National Novel Writing month – or NaNoWriMo as it’s widely known – is fast approaching. Yes, come November 1, many of us will be poised to tackle the task of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s roughly 1,666 words per day … every day.
Needless to say, commitment is needed, and you’ll find the whole task much more manageable if you stick to the daily word count rather than taking days off. Take an unscheduled break (“There’s loads of time left”), and you’ll find yourself running to catch up. Trust me, having to write 5,000 words or more in one go just to stay on track, can make or break your chances of being a NaNoWriMo winner.
That said, if you are touched by the muse and you have the time, it’s really rewarding once in a while to carry on writing well past the daily word count. It can also buy you a bit of breathing space for later on.
Silence your inner editor – and just write
I’ve only done NaNoWriMo once, back in 2013, but I’m teetering on the edge of doing it again this year. Most of all, I enjoyed the daily discipline of writing and learning to work around any obstacles that threatened to thwart my daily count.
One abiding memory was sitting in a freezing cold house waiting for the plumber to arrive after our boiler packed up. I couldn’t go anywhere, and the only warm spot in the house was next to the fire. So, I wrapped up well, positioned my laptop so it was comfortable to type, and off I went, chalking up 6,000 words that day.. It wasn’t all perfect prose, but that’s the point:.write first, edit later.
And edit later, I did – almost three years later, in fact.
I revisited my novel, Sorted! last autumn. I gave myself a deadline (vital), checked for inconsistencies, removed words, replaced them with better words and, with a bit of tinkering, was ready to publish on Amazon Kindle on December 16, 2016. As the action in the story begins on Christmas Eve, I wanted it ready before Christmas. And thanks to my self-imposed deadline, it was.
So, if you have a novel in you and would like to give NaNoWriMo a go, possibly with a view to publishing your work – here are a few tips that will save you time later on.
Start by preparing your Word document so it’s clean and ready to publish either as an eBook, or to hand over to a professional for editing and/or proofreading. Amazon Kindle accepts manuscripts saved in .doc or .docx
Prepare your NaNoWriMo manuscript with a view to publishing
The best way time-saving tip – you’ll thank me later – is NOT to format your document manually, but to work from the Home > Styles ribbon. As you begin to type, make sure you select Normal from the Styles gallery for your body type. You can do this by placing your cursor in the first paragraph and using your mouse to select Normal – see below. Every paragraph after this will take on this Normal attribute up to the point at which you select a different style.
It’s fine to use Word’s default Normal style – Calibri, 11pt, alignment left, 10pt space after each paragraph – as it makes your work easy to read as you type. However, when your manuscript is ready to format as an eBook, you will need to modify this paragraph style to choose fonts that won’t distort when your book is uploaded. Don’t worry about this now, just make sure you are using the style Normal for your body text.
Another tip, rather than manually formatting each chapter heading, you can use the style Heading 1 for the heading Chapter One etc, and the style Subtitle for chapter titles. Again, you can modify these later to change the font, the font colour, font size and alignment. The beauty of using style sheets is that it changes everything affected by a particular style all in one go.
Having a style allocated to your chapter heading and, if applicable, subheading, will prove invaluable when you come to do your Table of Contents (TOC).
Formatting tips – what to avoid
Let’s suppose, you’ve already finished your NaNoWriMo novel and are worried some bad habits have crept in. Here’s a list of ‘don’ts’ and how to put them right.
No double spacing. We’re not working on typewriters anymore (thank goodness). If you want to check whether any double spaces have crept in, use Word’s Find/Replace function. Go to your Home ribbon, click on Replace at the far right-hand side and this comes up:
In the ‘Find what’ line, tap the spacebar twice to indicate double spacing. Then, in the ‘Replace with’ line, tap the spacebar once. You won’t see anything as you’re only tapping in spaces.
Once you’ve tapped in the spaces, the buttons become live, like this:
You can either hit the button Find Next followed by Replace to manually change each double space to a single space, or you can hit Replace All. As if by magic, this changes the double spacing in your manuscript to single spacing.
Tab no more. Using the tab button will throw your eBook into disarray when you upload it to Kindle. If you have tabbed your indents or used the tab button to turn a line, you will need to remove all tabulation to clean up your manuscript. Here’s how to do it: go back to Find/Replace; in the first line type ^t and leave the replace line blank; then hit Replace All and your tabulation will disappear.
Realistically, you will probably have to manually clean up your manuscript after the tabs have gone – especially if you’ve used them to turn lines or paragraphs . All the more reason not to use them in the first place
Avoid special fonts. You might love Chapparral Pro Light to highlight literary quotations, but it will probably look really peculiar in your published eBook. Best to stick to one font family, such as Times New Roman and use bold and italic variations to create emphasis.
Forget other special fonts such as Wingdings, Webdings, Symbol and Newspaper Pi. If you want to create a bulleted list, use asterisks* instead. They work just as well.
No need for page numbers, headers and footers. Page numbers don’t apply to eBooks as the content is reflowable and the reader can change the size of the font to suit the light or their vision. If you want to create footnotes, use the Insert footnote function in Word and these will automatically be converted to endnotes when your book is uploaded.
Be sparing with hard returns (aka press enter). Only use the press enter button to start a new paragraph. You might want to press enter twice to create an extra line space for example if there’s a change of scene, to change the mood or to write from a different character’s point of view. But when you write, keep writing – don’t try to turn a line with a hard return unless you are starting a new paragraph. Lines will be turned automatically for you when you upload your book.
To see if you have any stray hard returns, select the Hide/Show Invisibles button on the Home Ribbon and you will easily be able to identify any unwanted hard returns in your document. Deselect the button to hide them again.
More tips for formatting your eBook
You can insert tables into your manuscript by using the Insert > table function in Word. The same applies to pictures. Again, go to Insert > picture – making sure you use original jpegs. Do not copy and paste images from another source. Be sure to centre tables and images.
Another tip: When you reach the end of each chapter, insert a page break. This will ensure each chapter in your Kindle eBook starts on a new page.