How to Write a Quality Book Fast

Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, you've tasked yourself to write a book in four weeks. How will you do it?

Writing a book can happen fairly quickly, particularly if you know how to create an efficient writing and publishing workflow. I wrote the first draft of the book on the left in about 10 hours and completed the rest of the process in nine weeks. Here's how:

1. Have a System 

To get a book to publication quickly, it helps to know the essential steps in the idea-to-ebook process. As both an author and editor, I’ve discovered a few efficiencies that can save time in the writing and publishing process.

Here are the steps as I follow them:

  • Collaborate (optional)
  • Brainstorm
  • Research
  • Organize
  • Draft
  • Revise
  • Edit
  • Add Images (optional)
  • Clean Up
  • Format
  • Proofread
  • Create a Cover
  • Publish

You don't always have to follow these steps in order, but if your steps are orderly and logical, it'll help you to be more efficient.

2. Use Efficiency Tools

You'll be more efficient at writing books if you use the right tools for the job. Scrivener, for example, is a wonderful drafting tool that can help you organize a potentially unwieldy book.

Trust me, it's never good news to discover at the editing stage that your book's structure isn't working. If you use an organization tool like Scrivener early in the process, you can sort out any structural issues at the beginning, long before the editing stage (where they can become costly). Scrivener can benefit writers in other ways, too. (See Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast for more details).

It's also worth noting that Microsoft Word is currently the best tool for the editing stage of your publishing process (I'm hoping that the creators of Scrivener will remedy that). You may not agree with me, but in Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I think I make a pretty good case for why you might want to have Word in your writer's toolkit.

I also recommend over 30 free and inexpensive tools that writers can use to create quality books efficiently.

A Caveat

It’s one thing to publish quickly, and quite another to publish well. Quality matters, and it’s important that you don’t sacrifice quality for speed. Your readers won’t care how long it took you to produce your book—but they will care whether your book is good.

I believe that creating a quality book fast is within every author’s reach. Your “fast” might not be my “fast,” but there are ways to create better books faster.

Want to know more about how to create a quality book efficiently? Curious about how Scrivener and other tools can help you do that? Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast is a quick read, and you'll find it on Amazon for $0.99 during NaNoWriMo. 

How to Use FRedit: A Find and Replace Macro

by C.K. MacLeod

Work horse

Do you use Find and Replace in Word for editing tasks? Want to supercharge your mad Find and Replace skills? Here’s how.

Recently, editor Paul Beverley contacted me to show me how FRedit, a macro that he wrote, can be customized to perform a bunch of useful writing and editing tasks. It’s a find and replace macro, which means that it can take a slew of find and replace tasks that you’d normally do one at a time, and execute them all at once.

If you’ve been nervous about trying a macro, this is your way in. This find and replace macro will allow you to list, in a Word document, all the find and replace tasks you want to do. Run the macro and it will do them for you all at once.

An added bonus: You can keep the list for future writing or editing projects, or you can create customized lists for each project you work on.

Now how does that sound?

Trying FRedit

I gave FRedit a try. I wanted to see if it could identify and highlight words whose meanings writers tend to mix up. It can. In fact, FRedit performed better than the Confusables macro that I posted here. It was able to find words in all their forms. For example, the macro will pick up compliment, complimented, compliments, complimentary, complimenting, etc.

And as it turns out, FRedit can do a host of other things, too. Such as Wildcard searches. You are only limited by your imagination, and your understanding of Word’s Find and Replace and Wildcard codes!

How to Use FRedit

  1. Download the FRedit macro from Archive Publishing.

  2. Add the macro script, or code, to Word’s VBA. If you’re not sure how to do this, this 20-Minute Macro course will get you started.

  3. To use FRedit, you need two documents open:

a. The Word file containing your writing
b. A “script” file that tells FRedit what to do

In my case, my script file contained a list of of commonly confused words.

Confusables script

You can get the Confusables script here. Copy and paste it into a Word document.

4. Run the FRedit macro.

Tip: Have only two Word documents open when you run FRedit: your script file and the document containing your writing.

A Flexible Tool

FRedit is a flexible tool. You can use any script, correctly written, to get FRedit to do something different each time. The instruction file that accompanies the macro offers examples and guidelines for how to make the most of this handy macro.

FRedit is a workhorse, and a boon for Mac users who often don’t have access to automated commercial editing tools. I’m already thinking about other ways to bend FRedit to my will.

Do you use FRedit? I’d love to hear how you use it!

Image by Martin Pettitt

Revise Your Writing With Self-Editing Macros

Hide your eyes

by C.K. MacLeod

Macros—tiny programs that run in Microsoft Word— have changed the way I revise my writing. They highlight potential problems, so I can fix them:

NeedlessWords macro in action
NeedlessWords macro in action

Below is a list of my favourite self-editing macros, designed to work with Microsoft Word:

  • Confusables — words that are often used inncorrectly
  • lyWords — adverbs, which will likely need to be deleted
  • NeedlessWords — words that clutter your writing
  • PassiveWords — words that can obscure meaning; change passive words to active words
  • PlainLanguage — high falutin’ words that can just as easily be replaced with simpler words
  • TellingWords — words that suggest instances of telling, where showing might work better

Editor Paul Beverley has created a 600-page book of free macros. You'll need to download his book to get these helpful macro scripts:

  • CountThisWord—tells you how many times you've used a word to determine if you've overused it
  • HighlightSame—highlights all instances of a word you've selected; use it with CountThisWord
  • LongSentenceHighlighter—highlights long sentences so you can shorten them

If you're not sure how macros can help, or how to use them, this free 20-minute macro course will have you up and running in no time!

You can't always see where your writing needs fixing. Revision macros can help you to see what you're missing.

Image by Linda Åslund

Why Editors Use Word—Writers can Harness Word’s Powers, too!

by C.K. MacLeod

Why Editors Use Word

Revised and updated on Sept 12, 2015. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Authors can use a variety of tools for the writing and publishing process. In Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I describe over 30 tools that authors can use, and some of them can even make the writing and publishing process more efficient.

Be sure to choose the best tool for the job, though. Take editing, for example. Microsoft Word is the professional editor’s tool of choice because it helps editors do their work better and faster.

Word’s Built-in Functions

Word has some pretty powerful built-in functions that can help editors hunt down errors efficiently:

Learning to use any of Word’s built-in functions can save an editor loads of time.

Add-ins and Macros

Word also works well with powerful add-ins and macros–tiny software programs that automate a variety of specific editing tasks. But it’s not just about automation; its about accuracy, too. These tools can help editors catch things they’d otherwise miss.

Here is a sample of editing tools and macros that have been designed to be used with Word:

  • CrossEyes: A “reveal codes” tool that helps you see the formatting that lurks in a document’s background. This is particularly helpful for ebook formatting (Word 2010 and earlier; PC only).
  • FileCleaner: For quick document clean-up
  • Computer Tools for Writers and Editors (free): A variety of  macros designed to handle all sorts of editing challenges. FRedit is one worth trying.
  • PerfectIt: A consistency checker
  • Reference Checker: Checks in-text citations against references (for specific style guides)

Writers can use Word’s built-in functions, macros, and add-ins, too. There’s a learning curve involved with each tool, but if you have the time and interest to learn something new, these tools can help you save on editing costs later.

Note: if you ask your editor to edit your manuscript in software that doesn’t have or allow for the use of these tools, your editor will take longer to complete the job. Keep that in mind if you’re paying your editor by the hour!

Editors use Word because it helps them to do their best job for you, the author. I suspect that editors will continue to use Word until other tools can rival Word’s capabilities.


Note: Many of the macros listed in this post are designed for Word for PC and are not available for Mac users. Mac users can write their own macros, though, and run Parallels Desktop so that they can make use of commercially available macros.

Image by leigh49137

How Not to Miss Your Editor’s Suggestions

by C.K. MacLeod

How Not to Miss Your Editor's Suggestions

I recently got back my book manuscript from my copyeditor. She uses track changes and comments in Microsoft Word to suggest improvements. In fact, many editors use Microsoft Word for editing. This article will tell you why.

In a book-length document, it’s possible to miss a suggestion from your editor, especially tiny punctuation insertions:

Word comma

Here’s how to avoid missing your editor’s suggestions:

In Word 2010, go to Review tab, Changes area. Click on the Next button to move your cursor from change to change.

Track next change

Or, a faster way is to assign a keyboard shortcut for the Next function. You’ll only need to do this once.

In Word 2010, go to File, Options, Customize Ribbon, Keyboard Shortcuts: Customize.

