All writers experience this problem: after hours or days or months staring at the computer screen while your imaginative gems appear before your eyes one pixellated word at a time, you no longer have perspective. As far as editing tools are concerned, you’re tapped. Is it writer’s block? You’re missing even simple mistakes. You don’t realise you’ve repeated the same word ten times on the same page. How is the narrative flow? Who knows? After reading and re-reading your manuscript you get …
You might as well have cotton balls for brains.
Print it out, of course, but in terms of qualitative effect as an editing tool it’s only one removed from what you see on the screen. Back to cotton balls. Plus, who needs to kill so many trees when there’s a better way?
This trick refreshes your perspective so that you can see your work with new editorial eyes. Mistakes and flow problems will pop out like never before, just as they do when you’re reading a novel.
Have you guessed what the editing tool is yet? Your e-reader!
Most e-readers allow you to download pdf files, so the next time you need to do a major read-through, create a pdf file that will allow you to throw your manuscript onto the little screen and give it a published-novel look that will completely alter how you see your own work.
There are some formatting issues you will need to take into account first. If you don’t make them, it just won’t work. These instructions are for KOBO in Microsoft Office Word, although other devices can’t be very different.
- First create a copy of your file in Word and tweak the name (eg: My Novel2 or My Novel – e-reader). You will need this secondary Word file as a base to create a pdf file. Always keep your original document intact.
- On the Home tab in your new Word file:
- Select All. Formatting changes must be done with all the text selected
- Under Font choose Palatino Linotype – Size 14. The PDF/KOBO sync did not handle some fonts well, especially Times New Roman, creating a dog’s breakfast of the file, so this was one that worked cleanly. You can try others yourself. The goal is to be viewing a product that most closely resembles a finished novel even if you prefer to work in sans, which is why a classic serif font works best.
- Go to Page Layout tab
- Choose Page Setup:
- Paper Size: 8.5×11” Borderless (this is an important distinction, usually used for printing photos). You may need to create a custom paper size to accommodate the borderless feature.
- Orientation: Landscape
- Multiple Pages: 2 pages per sheet
- Margins: Top: 0.5”; Bottom: 2.0”; Inside: 0.5”; Outside: 0.5”; Gutter: 0.0”
- Choose Paragraph:
- Indentation: Special – First Line by 0.3” (standard 0.5 eats up too much space on the small screen)
- Line spacing: single
When Saving As PDF:
Choose Save As. When the screen for the Save As PDF feature pops up, choose Options:
- Page Range: All
- Publish What: Document
- Include Non-Printing Information: Document Structure Tags for Accessibility (allows table of contents and bookmarks in e-reader. Without re-formatting the tags and bookmarks it won’t be pretty but at least you’ll be able to navigate through the KOBO Menu’s Table of Contents feature)
- PDF Options: Bitmap text when fonts may not be embedded
Try creating JPEG or GIF cover art for your book and insert it as the first page, with the title and your name splashed across the front. It’ll do wonders for how you imagine your project. You can stretch it across the whole page by selecting a Through text-wrapping option to give you control of image placement, and then dragging the edges.
Finally, plug your e-reader in, open the folder that contains your pdf file, right-click on the file and choose Send To from the drop-down menu to select your removable storage device. Done.
The beauty of this editing tool is that you can send your file to someone who also has an e-reader. It’s a highly accessible feedback tool. Although you can’t make changes like you can with an open Word document, you can certainly keep your original file open and on hand to make changes as you read. Alternatively, keep a paper pad nearby to make notes on the changes you need to make in your original Word document.
Make all your changes to the original Word file, not the pdf Word file. Although it’s a hassle, even if you copy and paste the text into the secondary document, each time you want a new copy for your e-reader you’ll have to change the formatting once again. Merging files may work, but it’s an experiment you’ll have to try yourself.
This is probably the best editing tool you will ever use to give you a fresh perspective. Try it, and see if it doesn’t completely change the way you read and edit your own work.
Other posts by Sandra Chmara:
- Making Yourself Submission-Ready
- How Narrative Is Like A Symphonic Score
- Women And Writing: Epic Fail
- Workshops, Writer’s Groups, Classrooms
- Banning Books … Yours
- Free Fiction Timeline Worksheet
- Stuck Noplace, Going Nowhere – Writer’s Purgatory
- The Query Letter – Why You Should Never, Ever …
- What Stage Is Your Writing In?
- Being Original In A Copycat World
- The Truth Behind Writing What You Know
- What If The Muse Is Just Not That Into You?
- Motive Killed The Writer
- Literary Horse Flop
- Will You Survive Writing?
- Great Writing Secrets – The Business Letter
- Why We Write