Category: Tools

  • How to Normalise Your Manuscript

    It’s a challenge to maintain consistent spacing within a manuscript. Iterative edits, multiple users, along with copy and paste oddities all contribute to the problem. While the manuscript may look fine on the surface, converting it to other formats can bring out unexpected quirks. E.g., paragraphs that start with a space, or create blank lines because of a trailing space(s).

    This tutorial shows you how to normalise a manuscript using a series of Microsoft Word’s Find and Replace functions. This process will cut down on the time needed compared to doing so manually.


  • Normalise a Manuscript in 4 Easy Steps

    Copy and paste these instructions into the Find and Replace function within Microsoft Word. Replace All can be used for every operation except for the last two.

    [^s^t^32]{1,}^32YesSingle and consistent spacing
    ^32{1,}(^13)\1YesNo trailing spaces at end of paragraph
    (^13)^32{1,}([!^13])\1\2YesNo leading spaces at the beginning of a paragraph
    (^13){2,}\1YesRemoves empty lines
    [!.\!\?””;,…—\*^12](^13)YesParagraphs ending without punctuation
    [.\!\?””;,][!^32^13^12””]YesStuck sentences and other oddities

    Normalise a Manuscript in 4 Easy Steps is available on Google Drive.

  • How to Get Your Readers to the Right Amazon Marketplace

    Amazon is separated into regional marketplaces. This is why you will find sites like (United States), (Canada), and (United Kingdom). Not all goods can be purchased in a market outside of your own, and this extends to Kindle Ebooks. How does it work for readers sent to the wrong market? While the answer is nuanced, the end result is often lost sales.

    How do we fix this? Here are four easy methods:


  • Clara and a Positive Tweet

    I got this post on Twitter today! I must admit, it’s great to see something so positive come across your feed. