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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Before the offer - tips and tricks

Congratulations – your story is finished. You’ve sweated for months, perhaps years to create strong conflicts, an exceptional plot and rich characters your audience will love. You’ve edited for overused words: that, it, was, and other personal favorites you just kept typing without meaning to. It’s perfect.

Breathe, take a moment to savor the feeling – then go back up the file. You don’t want to risk losing your hard work, a story that will one day find a home and be published either in print or as an e-book format.

Did you create that back up copy like I suggested yet? Can you tell I’m a nag about backups? You should also move a copy to a site not connected with your pc? Having fried my computer (motherboard) once – I am well aware of the desperate, panicked feeling that comes with not being able to find ANY file or get a spark of life from my constant companion, my late and greatly lamented HP laptop computer! Life was really simple before that crash.

But I digress. You’ve backed up a copy, burned it to disk or perhaps saved it to an external site. Yahoo/MSN/Gmail are other good (and free) place to hide copies too so don’t discount them.

So, if you’re ready to begin shopping your story to agents and editors take a moment to look at the document. (Note: these tips are for MS Word documents)


Most agents only quote their font requirements if they want something different than Courier New or Times New Roman 12pt. From what I read, they’re not too keen on the fancy fonts so choose a font that encourages them to read your work. I picked Courier New 12pt since it’s really clear on the screen. To keep me sane, and avoid confusion, I save all my work in a uniform style. However, some agents and publishers, have preferences. My publisher, Noble Romance, prefers Book Antiqua for submissions documents. But I still kept my master document the way I like it.

Let’s label this baby:

One thing you can do is give your file a better identity. With the word document open, select FILE then PROPERTIES. Under the SUMMARY tab, fill in your book title and your author name (especially if you are thinking of publishing under a pen name). You may find the fields already pre-filled. That’s ok – you can type over them without changing anything but the file you are working on. Save the document.

Extra spaces:

One of the great tricks I learned recently thanks to my editor was how to remove unnecessary spaces in a document. I didn’t mean to leave only extra spaces but there are a few doubles behind the periods? Here are two great ways to remove those annoying spaces without checking the entire document line by line.

Removing double spaces after a period
Using Microsoft Word, choose EDIT, FIND, and then REPLACE. At Find what, type . (period with 2 spaces after). At Replace with, type . (period with 1 space after it) in the replace box. Then click REPLACE ALL, and then OK

Removing extra spaces at paragraph end
Clicking the button on your toolbar so you can see the non-printable characters on screen. Choose EDIT, FIND, and then REPLACE. At Find what, press spacebar once and then type ^p ( ^p). At Replace with, type ^p (^p). And then click REPLACE ALL, and then OK.

What you should have is a much neater document but you might lose a little of your word count. Now – go back and save the file, then create a new backup copy too! I did say I’d be a nag about backups didn’t I?

There are so many great ways to use MS word and I love to hear new tricks to make computing easier. If you have some other great shortcuts I’d love to hear them. Best of luck with your dreams of publication!


  1. Great tips, Heather. Just a note for Word 2007 users, since all the menus are different - to change the summary information of a document, click on the Word icon at the top left of the screen, go down to Prepare, and then you can click on Properties and Summary.

    Another shortcut I know, but rarely make use of is setting up an Auto Correct feature for commonly used words. For each MS you work on, you could set it to where you could only type one or two letters, and it would automatically fill in your main characters' names. Other options would be place names, etc. I don't remember the menu to use in older versions of Word, but in 2007, click on the Word icon at the top left, go down to Word Options at the very bottom of the menu, click on the Proofing tab, and then Auto Correct Options. Use your imagination as to what you should change.

  2. This is great advice, Heather. I'm really terrible about remembering to back up my files so I'm going to go do that now. Thanks

  3. Fab tips, Heather. Thanks so much! :-)

  4. Hey, Heather. Feel free to share NRP's pre-edits worksheet, if you think your blog readers will find it useful. I know some of the tips are specific to NRP, but I think the sheet also contains a few great self-editing hints. ;-)

    Nice post. It's always good to see authors helping authors.


  5. Great tips, Heather! I'm very fortunate to have a hubby who owns a computer tech biz, so back ups are something I never have to worry about. Not to mention, he spent years as a Word specialist at various investment banks. Anything I need to know about Word, he can tell me. It's quite nice for me! LOL!

  6. I don't really have anything to add, Heather. The tips you offered are ones I use. So, I'm no help at all. :(

  7. These are great tips, Heather. I'm terrible about backing up my work, but I am going to do it right now!

  8. Happy to share as always.

    Thanks Catherine for adding for sharing 2007 tips.

    Jerrica - am so jealous you have your dh to help you. I usually stumble into things and learn as I go.

    Melissa & Julie - happy to hear about your backups!

    Jill - will blog about the NRP Edits worksheet soon. Thanks for dropping by. :o)