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Production: How to Get the Best Out of Word When Writing and Self-publishing a Book

Word logoAlthough many indie authors use Scrivener and other specialist software for writers, many have an abiding affection for MS Word for Windows, whether using it to draft, edit or format books for self-publishing on various platforms. To each, his own – part of the joy of being indie is that you can choose what system works best for you, and, as they like to say on the BBC, “other word processing and writing systems are also available.

While we occasionally hear horror stories on ALLi’s members-only Facebook forum (one of the many reasons for becoming a paid member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, members are quick to come to the rescue with solutions to Word-related problems. Here, harvested from a recent ALLi forum discussion about Word, are some tips and tricks that will help you avoid any pitfalls and keep your words flowing on Word.

File Management

  • There should be no real upper word count limit on a manageable Word file, and if you’re finding your computer is struggling to cope with a big one, that’s an indication that you need to download the latest software update.
  • Some ALLi members prefer to set up each chapter as a separate file, then import them into one document at the end.
  • Save each file with a name that includes the date you’re working on it, then delete all but the last couple of versions, so you never lose more than a day’s work, and you can always find the very latest version without confusion.

Formatting

  • Keep the formatting simple while you’re writing, then do any more fancier formatting at the end.
  • Use Word’s Headings function for chapter titles, because it makes it easier to set up a table of contents when you’re formatting the ebook or print book at the end of the production process.
  • Insert a forced page break at the end of each chapter (Ctrl + Enter), rather than using returns to move to the next page, because this will mean each chapter always starts at the top of a clean page throughout your editing process.
  • Learn to use Word’s Styles menu to create exactly what you want, either modifying their various styles to your tastes, or adding new ones of your own.
  • If adding new styles, give them distinctive names that are meaningful to you, to make them easy to find amongst the presets.
  • Once you’ve arrived at formatting settings that you’re comfortable with, save the document as a template so you can use it for future documents as well.
  • Although many people find Word excellent for formating ebooks and print books, save your publishing-ready ms as PDFs for uploading to your distribution platforms, to avoid hidden code in .docx files causing hiccups such as unwanted page breaks or blank spaces.

Back-ups

  • As with any software, you should do regular back-ups in the way that works best for you – suggestions included using a jump drive, an external hard drive, setting up a Dropbox account to upload the latest version every night, and emailing the file to yourself as an attachment.
  • You might also like to send your Word file to your preferred ereading device (Kindle, Kobo, phone, tablet, etc), not only as a back-up, but also for editing – viewing it on a different device makes it easier to be objective about your WIP and to polish it further.

With thanks to these ALLi author members for sharing their Word problems and solutions on the forum: Fiona Cameron, Pippa Carron, Alison Clifford, Carol Cooper, Nikki Copleston, Keith Dixon, Fred Dobb, Mari Howard, Jennifer Hull, L K Hunsaker, Kathleen Jones, Alexander Kirko, Chriss Legg, Chris Longmuir, Richard G Lowe Jr, John Lynch, Hazel Martell, Fenella Miller, Alison Morton, Annie Pearson, J F Ridgley, J J Toner & Ann Wilson.

OVER TO YOU Please feel free to share your top tips for using MS Word for Windows via the comments box.

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