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Monday, October 17, 2011

Memos to Self

Courtesy of ilco

Recently, I've been heavily revising, rewriting, and generally fixing the first manuscript I wrote that has publishable potential. (There are a few manuscripts that came before, but they shall ever remain beneath my bed, guarded by killer dust bunnies.)

One of the best things about going back and working on a manuscript like this is learning how much I've learned in a year or two. One of the worst things is having to fix all those mistakes. I'm not talking storytelling mistakes, but the technical mistakes that relate to the actual typed document.

If I could talk to my younger self, these are a few of the things I'd mention:


Dear self,

Remember in middle school when you had to take that typing class? Remember how double spacing was pounded into your head? Well, things have changed. Double spacing is for typewriters; single spacing is for electronic documents. Like your manuscript.

Double spacing after the period isn't going to be the thing standing between you and a shiny publishing deal, but it is a pesky detail that will need to be fixed sooner or later. Why not just single space from the beginning and save yourself some time?


Which leads me to another happy little thing I learned the hard way.

Search and Replace Is Your Friend

Dear Self,

Remember how you wrote that story, and then you changed almost everyone's name? And remember how you found out about single spacing AFTER you'd already typed the entire novel in Word?

How about instead of going through and manually changing every name and deleting every extra space, you use the search and replace function? It'll save you hours of tedious work, and you'll thank me for this later. Just click on the "Edit" tab up at the top of the screen. Trust me on this one.


But, like all friends, the search and replace function watched like a hawk. Because if you don't: 

Search and Replace Isn't Always So Discriminating

Dear Self,

Remember that story where you couldn't figure out the name of your main character and went through a few before you discovered which name fit? And then remember how, being the savvy writer you are, you just did a search and replace to fix that?

Yeah, well, when you do this, make sure you click that little box that says "matching case only." Otherwise, you'll come up with some rather interesting terms that don't exist.



Dear Self,

Remember that typing class again? Remember how they taught you to use tabs whenever you get to the first line of a new paragraph?


Just don't. And if there's anything else you've learned from that typing class, do yourself a favor and just ignore the impulse to follow it.

Just make sure the document is formatted to indent the first line of each new paragraph.


Correct Punctuation

Dear Self,

You've always been an avid reader, but I really don't think you were paying attention to how the text was put together.

For instance, you use a comma only if you're using a dialogue tag. If what follows the quotation marks is a beat, then you use a period.


"Ah," said the dragon, licking its lips. "Dinner has arrived." 


"I really think I ought to be going now," the princess ducked behind a rock.


What about you? Any time saving tips you'd give your younger writer self?

Danyelle Leafty (@danyelleleafty) writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog. Her serial novel THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA can be found here. The first 12 chapters of THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA are available here.


Rebekkah Niles said...

Just discovered the "no more double-spaces" rule... and about two weeks later, procrastination paid off when someone mentioned the "Search & Replace" function. Spared me 100K of respacing.

Advice to younger me? Decide what you're going to call parents - Mom, mom, Mother, mother - before writing. If a character's mother is always addressed as, "Yes, Mother," and this has been changed from "Yes, Mom," then that's a fix that shouldn't be cntrl+H'ed. Why not?
"Jeremiah's Mother hosted tea for her book club" just looks odd.

Ansha Kotyk said...

YES! To all of the above, especially that last one. This is a letter I wish I could have written to myself. Off to continue the revision process.

Atta said...

Very much appreciate these great tips. As a new writer this is going to really help me and save time.
Many thanks,
Atta Arghandiwal

Cherie Reich said...

Great advice, especially the find and replace. It's such a time saver.

I think I would tell my former self to watch out for participial phrases. You may think it is varying your sentence structure, but it's not. Be more creative and don't rely on them.