Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Indie Life: Formatting Manuscripts to Make it Easier on Yourself/Formatter

The Indelibles

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When I was at the VA Writers Symposium in August, a lot of people didn't know much about formatting their manuscripts to make it easier to create ebooks, so I thought it might be helpful to post some tricks to have a clean manuscript ready to format by yourself or your formatter. I use Microsoft Word 2010 (similar to 2007), so if you use something else, then you might have to research on how to fix these issues.

1. The Show/Hide button is your friend.
The Show/Hide button is on the Home ribbon in the Paragraph section and looks like the picture I added (paragraph sign). This button will show you what's going on with your document, where you added a space, a page/section break, etc.

2. Never ever use tabs.
Ereaders can't read tabs, so if you tabbed your work to create the paragraph indent--or worse used the space bar to tab over--then it'll screw up your ebook a lot. Thankfully, it's an easy fix.
  1.  On the Home Tab, find Editing and Replace on the ribbon.
  2. If you did spaces to create the indent, count up how many spaces you used and then type that many in the Find what section. If you used the Tab key on your keyboard, then go to More - Special - Tab Character. It will show Tab in the Find what section.
  3. In the Replace with, leave it blank.
  4. Click Replace All.
Once you've gotten rid of your tabs, then you will need to use the indent to create your paragraphs. The easiest way to do it is to set your tabs through the Paragraph formatting function.
  1. First on the Home tab, find the Editing section on the ribbon. Click Select, and then all, so you can make the changes to your entire manuscript.
  2. On the Home tab, find the Paragraph section on the ribbon. You will see a small faded two-corner box with an arrow pointing down at the bottom right corner of the Paragraph section. Click it.
  3. On the Indents and Spacing Tab, you will see Special. Click the down arrow and select First Line.
  4. On the By, select how much you want to indent. The start is usually 0.5", but for ebooks this can be too much on an indent. I typically use 0.3" for ebooks and 0.2" for print books.
  5. Click OK.
3. Get rid of your Widow/Orphan control.
Have you ever notice in your manuscript that the text doesn't go to the end of the page on all pages? If you have, then you have your widow/orphan control box clicked. Here is how you can get rid of it.
  1. First on the Home tab, find the Editing section on the ribbon. Click Select, and then all, so you can make the changes to your entire manuscript.
  2. On the Home tab, find the Paragraph section on the ribbon. You will see a small faded two-corner box with an arrow pointing down at the bottom right corner of the Paragraph section. Click it.
  3. At the top of the pop up box, click the Line and Page Breaks tab.
  4. In Pagination, make sure Widow/Orphan control's box is unchecked. Sometimes I'll check it and then uncheck it to make sure.
  5. Click OK.
4. Use Page Breaks/Section Breaks to designate a separate chapter.
Never ever click enter down to put the next chapter on the next page. Ebooks read those extra Enters (4+) as a new page anyway, so instead of having the next chapter when you turn the page in an ereader, you'll have a blank page. Blank pages are bad. Here's how you can fix it.
  1. Go to where you want to insert a break.
  2. On the tabs, click Page Layout.
  3. In the Page Setup on the ribbon, click the Breaks down arrow.
  4. Select what type of break you want to use (Page Breaks -  Page or Section Breaks - Next Page) and click on it.
I give the selection of Page Breaks or Section Page Breaks because different ereaders require different ones. You will need to read us on what you wish to use. I tend to use Page Breaks because when I create an epub using Sigil, it doesn't matter because they already have the breaks in sections.

5. Get rid of extra spaces after paragraphs.
Sometimes we writers will leave an extra space or two after we finish a paragraph. It's usually because we were thinking about adding another sentence, decided against it, and went to the next paragraph without backspacing to the last punctuation mark. To find out if you are guilty of this, you will need to click the Show/Hide button and scroll through the manuscript to see where those pesky little spaces after a paragraph's last sentence are. If there is no space, you'll see a paragraph symbol (like the show/hide button). If there are, then you'll see a tiny dot or two or three (however many you added) before that paragraph symbol.

There are other problems manuscripts can have with their formatting, but these five are the ones that I see the most and can cause the most problems.

Do have any questions? Have any formatting manuscript tricks to add? Are you guilty of doing some of these things in your manuscript?

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a good checklist. I've always used the paragraph setting rather than the tab button. I'm sure my publisher appreciates that.

Laura Pauling said...

Excellent suggestions! I know that Nook Press, at least when uploading word docs, require a section break between chapters, not a page break! :)

Christine Rains said...

This is awesome! You know, I'm still guilty of using tabs. I always mean to fix that bit before I send it along to you. =P

M.J. Fifield said...

I think it was last year when I had to go through my manuscript and make sure it was formatted properly because I did all the things you weren't supposed to do.

And now I avoid them like the plague.

Great post. It'll help out a lot of people.

Patricia JL said...

I didn't know about number 3. It makes me wonder about my print editions because I noticed that when I was checking proofs but had no idea how to change it.

Jai said...

I have to print this out. So much useful information.
Thank you.

Crystal Collier said...

Excellent helps. My head is already spinning with all the details and differences. It's going to be a fun learning curve.

Huntress said...

I suggest: be careful converting your manuscript also.

I had a nightmare on my hands when I converted my editor's Word Perfect to my Word doc and back again. HMMOG, what a mess! Parenthesis messed up. Dashes. Commas.

In the Name of all that's Holy, don't convert ms.

Gwen Gardner said...

I have problems with maintaining italics. I strip all formatting in Notepad, then go back to Word to start fresh. I've tried several different recommendations, but none of them have worked. I use Office 2007. Do you have instructions on that? Thanks so much for this post, Cherie.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for all the tips. I've noticed with Word 10 when I use the return carriage (enter) to start a new line that it'll 1.5 space vs. single space. I've tried changing the line spacing to 1.0 but it doesn't fix it. Any suggestion?

M Pax said...

A great checklist, Cherie. Formatting can be tedious. The hide/show command is the best.

Nas said...

Great post and awesome advice/tips Cherie. Thanks for sharing.


Cathy Keaton said...

OMG, I need this so bad! I'm going to have to go fix up my manuscript and keep these in mind until I finish my novel. I'm sure I'll be thanking myself later.

P.S. Never delete this post!

Unknown said...

Good advice. Thanks for the tips.

L.G. Keltner said...

This is a great post! I'm bookmarking this for future reference!

Misha Gerrick said...

Thanks for this helpful post! Bookmarking it for future reference. :-)

Kelly Steel said...

I've added this page to my favorites to check again during formatting. Thanks for a great post.

Heather R. Holden said...

So much great advice! I knew a couple of these things, but definitely not all of them...

Yolanda Renée said...

What a great resource, thank you, and the directions very clear and understandable!

Catherine Stine said...

Yes, what a great checklist! I do most of these things correctly, except for the tab...

Julie Musil said...

Thanks to Susan Kaye Quinn's advice, I downloaded and read the Smashwords Style Guide. I still think it'll be a tricky learning curve, but posts like this are such a huge help!

And I'm joining the Indie Life group! Thanks :)

DMS said...

This list was so helpful. I had such a problem formatting something I wrote for an ereader last year and it took me forever to try to fix it (days). I can see from this list what some of my issues were- but I don't think I fixed them the right way. Thanks so much for sharing these tips with us!

Anonymous said...

Good to know. I sometimes add manuscripts to my Kindle and things don't always look right.

Now I know more about ebook formatting.