Select Review Tab in the Categories area.

Select NextChangeOrComment in the Commands area. That’s essentially the Next button in the ribbon. Assign a keyboard shortcut in the Press New Shortcut Key area. I use Ctrl+N,C (NC means Next Change).

Click Assign.

If you’re using other versions of Word, see this article for specific instructions for assigning a shortcut key to functions in ribbons and menus.

You can now use Ctrl+N,C to move from change to change in your manuscript in Word. You’ll never miss a suggestion from your editor again!

Image by sethoscope

A Macro for Commonly Confused Words

 

A Macro For Commonly Confused Words

By C.K. MacLeod

Updated July 30, 2015

Thanks to Eliza Dee for suggesting a tweak that makes this macro even better (see the comments below for details)! The macro script has been updated.

Adverse or averse? Assent or ascent? English contains many words that are easily confused—words that sound the same, but have different meanings and spellings.

Tackle potential confusables when it's time to edit your writing. The macro below will highlight commonly confused words in just minutes. After you run the macro, check the highlighted words to see if you've used them correctly. Refer to this list to look up any words you're unsure of.

Tip for editors: use this macro to make potential confusables stand out during a first pass.

Quick Steps

  1. Copy and paste the macro into Word's VBA.
  2. Run the macro on your writing.
  3. Remove highlighting from words as you check them.

Sub Confusables()
' Highlights confusables
'
' Written by Roger Mortis, revised Subcortical, Jami Gold, C.K. MacLeod and Eliza Dee; word list, Commonly Confused Words by Oxford Dictionaries http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/commonly-confused-words
'
Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array("accept", "except", "adverse", "averse", "advice", "advise", "affect", "effect", "aisle", "isle", "altogether", "all together", "along", "a long", "aloud", "allowed", "altar", "alter", "amoral", "immoral", "appraise", "apprise", "assent", "ascent", "aural", "oral", "awhile", "a while", "balmy", "barmy", "bare", "bear", "bated", "baited", "bazaar", "bizarre", "birth", "berth", "born", "borne", "bow", "bough", "break", "brake", "broach", "brooch", "canvas", "canvass", "censure", "censor", "cereal", "serial", "chord", "cord", "climactic", "climatic", "coarse", "course")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = True
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdViolet
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList1
TargetList1 = Array("complacent", "complaisant", "complement", "compliment", "council", "counsel", "cue", "queue", "curb", "kerb", "currant", "current", "defuse", "diffuse", "desert", "dessert", "discreet", "discrete", "disinterested", "uninterested", "draught", "draft", "draw", "drawer", "duel", "dual", "elicit", "illicit", "ensure", "insure", "envelop", "envelope", "exercise", "exorcise", "fawn", "faun", "flair", "flare", "flaunt", "flout", "flounder", "founder", "forbear", "forebear", "forward", "foreword", "freeze", "frieze", "grisly", "grizzly", "hoard", "horde", "imply", "infer", "loathe", "loath")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList1)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList1(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = True
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdViolet
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList2
TargetList2 = Array("lose", "loose", "meter", "metre", "militate", "mitigate", "palate", "palette", "pedal", "peddle", "poll", "pole", "pour", "pore", "practice", "practise", "prescribe", "proscribe", "principle", "principal", "sceptic", "septic", "sight", "site", "stationary", "stationery", "story", "storey", "titillate", "titivate", "tortuous", "torturous", "wreath", "wreathe")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList2)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList2(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = True
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdViolet
Loop
End With
Next
End Sub


After you've addressed each highlighted word, use Paul Beverley's free UnHighlight macro to remove highlights, one instance at a time.

Not sure what a macro is? See this post for an explanation.

Learn how to use macros with this free 20-minute macro course. You can run macros in Microsoft Word or WPS Writer (pro version).

*The lists of words in this macro are from the Oxford Dictionaries website.

Image by Dvortygirl

Use Cross-Eyes to Prevent Ebook Formatting Problems

Use CrossEyes to Prevent Ebook Formatting Problems, by C.K. MacLeod

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Hidden formatting in a Word document can cause trouble in the ebook conversion process. In Word, what you see is not always what you get. This video will show you how to use CrossEyes—a format revealer—to reveal hidden formatting in a Word document.

