Thursday Thoughts: The F-Bomb

Fooled ya! You thought I was going to talk about swearing in literature and when it’s appropriate. Nope. I’m talking about that other F-word. Formatting.

I can’t quite figure out how to use Scrivener to compile the book into the correct file type. It just doesn’t seem to want to work (despite spending hours on the internet in search of tutorials, including on Literature and Latte itself – all their tutorials are for the Mac version. And they’re not the same. Go figure). So I searched for e-book templates and came up with nothing.

Zip. Zero. Zilch.

What I did find… was a lot of information that seemed to agree: Go nuclear. Strip your manuscript of all formatting and start from scratch. I’ve got friends who use all sorts of different formatting methods, and sometimes, they involve horror stories. I’m not getting into those here, other than to say that: horror stories are horror stories for a reason.

Unable to find a template, I found the nuclear method and decided, “Okay. I’ll give this a try.”

And you know what? It worked! It stripped all the hidden code from my Word document. Buuuuuuuut it also stripped all my italics, which I hadn’t been anticipating. It’s taken a few goes through the formatting process, but after three short stories of my own, along with five anthologies for a friend (one of which was a compilation of the previous four), I think I’ve got it down.

Some tricks I’ve learned, all on my own, along the way, in case you’re wondering, is that I made a template that I never use. But it’s there in case I need a reference.

Another thing? When I go nuclear, as I mentioned, it wipes out all the formatting, including italics, bold, and underline. I’m a fiction writer, so I don’t use underline or bold, but italics, I use. Also, because I’m a fiction writer, I have no need to use the back-slash. At least not until I’m formatting.

I know, this is going to look like A LOT of steps (there are) to take, but I promise, a lot of it can be done all at the same time. There are bits that are tedious, to say the least, like adding all the italics back in, but it can be done. The four anthologies I did took only a few hours each, and that included some double checking (and I may have gotten lost in the prose a few times, as well) and clicking of all the links to make sure they all worked.

You will need:

  • these three files
    • The original manuscript
    • A copy of the original manuscript (single click the original & use CTRL+C & CTRL+V – you can rename the copy to whatever you want later – the important part is that you have a copy.)
    • A blank Word document
  • An open NotePad document
  • A few beers/wines/KoolAids & a batch of special brownies

What to do:

  • Learn the keyboard shortcuts. They’re a real time-saver. Seriously. (I have a list of all the ones you’ll use here at the end of the article.)
  • Go into the copy (don’t even open the original – never mess with the original) and you’ll need to do a couple of searches. I recommend doing each separately, as there are things to do for each.
    • italics
      • go through your document and for each instance of italics (CTRL+F, then click in the search bar and use CTRL+I & Word will find all instances of italics.)
      • Pick a symbol that doesn’t get used very often – I’m a fan of /
      • Bookend each instance of italics.
        • .. /when/ I have a character have a memory /that they’re thinking really hard about, or getting lost in because it’s overwhelming them./
      • bold
        • do the same search, except for bold, using CTRL+B.
        • Pick a symbol again that isn’t used much, if at all. For bold, I like to use #
        • Bookend each instance of bold the same way you did for italics
      • underline
        • search for underlined text using CTRL+U.
        • Pick a symbol to use. I like to use _
        • Bookend each instance of underlined text the same as for italics and bold.
      • Double check that you’ve got it all taken care of. I’ll wait. Got it all?
      • SAVE IT. (CTRL+S)
      • Proceed to the next step.
      • Select all & copy it
      • Got NotePad open? Great. Paste your document into it and wave goodbye to all the formatting that was there ‘cause it’s gone. You’ve just committed formaticide.
      • Copy and paste from NotePad into the blank Word doc.
        • at this point, the text will appear in Word’s “normal” style. We don’t want that.
      • Select all again. You’re going to do a few things now.
        • First, the text on your title page should be at the top of the page.
        • Second, and this can be done as you’re going through it, but each section/chapter (so title page, copyright page, dedication, each chapter, etc) should begin at the top of a new page. If it doesn’t, get your cursor right before the first letter of the first word on the new page and use CTRL+ENTER. Don’t skip that “CTRL” part. It’s vital. It’ll mess up the formatting.
        • open the paragraph formatting popup.
        • left align the entire document (the majority of the document will be this way, so it’s faster to change the other bits as needed)
        • set the first line indent to 0.3” (not 0.5” because it’s too much indent on smaller devices)
        • remove space after & before paragraphs if needed
        • Font: size 12 Times New Roman (this is used for the entire document. TNR is on every device, and all the characters will show up correctly)
        • open up your styles options and create a style & name it something like, “body”.
        • SAVE IT.
      • Take a long pull of whatever beverage you set on your desk earlier.

Now that you’ve got the document basically set up, you’ve still got work to do. Take a break and go stretch your legs. Take a walk, do some yoga, whatever it is you need to get blood flowing again.

Okay. All stretched out and got a bathroom break in there and did a bit of self-care? Great! Let’s hop right back into it!

