Using Track Changes in Word

When working with an editor, it’s very likely you’ll need to be able to use the Track Changes feature in Word. This feature allows you to see what changes the editor suggests/recommends, and to accept or reject them individually or in bulk.

Text where changes are tracked can look messy. Any changes are marked (usually but not always in red), with either underlining for added text or strikethrough for deleted text. If two people have worked on a document, the changes will be colour-coded for each person.

There may be other changes that aren’t immediately visible apart from the presence of the line on the left, such as paragraph endings added or removed. To see these, try turning on the invisible marks.

The easiest way to see the clean, edited version of the text is to select No Markup on the Track Changes toolbar, where in this example it says All Markup. This will display the text as though all changes have been accepted.

Use Previous and Next to step through the changes without taking action.

Accept and Reject will take action on the change under the cursor and move the cursor to the next action. If you’d rather see the effect of the action before moving on, then use the dropdown arrow underneath to take action but not move on.

Another action from the dropdown is Accept all Changes and Stop Tracking. Use this if you’re happy with all the changes suggested and want to accept them en bloc.

Be careful – Find and Replace won’t work properly if a word has changes tracked within it. For this reason, editors will often replace an entire word rather than changing one letter within it.

The page layout can also be affected by changes being tracked – for example, natural page breaks will move around.

If in doubt, save a new copy of your document before using the Accept All option. You can then compare versions if you need to.

Some editors may lock the document so you can’t make accept/reject or turn off tracking, especially if they need to do further passes. It’s important that they are aware of any changes made, so they can double-check they’ve been made properly. It’s very easy for spaces to creep in or disappear between words, for example! If you make changes to the edited document without tracking them, your editor might need to check the whole document again, incurring extra time and expense.

Once all changes have been accepted or rejected, it’s a good idea to have a proofreader cast a final eye over your text. This is best done once the text is typeset, as they can then check for layout issues as well.

What are styles?

Styles provide an efficient way to manage the appearance of any document. For anything other than a very simple title/content document, there’s usually a structure: headings, subheadings, body text. If you apply styles throughout your document, it’s a much simpler process to change the appearance of any one of those elements without affecting the rest.

Styles have two stages:

The first task is to decide what role a piece of text plays in your document. Is it a top-level heading? Subheading? Body text? Quote? Caption? Apply a style to match that role. There are several built in to Word that you can use or modify, or you can create your own.

The second task is to decide how that type of text should look. To do this, you modify your style, either by right-clicking on the style in the style list and selecting Modify, or by modifying your text and then right-clicking on the style in the style list and choosing Update Style to Match Selection.

In Word, you can create paragraph styles, which affect the whole paragraph, character styles, which affect only the characters the style is applied to, or a combination of both.

For example, Emphasis is a character style that applies italics to the selected text. Using Emphasis style rather than the Italics button means that if you later decide to change the font in the whole document you don’t risk losing your italics.

Setting a document up with all formatting done through styles rather than direct formatting is just a tiny bit more work than formatting directly, but with any substantial document it’s then so much easier to amend if needed.

Another advantage is that you can use the styles to check your structure and to move around your document easily, by using the Navigation Pane.

The styles may also be used to generate an automatic Table of Contents.

Indenting paragraphs

If you look inside any printed book, you’ll see paragraphs are indented. But how and why is this done?

The why is easy. There are two ways to visually signal the start of a new paragraph. One is to leave white space between paragraphs – a blank line or half a line is the norm. But this spreads the text out more on the page. A more compact way is to indent the beginning of the paragraph a little, which gives the same signal but takes up less space.

As to the how, there are a few ways to achieve it, some good and some not so good.

The worst way is to use spaces, because spaces can vary in width visually, and because you would need to be very careful to always add the same number of spaces to give a consistent look.

Then there’s tabs. Another way that works, but isn’t very efficient. What if you change your mind? You would need to remove – or add – tabs throughout.

A better way is to use the paragraph formatting. In Word, click the little marker at the corner of the paragraph formatting section on the Home tab.

This opens the paragraph formatting box.

Why set to 0.5cm? Anything bigger risks gaps in the text.

See how one line finishes short and looks like it’s floating out of place? Smaller indents are your key.

The best way to apply indents is to use the paragraph setting in the Styles. Apply your style to the text, and then right-click the style name and choose Modify.

Use the Format button at the bottom, select Paragraph… and then make the adjustment as above. This will then be applied to all text set to use that style.

Should you later want to adjust your indents, then all you need to do is modify the style again.

So much easier than trying to delete extra spaces or tabs!

Writing Books – Creating Character Arcs

What is the lie your character believes? What do they want, as opposed to what they need? How are they going to travel from their starting point to their end point?

These are all questions this book will guide you through asking, as you plan out your character arcs. The link between character arc and story arc is studied carefully, and examples are given from several sources, including Toy Story and A Christmas Carol, so that there’s bound to be several that you recognise.

