microsoft Word’s Styles.

‘Til next time, happy writing!


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!


Note: Please forgive, but I just realized MailChimp did not send out this post the first time. For that reason, I’m reposting it today, 9 May. After that, we’ll be back on schedule with two final posts to close out the Microsoft Word for Writers series. My apologies for any confusion. Thanks.

Hey Folks,

Learning. One thing that’s common to all of the professional writers I know is that they never stop learning.

It’s why I spend a half-hour or so every day checking blog posts of writers I admire, like Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Steven Pressfield and JA Konrath. (You can find links to their sites in the right sidebar of my website at

Do I attend endless writers’ conferences in which the same presenters with different faces spend half their presentation time name dropping and the other half parroting the same tired (and often wrong) information? No.

Nor do I attend presentations by writers who have published fewer than five novels or fewer than fifty short stories. I seek advice from and learn from those who are more advanced than I am. I recommend you do the same.

So what are valid sources?

1. Writers who tell good stories and whose work you admire. If you’re very fortunate, those writers offer advice in the form of a blog and/or actual instruction. But even from those writers

  • Don’t assume they’re right about everything, especially for you and your work.
  • Don’t expect them to hand you a fix-all, everything-is-wonderful solution to all your writing problems.
  • Go in with an open mind. Listen to everything, keep what makes sense to you, and toss the rest.

2. Writers who are hugely successful.

3. Short stories or novels that are so well written they take your breath away or otherwise startle you.

How do you decide from whom you should learn?

1. Read a cross section of their work.

  • If they write short stories, read several, especially if they write under different pen names. Read at least a couple from each pseudonym.
  • If they write novels, and you prefer novels, read at least two, preferably in different genres. Bear in mind, a good writer will tell a good story regardless of length.
  • If you enjoy what you read, study it to determine why.
  • Note: Always read for pleasure first. If the story grabs you, try to figure out how during a second pass. I’m currently studying one of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s short stories.

2. If possible, talk with the person before paying for more formal instruction. Does the person come across as honest and knowledgeable?

As a way of giving back, I’ve started a new daily blog over at

For those of you who would like to be prolific professional writers, it’s a place where you can learn by example.

At you get an inside glimpse at my daily life (you’ll see that it isn’t all writing), an almost daily Topic of the Night on writing, and actual day by day writing numbers.

As I’ve mentioned here before, about a year ago I first became aware of Heinlein’s Rules (no, they’re not only for SF writers) and a technique called Writing Off Into the Dark.

The convergence of that set of rules with that massively powerful writing technique changed my life completely. I am not kidding, and I am not exaggerating.

At I provide proof of that change and a daily accounting of my work(s) in progress. If you aspire to be a prolific professional writer, if you aspire to reach the level where writing the next story is the most fun you’ve ever had, drop by and check it out.

It’s free. And it’s the perfect companion to this blog.

By the way, right now there’s an excellent post on Heinlein’s Rules at FrostProof808.

Next time, Microsoft Word for Writers: Odds & Ends, the penultimate post in the Word for Writers series.

‘Til then, happy writing!


PS: One of Gervasio’s magic realism short stories is featured in a beautiful new online magazine called Mystic Illuminations. Go. Read. Enjoy.

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!

Microsoft Word for Writers: The Paragraph Formatting Tool

Note: Please forgive, but I just realized MailChimp did not send out this post or the one after it. For that reason, I’m going to republish both of them. This one will go out on 8 May and the next one, which is titled “Learning,” will go out on 9 May. After that, we’ll be back on schedule with two final posts to close out the Microsoft Word for Writers series. My apologies for any confusion. Thanks.
Hi Folks,

The Paragraph Formatting Tool

First, let’s get this Tab and spacebar stuff out of the way right up front: the writer should never use the Tab key to indent the first line of a paragraph. Instead, he should use the Paragraph Formatting tool. And while we’re on the topic, the writer should use the Spacebar key only to insert one space between words and sentences. I know, I know… you were taught to add two spaces at the end of a sentence. I understand. I was there too, but that was with typewriters. If you want to use a typewriter to type your manuscript, feel free to hit the spacebar twice after a sentence. Otherwise, it’s just one space. Modern word processing programs adjust that space.

