Starting a New Manuscript

by Jenny Hansen

How can you make it easier, every time, to open a new document in Word and start a new manuscript? I have friends who angst every time they do this over things like margins, font, headers and footers and the dreaded 25 lines per page setting that we covered in a previous blog. My fellow software trainers have long called me the “Word Dominatrix” and I’m here to show you how to MAKE Word give you a great looking new manuscript every time.

My goal for you after you finish reading this blog: no more fretting about setting up a manuscript properly!

Make a template.

How do I do that, you ask? When I told one of my writing friends I was doing an article on templates, I was appalled at her response. She said, “Templates are for people like legal secretaries or whiz kids like YOU, not for an old computer klutz like me.” Do you know she actually gave me the hairy eyeball? Like I was insulting her by suggesting that she and her word processing program could be friends.

I will tell you exactly what I told her (though you get the cleaner version): “Horse Pocky! Templates are HUGE for writers and I’m going to show you ten (10) easy steps to make one in Word.”

Step 1Open your current work in progress.
Make it look pretty. It is so much easier to format a document with a few chapters in place than it is to format an empty document where you can’t see the results. Here is your chance to make it double space, change the font to the one your editor loves, add in the first line indent and do the twenty-five lines per page setting. When you are done formatting and you have completed the next step, you can delete all the text (after you have completed Step 2).

Step 2Save these great changes to the current work in progress, before following the rest of the steps to create a template.
This document is going to be the basis of your new manuscript template but you have to be certain that you’ve saved your writing before you proceed. Any of the following three methods will allow you to save your changes to this document – pick the way you like best.
1) Hit the Ctrl + S buttons on your keyboard (you don’t type the plus)
2) click on the little blue disc icon (third button from the left on your Formatting toolbar in the older versions of Word or fourth button down in the Circle menu in Word 2007)
3) go to the File menu and choose Save (again, the File menu is in older versions of Word and also apply if you are using a MAC)

Important Note: Be certain that you have saved all of your writing before you delete it!

Step 3Go back to the File menu (Circle menu in Word 2007) and choose the Save As command. If you are a keyboard person, hit the F12 key – this takes you to the Save As dialog box.

Step 4Click the drop down arrow to the right of the “Save as type” box at the bottom.

Step 5Choose the Document Template (*.dot) option.
Word will automatically take you to the place on your computer where Word templates are stored. Write this down if you feel the need to know this but I can promise with 99% certainty that your computer is the only one who needs to know where the templates are stored.

Step 6Name your template and click Save.
Now comes the most important part, mainly because this is the step where people think they are home free so they leave the next four steps off! You are still in your template…don’t forget this. Everything you do from this point on is done to your new template, which is still open.

Step 7Save any additional changes you want to add and close the template.
You must close this document before you begin to use it or all the things you type will be part of your template. You have no idea how many times I’ve forgotten this and pounded my forehead against my desk in exasperation when I open a new template with a bunch of text in it.

Step 8Go to the File menu (Circle menu in Word 2007) and choose the “New…” command.
This is usually the first choice and will help you get to the template you just saved. In older versions of Windows, you will see the list of templates and the name of the one you saved will be right there. If you use Windows XP, the New Document Task Pane will show up on the right side of the screen and give you options. You want to choose “On my computer.”

Step 9Choose your new template that you just named (I recommend New Manuscript or New WIP as a title) and click OK.

Step 10Save the document immediately as the name of your new manuscript, the same way you would any document.

You may now begin creating your new bestseller without fretting about all those pesky details like font and whether you have the 25 lines per page setting done correctly. Enjoy your writing!

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2 Responses to Starting a New Manuscript

  1. Jenny – Wow, who knew? Even I could follow these directions. And I will, promise.

    Will you share your whiz-bang method of pulling all the chapters into one doc?
    I need to know that – and of course, I forgot how.
    Laura

  2. Pingback: Starting a New Manuscript | Jenny Hansen's Blog

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