The positive arc, negative arc and flat arc are all discussed in detail, in relation to the standard three-act structure. An FAQ offers answers to such issues as subplots, minor characters and impact characters.

If you’re looking for a way to make your characters more meaningful, and to integrate character into plot, then this book will prove a helpful guide.

Rein or Reign?

These two words are often confused. Rein is related to horses. Reign is related to kings and queens.

So where does the confusion lie?

In a phrase like reining in – he reined in his activities because he was exhausted – reining in refers to holding the horse back, restricting its movement.

In a phrase like free rein – he was given free rein to organise the office as he wished – free rein refers to slackening off the horse’s rein so that it can move more freely.

But confusion can arise when you consider that being given free reign could also refer to being free as the ruler to do what you want.

So consider whether you are talking about rein as in a horse-related metaphor or as in a king-related metaphor. There are places where either would be suitable, but there are definitely places when only the horse one makes sense!

Scrivener project targets

With nanowrimo coming up fast, it’s useful to know how to use the targets option in Scrivener. Please note: these instructions are for the PC version, but the process should be similar in Mac version.

To add the project targets option to your toolbar, click on Tools>Customise toolbar.

 

Choose the Main Toolbar as the destination, find the project targets button in the list on the left, and then click the right arrow to move it into the list. You can move it up or down to get it exactly where you want it.

 

If you don’t want the button on your toolbar, then it can be accessed at any time Under Project>Project targets.

 

The project target window looks like this – set up your draft target for the total number of words you’re aiming for overall. Tick the box for documents included in compile only if you don’t want to include any project notes you add.

 

The session target will count the number of words you add in any session – the session ends when you shut the file down. So if you jump from scene to scene, this will keep tally for you.

 

There’s also a document target. Click on the little circle on the bottom right of the window, and you’ll get the option to set a target for that specific scene, or document.

 

Once you’ve set up your targets, you’re ready to go!

 

 

 

The benefit of styles

When typesetting for print or ebook, styles are important. But what are they, and how do they help?

 

Just imagine the structure of your book for a minute. It’s probably something like

  • chapter number
  • chapter title
  • first para flush left with a drop cap
  • main text indented
  • divider
  • para flush left
  • main text indented

And repeat for every chapter, as often as necessary.

 

Now imagine that you want to increase the size of the chapter title, or change the font of the main text. Without styles, you would need to go to each small chunk in turn and change the formatting on it. If you have two or three changes to make on each chunk, it could take some time. Even using format painter, it’s fiddly and there’s the danger of missing something.

 

Now consider using styles. Styles come in two stages – tell the text what style you want it to use, and tell the style how it needs to display the text. So you’ll set the Heading 1 style to the right font, point size and weight, and you’ll highlight the text and apply the Heading 1 style. You can do these two steps in either order.

 

Once you’ve been through the entire document, applying styles to everything, it’s just a matter of changing the settings for that particular style, and that will then be applied all the way through the document, wherever that style has been applied.

 

One additional benefit of using styles correctly is that an automatic Table of Contents can be generated, using the specified styles to pick out the links that are needed and automatically adding the correct page number. This can be updated as the layout of the book is altered.

 

It’s also possible to save a set of styles, so it’s easy to copy them over from one document to another, ensuring efficiency and consistency.

 

 

 

The different types of publishing

Traditional Publishing

A traditional publisher will choose to invest in your work. They will help you to edit and polish your manuscript, organise a cover design and publish the book. They might or might not pay you an advance – a lump sum. Once the book’s royalties earn out that advance (if it ever does), you will receive royalties on sales, but the publisher will take their cut as well. They will almost certainly do some marketing, although they will still expect the author, especially if a first-time author, to do plenty of marketing of their own. They will be very fussy about who they take on – their goal is to run an efficient business. The biggest publishers will only accept work submitted by an agent, not work submitted directly from the author. The advantage of traditional publishing is the power of the publisher to promote the book and get it into bookstores.

Be aware:

If going with a traditional publisher, be aware of their reputation. How much marketing do they do? What quality editing do they provide? What is their quality control like? How fussy are they about who they pick up as an author? The main danger is signing your rights over to a publisher who does very little for you. Using an agent might help with this, but the agent will take a cut as well for the privilege.

Vanity Publishing

Vanity publishing has a bad reputation, but it has its place.  With vanity publishing, you pay the publisher to prepare and print copies of your book. Ideal for those with plenty of money, limited time and the wish to produce a one-off pet project, they are less than ideal for those actually seeking to earn through their writing, as they make their money from their writers and not for their writers. They might charge high prices for their services, and marketing may well be minimal or non-existent. They will probably take a large chunk of any royalties as well. The advantage of vanity publishing is the convenience.