Figure 18a illustrates the Indents and Spacing for a typical standard manuscript that will be submitted to a publisher.

Notice that you can also use this dialogue to set the default for your future manuscripts.

18aFigure 18a

Figure 18b shows the Line and Page Breaks tab. Notice that all items are unchecked.

18bFigure 18b

 Oh, and that Tabs… button on the lower left? If you click that, you’ll see a dialogue box in which you can set the distance between your tabs, etc. However, as I’ve already said you should ignore the Tab button on your keyboard, the best use for this dialogue box is to Clear all tabs. (If there are any tabs in your document, you’ll see a little indicator on the Horizontal Ruler at the top of the page. If the ruler isn’t there, in your menu click View and then check the box next to Ruler.)

Overall Example

Here’s an overall example of Find and Replace used in conjunction with the Font and Paragraph formatting functions. I’m talking about this as an editor, but you can use these functions in the same way as a writer to revise your work.

Say I receive a manuscript in which the main title is 24 point Arial, the chapter heads are 16 point Cambria, and the body text is 12 point Times New Roman. The writer has used the Tab key to indent the first line of each paragraph by ½”.

Fortunately the writer has been considerate and numbered the chapters with digits instead of writing out each number. Here are the steps I follow to prep that manuscript for my edit:

  1. Open the document and use Save As to save it as FilenameH (so the original file goes untouched). Everything else I do will be on the FilenameH file.
  2. Hit Ctrl/A to select the entire manuscript, then set the font as Times New Roman 12 point. Then I open the Paragraph Format dialogue, set it to match Figure 18a and click OK. The manuscript is transformed.
  3. Open Find and Replace. Put Chapter ^#^# (Chapter space any digit any digit) in Find What. Then I click Format > Font and click Not Bold. Then I click Format > Paragraph. Under Special I select First Line by 0.5”. Finally I select Match Case from the checklist below Search Options.
  4. I put my cursor in Replace With. I don’t enter anything in that area though. Instead I simply click Format > Font and click Bold. Then I click Format > Paragraph. This time under Special I select None. Then I click Replace All. In a flash, all chapter heads from 10 through 99 are moved to the left margin and in bold font attribute.
  5. I repeat 3 and 4 with Chapter ^# (only one digit this time). When I hit Replace All, chapters 1 through 9 are moved to the left margin and in bold font attribute.
  6. Ah, but remember those Tabs that I told you earlier not to use? Now I Select All again. In the Find and Replace dialogue, I put my cursor in the Find What area and click Special at the bottom of the dialogue (see Figure 17c in the Find & Replace post). I select Tab Character and a ^t appears in Find What. I put nothing in the Replace With area. (In fact, if there’s anything in the Replace With area, even a space, delete it.) Then I click Replace All. All the tabs are replaced with nothing.
  7. I also usually use Find What to look for paragraphs that have an extra space at the beginning. I put my cursor in the Find What area, click Special, and select Paragraph Mark. A ^p appears in the Find What area, and I put a space after it (using the space bar). In the Replace With area, I put only a ^p (no space following it) and hit Replace All. Done.
  8. Most writers still add an extra space after sentences or paragraphs for some reason. Again, Find and Replace to the rescue. I put my cursor in the Find What area and hit the spacebar twice; then I move the cursor to the Replace With area and hit the spacebar once. Replace All and I’m finished.

Once I’ve done these things, I can begin editing the document without it driving me nuts. Or, having done these things to my own writing, I can submit my story to a contest or a publisher without fear of embarrassment. There are many more uses for Find and Replace. Just be careful to look for exactly what you want to find, and remember there’s always the Undo function.

That’s it for now! Next up, Odds & Ends. Until then, happy writing.


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!