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

by Harvey on May 11, 2015

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!



by Harvey on May 9, 2015

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 HarveyStanbrough.com.)

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 FrostProof808.com.

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

At FrostProof808.com 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 FrostProof808.com 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!


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!


A Pair of Curiosities

by Harvey on April 27, 2015

Hi Folks,

I was just looking at my site stats. Shouldn’t do that, I know, but I did. Ugh. Seeing those stats prompted me to write this interim post concerning a pair of curiosities.

Curiosity Number One

Of 500+ subscribers to this blog, I typically get around 80 views. Oddly, that’s on the in-between posts, like this one. The “big” posts in the Microsoft Word for Writers series that I’m doing right now generally get around 20 views. To me, that’s an interesting curiosity.

Now, I’m not overly worried about this. I mean, it isn’t what I would call a “problem” in the overall scheme. It doesn’t rank up there with a wrenched sciatic nerve or a bad ticker or COPD or whatever. But it’s an interesting curiosity.

There are only a couple of posts left in the Word for Writers series, so I’ll let them run out. Those posts are “The Paragraph Formatting Tool” and “A Few Notes About Styles.” After those are gone I’ll get back into the more… umm, shall we say “creative”?… blog posts that folks seem to prefer. And good for you, because those are the ones I prefer writing too.

Ahem… about those final two Word for Writers posts, frankly, if you miss the one on Styles, you aren’t missing much. That isn’t really anything for a writer to be concerned with anyway.

But if you’re still using the Tab key (or the spacebar key repeatedly) to indent the first line of each paragraph, you really do need the post on The Paragraph Formatting Tool. Seriously.

My intention is for these posts to be helpful. I don’t get anything out of them other than the satisfaction of saving others what for me was a very long learning curve. So take advantage already. Learn. Enjoy.

Curiosity Number Two

Would anyone out there like to know how to be more productive with your writing? How to turn out more work?

The old pulp writers wrote highly entertaining novels, serials and short stories. They were paid by the word. So the more publishable words of fiction they produced, the higher their paycheck.

Does that mean they churned out sloppy writing? NO.

It means they wrote the best story they could possibly write the first time through. And that was on typewriters.

Everything was fine until English teachers and other non-writing professionals started teaching people, wrongly, that “fast writing is bad writing.” They even taught would-be writers not to practice.

Now, don’t get all defensive and start yelling at me. It won’t change the facts anyway. And the thing is, I’m neither angry nor upset with English teachers. I used to be one myself. They’re just passing along the same bogus information they learned.

But think about that. Writing is the only art form in which the artists are actively taught that practice is bad. In every other field of artistic endeavor, the artists are taught to practice their craft repeatedly. The painter doesn’t paint one picture and then repaint it and repaint it and repaint it. The sculptor doesn’t keep chiseling once the work is finished. You do your best at the time and then you move on to the next creation.

But that isn’t the case with writers. Writers are taught to write and then hover. Once you’ve written, you “must” rewrite several times, run what you’ve written past some committee, then rewrite again, then have your work edited.

All of that is so the original work you started with will look more like someone’s perception of an “ideal.”

The problem is, that “ideal,” if it’s a product of a professional writer, probably was written, spell-checked, proofed and published. Period.

Now, if you’re satisfied with simply talking about being a writer and laboring for years on a single work and telling others what a terrible drudgery writing is, that’s fine. Hang in there.

But if you would like to learn to trust your own original voice as a writer, and if you would like to learn a great deal more about actually BEING a professional writer, comment on this blog post or email me and let me know that.

I have another website where I post blogs regularly on the day by day adventure of being a professional writer. It’s a closed site right now (open only to a few like-minded professional writers) but I’m thinking of opening it up so ALL writers who are interested can see what it takes to be a professional writer AND the freedom that entails.

Again, if you’re interested in either reading the posts from that website or if you’re a professional writer who would like to possibly contribute, either drop a comment on this post or email me privately at harveystanbrough@gmail.com.

There y’go. See you in a few days with “The Paragraph Formatting Tool.”

‘Til then, happy writing.


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.


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!

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.


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.

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!


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!


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!


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!

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!


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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