Before I launch into the basics of cleaning your manuscript, I want you to read the article on Clean Source Files in the link below.
Fair warning: Reading this might give you nightmares or permanently damage you mentally. If you’re still sane after reading it (and haven’t regurgitated your last meal), then I’ll show how to stem your fears and anxieties and not feel like you have to lay down coin to have someone else do it.
But for the faint of heart, consider reading just the first 2-3 pages, through the list of things you need to do.
NOTE: The original link to J. W. Manus’ site no longer works, so I put up a PDF of the article (fortunately I had it printed out and was able to scan it).]
Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Sure, it’s a bit intimidating, but—honestly—this is what you need to do if you’re going to take writing e-books (and possibly self-publishing them) seriously.
Raise your hand if your current manuscript has one or more of these sins in it.
In this post I’ll teach you how to clean up after yourself and how not to have to clean up after yourself in the future (at least not so much).
The first thing I’ll say is that while the goal is not to have any of the things that Jaye Manus points out, it’s not essential that you avoid all of them at this point. If you remember nothing else, remember one thing: This is your rough MANUSCRIPT, your source file, not your final, ready-to-be-published book. Not yet.
This is why it’s important to keep it simple. The formatting comes later, and before that happens, you must have something as clean as possible to apply proper formatting to. Sure, you could clean up later, but the point is not to have to do that.
In a moment we will look at Jaye Manus’ list and establish a priority for them. Let me remind you WHY source files need to be clean: E-readers can mess things up very badly if stray things creep into your finished product. Even extra spaces can do serious damage.
I’m going to assume that because you didn’t know the rules in the beginning, you don’t have a clean source file. Further, I’ll assume that you have moderate to horrible mess of a manuscript. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because it LOOKS clean, it IS clean. Trust me, it isn’t. Probably not close. I can say this because even though I do know what I’m doing, it’s easy for things like extra spaces to creep in. I’ll still used to hitting TAB to indent as an automatic action, so sometimes I forget and don’t catch it right away.
I’m going to introduce you to one of your best friends in MS Word: the pilcrow. That’s what they call this symbol: ¶. You may call it the paragraph mark, but its proper name is the “pilcrow.” Look it up on Wikipedia if you want to know more about it. By the way, should you want to enter it into a document as I did here, in MS Word hold down your ALT key then type 0182 over on the numeric key pad. Don’t use the numbers on the main part of the keyboard. It won’t work, and you could end up activating some command you don’t want to activate.
At the top of your MS Word page you’ll find the pilcrow somewhere. In Word 2010 it’s located near the middle of ribbon of the HOME tab. With a Word document open, click this symbol and you’ll see some new marks appear in your document.
–You’ll see a pilcrow at the end of every paragraph (representing a press of the ENTER or RETURN key.
–You’ll see raised dots representing spaces between words.
–You see a right-pointing arrow for TAB characters.
–If you used manual line breaks, you’ll see those as angle arrows in place of a paragraph mark.
This tool is your friend because it allows you to see some of the garbage in your manuscript. Look at the end of your paragraphs. Do you see a space between the end of the sentence and the pilcrow? Do you see a space before or after a TAB? Maybe you have some TABS in the middle of a line where they don’t belong. While they may look fine in whichever font you’re using, if you switch the font, the tabs may cause weird splits.
NOTE: We’re not saying that you can’t use line breaks and tabs in a manuscript for a PRINT book, just not for an e-book. But you should not use them in print books if you can avoid them. You can’t go wrong if you assume that every manuscript will end up as an e-book.
With that out of the way, let’s establish a clean-up process. Be sure the pilcrow is clicked on to show you all these little format marks.
(1) Remove extra spaces
With your manuscript open (and be sure you are working on a COPY of it for this—just in case, click the pilcrow and page through to see if you have any strings of raised dots indicating a string of spaces. Or you FIND to look for 3 spaces to see if you have any. You may have used 5 or 6 spaces to indent some paragraphs.
Let’s get rid of them. Go into FIND and REPLACE. In the FIND box type 2 spaces. In the REPLACE box type ONE space. It’s important that you put one space in the replace box or you could end up joining words and sentences with no space at all.
Keep using REPLACE ALL until no more occurrences are found. If you indiscriminately used spaces to align text, this could take a while.
(2) Remove spaces at the end of paragraphs.
This is a two-step process. First, in the FIND box type a space then ^p in the box. In REPLACE type only ^p. Then REPLACE ALL. Repeat until no more are found.
NOTE: Be sure the “p” is lowercase, not upper or you’ll get an error message.
Second, clear out the FIND box, type ^p and a space. Be sure the REPLACE box still has just the ^p in the replace box with no spaces around it. REPLACE ALL and repeat until no more are found.
(3) Remove tabs.
Again this will be a two-step process. We want to separate tabs used to indent paragraphs from those you may have used in the middle of paragraphs. The reason for separating them is that a tab may be substituting for a space, and you’ll want to replace it with a space.
Step 1: FIND ^p^t and REPLACE with ^p then hit REPLACE ALL. Repeat to be sure you found them all. The ^t is the tab. What we did is replace tabs only when they followed a paragraph mark (^p).
Step 2: Now that you’ve removed the tabs at the start of paragraphs, you’ll need to find any strays elsewhere. And you do that by putting just ^t in the FIND box. However, instead of using REPLACE ALL, click FIND NEXT. If none are found, you’re good. If you do find any, fix them manually either by deleting them or replacing with a space.
(4) Convert line breaks to paragraph breaks.
FIND ^l (an ell, not a one) and REPLACE with ^p then REPLACE ALL.
(5) Remove double/multiple paragraph marks
Before we do this, it is essential that you find your scene breaks and mark them as I told you about in the previous post.
If you don’t mark your scene breaks then this step (5) will make them go away and you’ll really have a mess.
“But, Rick, I have a huge novel with a LOT of scene breaks that I just double spaced!”
What can I say? You’re going to have to fix them. However, assuming you did not put multiple paragraph marks elsewhere, you can do a search on ^p^p to find them. You’ll still have to insert the break marks (asterisks or whatever). If you’re clever with FIND and REPLACE you can automate this somewhat. I’ll leave this to your ingenuity. Otherwise, if I explain everything, I’ll never be done with this series.
After you’ve cleaned up those scene breaks. FIND ^p^p and REPLACE with ^p then do the usual REPLACE ALL until no more are found.
Okay, that’s taken care of (hopefully) the bulk of the junk in your manuscript. Next time, we’ll clean up some more. I won’t be doing everything Jaye Manus suggests because a few of those may be fine in your manuscript.
And remember that you DID perform the above steps on a COPY of your file. Keep the original. We’ll continue working on the copy. In fact, I ALWAYS keep all previous versions, even if I don’t think I’ll need them again.
Until next time.