As I’ve branched out to different writing projects (novels, short stories, and blog posts), I’ve become quite aware that each project requires its own special formatting in Microsoft Word. While I don’t think it matters whether one writes a rough draft with a particular word processor, typewriter, or pen, I do try to have some formatting details accomplished ahead of time. For me, it eases my mind when it comes to finishing up the project for submission. Right now, I found two style guides which have helped me tremendously.
What I do for self-publishing a novel.
Smashwords has a helpful style guide which taught me more about how to do stuff in Microsoft Word than actually googling the topic. Although that guide’s requirements are for Smashwords submissions alone, it is incredibly helpful in figuring out how to format Word so annoying things don’t happen (like typing something and getting it auto-corrected to a wrong thing, or having weird stuff happen with copy and paste). It’s been helpful enough that I use the formatting in the guide for all of my novel rough drafts.
The specifics of it are that the draft is formatted using style parameters instead of the buttons on the top bar and menus. I won’t need to use the tab key for anything, which I’ve discovered is a great way to get hidden errors in submissions. Most of the advice I’ve read for other submissions tends to back this up, so getting away from tabbing everywhere has been a hidden benefit. Other than that, I can use styles to change centering, first paragraphs in new chapters, and doing other special formatting elsewhere in the book. Because I’m creating default settings instead of creating exceptions in one setting, I don’t have to worry about writing something and then accidentally switching from a readable font to whatever that awful default font is in Word.
And yeah, it happened to me a lot, which prompted a string of curse words at my monitor every time.
And I’ve started doing it for short story writing.
Here is a very helpful guide suggested for short story submissions by William Shunn. It was recommended by many of the magazines I was looking to submit to. So far, I’m writing the first short story I want to submit using those tips. More than that, the guide actually provides insight into what editors are looking for in a manuscript, which means the weird specific things make sense.
Unfortunately, neither guide will write things for me. I suppose the person who comes up with that will stand to make several boatloads of cash.