  • Select all of the front matter – that’s everything, beginning with the title page, all the way up to the heading for Chapter One.
    • remove the first line indent
    • center the text
  • Create another style for this – you’re going to use it again. Promise. I have mine named “centered”.
  • Go to the top of your Table of Contents
    • Insert a bookmark – this will allow your readers to get back to the ToC from anywhere within the book.
  • Click anywhere within the first paragraph of your first chapter.
    • remove first line indent
    • create a style for this as well. I call mine “First Line”. You’ll use it for every chapter.
  • SAVE IT.

You have how many chapters? Are they named? How are they named? Make sure all your chapters are labeled correctly and in the correct order in the Table of Contents.

Got it? Great! Because here’s where it gets a bit more complicated. I’m going to post this once. Follow these steps for every single one of your chapters.

  • Center the chapter title (remember that “centered” style you created a minute ago?)
  • Insert a bookmark and name it the same as the chapter title (there is no keyboard shortcut for this task. If there is, I haven’t been able to find it. If you know it – let me know! I love keyboard shortcuts.)
  • OPTIONAL: add a hyperlink back to the table of contents.
    • CTRL+K will bring up the window.
    • Select the “from this document” option and all of your available bookmarks will show up.
    • Select your ToC bookmark & click “Okay”.
  • Remove the first line indent for the first paragraph (use your “first line” style you created a minute ago).
  • Repeat these steps for each chapter.
  • SAVE IT.

When you’ve hit that last chapter, go through and make sure all of your links work.

  • Select the back matter (everything after the story ends) and center it. (You can leave this stuff left aligned, it’s really a matter of personal preference. Can you guess which I prefer?)

BREAK TIME! Seriously. You’ve earned yourself another break. If you want to keep going, all the power to ya. Because this is the tedious part. No, seriously. If you’re like me, I use *** between all of my scene breaks and POV changes. And I’m OCD. They need to be centered. SO…

  • Do a search (CTRL+F) and search for ***
    • Use that “centered” style for all of them.

Totally kidding. Centering all that stuff is the easy part. Don’t close the “find” box because you’re going to use it again. Remember all those symbols you put around your italics, bold, and unerlined text? Take a drink. You’re going to need it. The process is going to be the same for each, so I’m just putting this in there once.

  • clear out your search box over in the “find” box and type in whatever symbol you used for italics or bold or underline (one at a time. Seriously. Don’t go insane.)
  • the first symbol should be the beginning of a selection of text that is italic/bold/underlined.
    QUICK TIP: do these one symbol at a time instead of trying to search for all three. Go through it three times instead of four.

    • delete the first symbol
    • highlight all text from that point to the next symbol
    • make it italic/bold/underlined (use the keyboard shortcuts here. CTRL+I/CTRL+B/CTRL+U)
    • delete the symbol at the end of the selection.
    • click on the “next” button.

QUICK TIP: leave your cursor over the mouse and just use the keyboard shortcuts & arrow keys for the rest of it if you’re comfortable enough – it saves a lot of time.

  • REPEAT ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE DOCUMENT until all instances of the special formatting have been reinserted to the document.
  • SAVE IT.
  • CELEBRATE BECAUSE YOU JUST FORMATTED YOUR FIRST BOOK! (Or tried it a different way for the latest book for whatever reason.)

I think. Did I miss anything? Sad part is, I won’t know until someone points something out to me, or I go to follow my own tips, and realize, “craaaaaaaaaaaap.”

Aaaaaand I did. I never mentioned to…

  • Go back to your table of contents and insert hyperlinks to everything you bookmarked. (CTRL+K)
  • Test your links.

NOW you’ve formatted a book.

Anyway, I hope this helps. Formatting was probably scarier than sharing my work the first time. And that was scary to me. Downright terrifying.

If you have questions or would like a copy of the template I use, and especially if you know a keyboard shortcut for inserting bookmarks, feel free to contact me! ETA: SEE BELOW!

CTRL+C = Copy
CTRL+V = Paste
CTRL+F = Find
CTRL+I = Italics
CTRL+B = Bold
CTRL+U = Underline
CTRL+S = Save
CTRL+A = Select All
CTRL+E = Center Selected Text
CTRL+K = Insert Hyperlink
CTRL+ENTER = Insert Page Break
CTRL+SHIF+F5 = Add Bookmark

This post has been edited to add:

I have found a keyboard shortcut for adding a bookmark! it is: CTRL+SHIF+F5. Except the whole point of me using shortcuts is so I don’t have to remove my hand from it’s usual location on the keyboard, and that one is… well, I’m not a contortionist. So I changed it to, CTRL+SHIFT+> instead. (If you want to change it on your computer, hover your cursor over the “add bookmark” button, and use CTRL+ALT+ +(I don’t know if it makes a difference or not, but I used the one on my 10-key pad, not the one across the top) and then you can select your own combination. Just be careful that it’s not overriding something else you use!

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Author: authormilligib

Stay-at-home Mom (The most important job I'll ever have) and author, occasional photographer.

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