Have you ever worked with WordPerfect? If you have, CrossEyes works just like WordPerfect’s Reveal Codes feature. It's a free Microsoft Word add-in for Windows, and you can get it at Levit & James, Inc. Once you download CrossEyes, you’ll find it under the Add-Ins tab in the Custom Toolbars area in Word.

Note: CrossEyes doesn't work in Mac versions of Word (sorry!) or Word 2013.

Formatting Codes

If you’re not familiar with formatting "codes," CrossEyes will seem a little foreign to you at first. But with some practice, you can become adept at reading the formatting codes and deleting the ones you don’t want. It helps that the codes are featured in bright colours and colour-coded according to type.

CrossEyes window; codes are in colour (Click to enlarge)

A quick peek in the CrossEyes window tells you that in the first line of the document paragraph, the author introduced a different font to the document. The font is similar to Times New Roman used elsewhere in the document, but with an unpracticed eye, or without the help of CrossEyes, it can be easy to miss. CrossEyes exposes the font so you can delete it.

How to Delete or Change a Style

To change a style in CrossEyes, double-click on a coloured formatting code in the CrossEyes window, and hit the Enter key to select a new style. A Styles dialog will pop up, allowing you to choose another style option. You can also hit the Backspace key to delete a code, which will then delete the applied style.

CrossEyes Styles dialog box

CrossEyes can also help you to see formatting that you can’t see, but that can cause problems for ebook conversion later on. If you click on the white space in a document, you’ll discover if different fonts are lurking, or if "illegal" ebook spacing (tabs and extra paragraph spaces) have been applied. You'll want to remove unwanted formatting so that it doesn’t alter text in undesirable ways on an e-reader.

If you have a Word document that behaves in strange ways on an e-reader, or an ebook that's getting error messages after you upload it to a distributor, such as Amazon or Smashwords, CrossEyes will help you to see what’s going on.

Image by Charline Tetiyevsky

The Best Multipurpose Tool for Self-Publishing

Swiss army knife

by C.K. MacLeod

I’m a firm believer in finding and using the best tool for the job. However, it’s not always possible to learn a handful of tools before you need to produce book. When you’re at the beginning of the self-publishing learning curve, it makes sense to choose a multipurpose tool that will do a decent job of everything, and then invest your time in learning how to use that tool well.

If I were to choose one tool that hits on everything required to publish an ebook, it’d be this one:

Microsoft Word.

So, why Word? It's kind of like the self-publisher's Swiss army knife. If you have time to learn only one tool, this tool will serve you well.

Note: I know that many writers use Scrivener, and for good reason. Still, Scrivener will not do all the things that Word can do. Definitely make it the next tool you learn, though.

Below, I’ve listed the steps in the publishing process that Word can handle.  Don’t take my word for it (I couldn't resist...), decide for yourself if Word is a one-stop shop for your publishing workflow.

Tip: Find help for your version of Word here.

Writing

Out of the box, Word will need a few tweaks to customize it for writing and self-publishing. Once you’re set up, writing in Word is straightforward.

Revising

If you know how to apply heading styles while you write, you’ll be able to make use of Word’s Navigation Pane, which behaves like Scrivener’s Binder. You’ll then be able to easily move sections of text around while revising.

Editing

Word shines at the editing stage of the publishing process. It has built-in tools I can’t imagine doing without. You can also use editing add-ins and macros with Word, making editing a more accurate and efficient process. To date, there isn't a better tool for editing than Word.

Adding Images

It’s easy to insert images into your book with Word. Further, Word’s Smart Art and table design features can give an ordinary table visual zip.

Cover Design

While Word is known for its word processing abilities, it also has built-in graphic design tools.

On a lark, I designed a cover for one of my books using Word’s design tools and Derek Murphy’s excellent cover design tutorial to guide me. The cover won an honourable mention at the Ebook Cover Design Awards. The judges were surprised that the cover had been designed in Word, and I was surprised that Word’s design tools were easy enough to use, even for a non-designer.

Formatting

It is possible to format an ebook in Word and upload a Word file directly to Amazon or Smashwords. The key to the success of this method lies on your ability to create a “clean” Word file.

Word’s built-in tool, the Show/Hide feature, can help you see unnecessary formatting that can make your ebook misbehave. You can find and delete potential formatting glitches with Word’s Advanced Find and Replace feature. Add-in clean-up tools, such as CrossEyes and FileCleaner, can help you clean up a book file in a snap.

