23 Jan

Take Care of Your Widows and Orphans . . . in Microsoft Word

I entered a first chapter contest last year and received a comment that mentioned how my disregard for Widows/Orphans left gaps of white space in my submission. The judge was right.

Well, I’ve tracked down the problem and thought I’d share.  Bottom line: to get one inch margins (no extra white space gaps) on every page, you want to see widows and orphans, so you’ll have to uncheck the Widow/Orphan Control option in MS Word.

What are widows and orphans, you ask?

A “widow” is what you get when the last line of a paragraph appears alone at the top of a page. You look at that lonely line up there and say, “Oh, you poor dear. You have been left to go on all by your lonesome.”

An “orphan” is when the first line of a paragraph appears alone at the bottom of a page. You see that poor little thing down there and say, “Oh my, those other lines just dropped you off and left you here.”

Examples of each are shown in the image. Look at the image on the right and how MS Word adjusts the text with the default “Widow/Orphan Control On.” One result is that the bottom of the previous page is left with a bigger white space than normal. This makes it so that my margins aren’t actually one inch all around.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to zoom

To turn off the default Widow/Orphan Control, follow the steps outlined in the image. It’s pretty simple, but one thing you may have to do is highlight all your text before you uncheck the box–at least, I had to do that before it worked on my pages. Good luck.

Some of the possible problems caused by widow/orphan control.

  • Can leave large empty spaces at the end of the page
  • Can look like a chapter is ending when it’s not
  • Makes it difficult for someone to estimate the length of a manuscript based on number of lines per page and number of words per line (an old method, but still used by some)
  • Can mess up formatting from one program to another

Hope this helps. Keep writing!

31 May

How to Highlight All Dialogue in Manuscript

At the recent Storymakers writers conference, I attended a workshop led by Margie Lawson. Not only did I enjoy her class, but I think I learned a thing or two, so I went to her site and purchased a few lecture packets.

She uses a highlighting scheme in her EDITS system and one of the exercises is to highlight all the dialogue in your manuscript in blue and then read it aloud–but just the dialogue (a good exercise for any writer). I wanted to get right to reading the dialogue and have the machine do the highlighting so I started searching ways to highlight only what comes between quotation marks. Guess what. It ain’t easy, people.

Anyway, I finally figured out how to do it quickly and easily so I’ma sharin’ it with you. Open your manuscript in MS Word and perform a Find and Replace (Ctrl + H) with the following parameters. That’s it. Have fun.

*click on image to enlarge*

Let me know if you have questions.

08 Feb

Better Writing With Less Revision — Five Minutes to Re-train Your Brain

You know how to write in deep point of view (POV). You’ve read Jill’s book. You’ve read Chuck’s post. You’ve even made a list of “no no” words that rip readers from your character’s mind. That list gets major use–during revision.

If you’re like me, you wish you would have written it right the first time, but when you’re in that writing trance, your fingers carelessly spew words without consulting your rather accomplished brain.

Well, you could hire a writing coach to nudge you in the back with a pitchfork each time you mess up. Or, you could train Scrivener to highlight those “no no” words as you type so you can make corrections on the fly, thus re-training your brain to do it right from the beginning. Let me show you what I mean.

Here you’ll see text in Scrivener with several of my “no no” words mixed in. This is how it looks normally. Can you pick out the bad POV words? Click to enlarge if you desire.

Here’s the same page, with those POV problem words automatically highlighted.

Cool, right? Here are the instructions to set it up, which I got from the great folks over at Literatureandlatte:

  1. Click into the search tool in the toolbar (or use `Ctrl-G, Ctrl-S`) and paste in a space-separated list of watch words. For example: “very just saw”.
  2. Click on the magnifying glass icon in the search tool, and set the **Operator** to “Any word”.
  3. Optionally: **Search In** to “Text” (if you don’t want to scour notes and other casual writing areas), as well as “Search Draft Only” in **Options** (to focus purely on the WIP).
  4. Finally, in this same icon menu at the bottom, save your search as a collection, and give it a name. Now, whenever you want to do some scrutinizing, you can click on that tab and then work through the documents you’ve been writing in recently, checking for highlighted phrases. Note that as you delete or change the words, the highlight goes away but the others remain.
  5. You’ll probably want to edit this list as time goes by. You may note that when you click on that collection tab, your search options are reloaded automatically into the toolbar. That makes it easy to copy and paste the word list out of the toolbar, modify it, paste it back in and then save it as a tab (you can’t update an existing search tab, but we might add that capability in the future, so just make a new one and delete the old one).

Of course, it works with any list of words, not just POV problem words. Maybe you’ve got a problem with “was” or “very” or “ly” words. Just put those in your list and viola, you’re notified every time you’re about to use them.

No, it’s not as pretty as using a macro in MS Word, which can highlight each problem word in a different color as shown below, but it does something Word can’t by highlighting the words as you type them. With Word, you have to run the macro after the fact. Great for editing, not for re-training your fingers to do it better.

Highlights in MS WordIf you don’t have Scrivener, get it. If you have Scrivener, but still want to do this in Word, learn how to use macros. I started by visiting the fantastic site of Jordan McCollum, which is where you should begin too. Once you’re ready, you can get the code I used from the following text file.