Be aware:

The main danger is paying a large amount of money for services that at best you could have obtained cheaper elsewhere and at worst are poor quality as well.

Self Publishing*

With the ease of publishing these days, some people will finish a draft and immediately publish it, particularly as an ebook, with no quality control and with a cover design that marks the work out as amateur. Unfortunately, these tend to make little money and damage the reputation of ebooks generally, as well as producing a raft of scathing reviews that hurt the author. The advantage of self publishing is that it’s quick, easy and free.

Be aware:

It’s important not to rush a project out with no quality control, damaging your reputation as a writer. All the best-selling authors will have gone through a rigorous editing and proofreading, and professional cover design. That’s what your writing has to compete with if you’re trying to sell it.

Indie Publishing (Independent Publishing)*

An Indie publisher will also publish their own work, but will treat the whole thing as a business, investing in their writing via editing, proofreading, formatting and a professional cover. There are many writers who have chosen to publish independently after being traditionally published. There are some examples (but nowhere near as many) of writers going the other way – of being picked up by a trad publisher after publishing their own work. The advantage of Indie publishing is that the author maintains full control over the project and the end result.

Be aware:

You will need to act as a professional, investigating different editors, finding a cover designer who produces quality covers, and mastering marketing and other ancillary skills. An Indie publisher is a business person, handling all aspects of the publishing trade. It is hard work, but can also be very rewarding. An indie author does not do everything themselves, but engages other professionals to handle aspects of the publishing process, ensuring that each section is handled by someone who understands the job and can do their best for the project.

*Please note:

Not everyone makes the same distinction in terminology between self-publishers and indie publishers. The difference is in the attitude of the author, not in the term itself, but I find the distinction a useful one.

 

 

Exam strategy

At the moment, I’m busy most evenings tutoring, as we reach the peak of exam revision season. I’m often asked what the best way is to prepare for exams.

 

Most of the tutoring I’m doing is for maths, so I’m thinking in terms of those specifically, but most of this advice applies to any subject.

Past Papers

The best way to revise is to find a source of past papers to work through. Exam boards make past papers available on their websites, along with the mark schemes, although the latest past paper is usually reserved for schools to use as a formal mock exam. So download a past paper and work through it, marking your own work, and gradually weaning yourself away from using your books to look up techniques.

 

Alternatively, especially for the new-style maths questions, you can buy a pack of practice exam papers.

Exam Question Triage

Practise going through the paper quickly, categorising each question in one of three ways:

  • Easy answer, no problems at all
  • I think I could probably get this with a bit of thought
  • No way do I have any idea what they want with this one.

Answer all the questions in the first category (unless your revision is tight for time, in which case you can skip these altogether).

 

Then start working through the second category, seeing how far you can get on your own and then looking up the rest of the technique. If necessary, check the answer and any guidance/intermediate mark information given, and work backwards.

 

Don’t worry about the third category until you’re more comfortable with category 2. You might well find that as you master 2, you put more questions in that category instead of 3 anyway.

On the Day

By the time you get to exam day, you should be practised in dividing the questions in this way. Make sure you answer all the category 1 questions quickly and accurately. Then go for the marks in category 2. If you still have time, try to put something down for category 3 questions. If you can show that you understand what maths is involved, and get some way towards an answer, then you might pick up a valuable mark or two.

 

Whatever you do, don’t waste time on a question while there are easier marks to be picked up elsewhere.

 

Alpha reader or beta reader?

Most writers these days are familiar with the concept of a beta reader – someone who reads your work and gives you feedback on it. But what is an alpha reader, and what’s the difference?

An Alpha Reader

An alpha reader is usually a fellow writer, who might be reading the story as you write it, giving technical feedback and helping you to shape the story. They should be familiar with how to structure a story, technical issues such as passive voice, foreshadowing, character development, point of view, etc.

 

An alpha reader is reading a story that could be very raw indeed, maybe even first draft, and needs to be able to look past the rawness to the heart of the story, and give feedback accordingly.

 

An alpha reader is the free equivalent of a developmental edit or full critique. It could be a way to help reduce the cost of developmental editing, but be very careful that your alpha reader is experienced enough to be of real help.

A Beta Reader

A beta reader is a reader. They should not be giving technical feedback, but should be explaining how they relate to the story – where do they get bored? Which bits were most exciting? Which characters do they love/hate? Can they understand the story? Do they get lost anywhere?

 

A beta reader should be reading a story that’s as polished as you can make it. They should be the last step before you pass the work to a professional editor. They might catch typos and other errors, but that is not their job and you should not consider them to be your proofreaders or editors. Instead, they give a reader’s eye view of the story, picking up weaknesses and strong points.

 

Neither type of reader will fully replace a professional editor, and you should still consider paid editing and then proofreading as your final quality control. But these two stages will help to ensure that the product you pass to the editor is as good as you can make it.