When it’s time to design your ebook, ebook design templates can help you create attractive ebooks. Print templates are available, too.

Beta Reader Reviews

You can create PDFs with Word 2010 and later. This is handy when you want to send an advance copy of your book to beta readers who like to mark-up a copy of your book on a tablet. Alternatively, you can send beta readers a copy of your book in docx format, so they can read it on a Kindle using their Send-to-Kindle email address.

Ebook Extras

Many authors are creating extra material, such as checklists, to accompany ebooks. This material is often posted on the author’s website. Word will allow you to create posters, PDFs, and interactive checklists to complement your ebook.

So, if you have time to learn only one tool, Word could be that tool. It’s the only tool I know of that accomplishes so much, so well.

Want an example of a book produced using Word? See Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast.

Image by Jim Pennucci

How to Find the Hidden Formatting That Will Mess Up Your Ebook

20090823-Typewriter-10
by C.K. MacLeod

Remember the days of the typewriter? Authors of a certain vintage are nodding their heads. If you began your writing career on a typewriter, (and even if you didn't) you might be guilty of "typewriter" formatting. (Editors everywhere are now nodding their heads.)

"Illegal" typewriter formatting can create unpredictable results in the ebook conversion process. This two-minute video will show you how to use Pilcrow, or the Show/Hide feature in Microsoft Word, to find instances of typewriter formatting in a Word document.

And what do you do when you find typewriter formatting in your Microsoft Word manuscript? You blast it away using Microsoft Word's Find & Replace codes listed in Advanced Find and Replace for Microsoft Word, by Jack Lyon. Or, if you're looking for a method that's more efficient, try the Microsoft Word add-in, Editor's Toolkit Plus.

Image by rahego 

This article was originally posted at the Beyond Paper Editing blog.

Proofreading Tool: PerfectIt Pro

by C.K. MacLeod

Perfect

Professional proofreaders use computer tools to check for proofreading errors. While proofreading, checking for inconsistencies is important because inconsistencies can distract readers.

Not sure what inconsistencies to check for? Don’t worry. PerfectIt Pro, a proofreading tool favoured by the pros, walks you through the process, and in some ways, acts like a proofreading checklist. It identifies inconsistencies in your writing so you can fix them. I’ve written about Consistency Checker, the lite version of PerfectIt Pro, so you can see what kinds of things these tools check for.

Note: PerfectIt Pro runs 27 tests on a document. Consistency Checker is a sample of what PerfectIt Pro can do.

PerfectIt tests

The Fix Feature

Unlike Consistency checker, PerfectIt Pro will run as a plug-in in any PC version of Word (sorry, Mac users, PerfectIt isn't yet available for Macs). And, besides checking for inconsistencies, PerfectIt Pro will give you options for fixing them.

PerfectItFix

 

Style Sheets

PerfectIt Pro also has a style sheet option, that can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to check that you’ve spelled words consistently. For example, if you’re a Canadian (like I am) and you want to be sure that you’ve spelled words as recommended by the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, you can add the Canadian Oxford style sheet to PerfectIt Pro and it will flag any words that need their spellings adjusted. There are style sheets for UK and US spellings, too.

PerfectIt style sheet

Loading Style Sheets

Here’s how to load style sheets into PerfectIt Pro:

  1. Download a style sheet from the Intelligent Editing site.
  2. Open PerfectIt Pro in Word. You’ll find it in the Add-in Tab.
  3. Click on Customized, Advanced, Import.
  4. To run the style sheet, choose the style sheet you want to use in the Settings area.

Build Your Own Style Sheets

You can build your own style sheets, too. In PerfectIt Pro, click on Customized, Advanced, New and begin adding words to the style sheet template. Include in your style sheet the spellings you want to use, and PerfectIt Pro will comb through your book file and alert you to the ones that don’t match. This is particularly useful if you have a 300-page book filled with names and places with unusual or hard-to- remember spellings.

Many proofreaders will say that because of the time it saves, PerfectIt Pro often pays for itself the first time you use it. For writers, using PerfectIt can reduce the cost of professional proofreading, if you check your manuscript before sending it to a proofreader.
You can try PerfectIt Pro for 30 days and decide for yourself!

Image by Bruce Berrien