Since you’re reading this blog, I assume you’re probably pretty good at knowing your way around the computer. This is a very good thing! It’s vitally important that you’re comfortable with technology.
You should also know that the standard program used by publishers in working with manuscripts is Microsoft Word. I don’t want to hear complaints about how MS is an evil giant trying to take over the world – if you’re going to work with traditional publishers, it’s best that you’re comfortable with Word. If you’re using an alternate word processing program, make sure it interfaces seamlessly with Word.
These days, many agents and editors will edit your manuscript in your Word doc, and they’ll use two functions: Track Changes and Comments. (I’ve been editing this way for nearly ten years now.) I recommend you become familiar and proficient with these functions before you actually need them.
Create a practice document, turn on Track Changes, and see how it works. Then practice “showing” and “hiding” your changes. Most importantly, learn how to “accept” and “reject” changes. The most common mistake writers make is to “hide” their changes without accepting them. If you do this, then when you email the document to your agent or editor, all your tracked changes will be completely visible. You MUST “accept” the changes in order to make them permanently disappear. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, open up Word and start experimenting!
Track Changes can be set in different ways. I recommend you use the setting where all the changes appear in balloons off to the right, so that you can read your text more clearly.
Comments should also be set to appear in balloons. Practice not only using comments, but moving through a document comment-by-comment. This is very helpful if you have a 400-page doc and you just want to see the comments but you don’t want to scroll through the whole thing. You can set your “browse” button (bottom right-hand corner) to skip from comment to comment.
For most of you, this may seem really basic, but I’m repeatedly surprised by writers who have been using Word for years but have no idea of how powerful and helpful a program it really is.
Learn the tools of your trade!
Q4U: How proficient are you in Word? Do you use its advanced functions to make your life easier?
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