Understand the Tools of your Trade

You’re unlikely to find gainful employment as a secretary if you can’t type. Any job of work that you want to do obviously requires some study and knowledge of what you’re going to be doing. Likewise if you’re self-employed, while you can call yourself anything at all, if you really want to do what you do as well as you can, you’d be wise to arm yourself with knowledge of your field, and also knowledge of the tools that you use to do your work. For scribblers one of your most important tools is your word processing software. If you’re an Indie publisher just knowing the very basics is not really good enough, unless you can afford to outsource formatting and all the rest. It’s a good idea to study up on what your word processor can and can’t do because either way knowledge can never be a bad thing, and it’s much more satisfying to know that you’re the captain of your own ship and unlikely to land up on the rocks.

In today’s world you can learn anything you like online. Just like being successful at school it depends how much work you’re prepared to put into it. There’s a lot of incorrect information online as well, so going in, the first thing to do is to check out the source of information. If you want to know more about Microsoft Word 2007, which is what I use and is the preferred software to use for publishing on Amazon, then head straight to the source. There is all you need to know about this software available from Microsoft themselves, as well as from respected and established gurus with visible and impressive credentials online for you to find, study, take piles of notes about, and become the ninja master of your main writing and publishing tool. Likewise for Scrivener, Mac, or any other system you use.

Two of the main problems that Indie authors have are typos and the final formatting of their books either to publish as eBooks on Amazon or paper books with CreateSpace. Typos will always weasel their way in – the little sods, but some of them can be avoided by knowing your way around your software, and using the tools available to you. Word is a powerful system with loads of functions that many scribblers don’t know about. The fact that the biggest piece of advice for formatting eBooks is not to use manual paragraph indents or tabs tells us that many Indies are using their word processing software as good old fashioned typewriters. We need to step up and stop flailing around doing that. I’m learning something new all the time, so I can indeed confirm to all of you that it really is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. It’s up to you whether or not you’re prepared to put the time in. Setting aside a few hours to watch or read tutorials isn’t going to hurt. It could feel tedious, or it could feel exciting – depends on your mindset going in, but you’re absolutely going to come out on the other side with more knowledge and confidence in doing the job you’ve chosen to do.

It’s worth taking some time to explore the power of whichever writing software that you have. For instance, in Word 2007, pop up to the Microsoft Icon in the top left corner and click on Word Options. There should be something similar in any software you use, so if it’s not immediately obvious, Google will be your friend here.

Word Options

Next click on Proofing.

Word Options 1

Now just have a squiz at the various automatic proofing options to choose from. For instance, Ignore Words That Contain Numbers comes automatically checked. As writers, why on Earth would we want to do that? Uncheck that puppy straight away.
Word Options 2
You’re not going to break anything by slowly going through your options here, and it will empower you as you scribble away. It’s comforting to know what you’re doing – even just a bit. Also take the time to explore all the tabs above. Watch tutorials if you don’t know what they all mean. It really is worth taking the time to get to know as much as you can about this particular tool of your trade. Use what’s available to you rather than floundering. Do you use the Find and Replace features up in the top right hand corner there? Another incredibly helpful tool in our quest to rid our works of typos and grammar gremlins particular to ourselves. Did you know that you can view two documents at the same time? Open up two documents, and then click on View Side By Side, and Bob’s your uncle – no need for endless click overs when reference material is needed.
Word Options SBS

Finally, the most common cause of pain in the writerly posterior when publishing on CreateSpace is getting the page numbering right. The very simple answer is getting rid of unseen formatting, particularly the Link To Previous commands within the header and footers before the start of the first chapter.
Word Options LTP
Simple as that. A tiny bit of formatting knowledge that will make your Indie road a lot less painful. Take the time fellow scribblers, to learn about the tools of your trade. Just as doctors, plumbers, and even telemarketers take the time to learn about theirs. If this is your career of choice, arm yourself with the knowledge you need to do it as well as you can.

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24 thoughts on “Understand the Tools of your Trade”

  1. Exploring is probably the best way to learn for me.. you don’t break anything by having a look… but I didn’t know about the view side by side.I knew there was supposed to be a such a function but the command was always greyed out… Of course it was… it’s not going to work till after you’ve opened the second document! That simple. Thanks Jo !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pleasure Sue! I’m always blown away with the simple tricks – especially after spending days trying other routes, which is the way it generally is with me – never see the wood for the trees. 😀

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  2. I read your post with interest in case I had missed something, but was reassured to learn that I am using Word efficiently. Indeed, it has been my friend for some years now and I couldn’t process my writing without it.

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  3. I do like Word although there’re always tricks that escape us, no matter how long we’ve been using it for. I’ve used the compare two documents, although my cousin pointed up recently that I might be better off with two screens (especially for translations), as depending on the size of the screen you might end up with tiny documents and my eyesight isn’t what it used to be (and of course if you increase the size of the letters you risk ending up with three words per page…). I still use but I’m wondering… I discovered not that long ago the option for having the document read aloud by word itself…

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  4. I must share this article. I use Word 10 from Office 365. It is a bit different but I just set it up and it did find additional errors. What a great help. When I get ready to upload to CreateSpace I know I will have many questions. Thanks again for your help! ❤

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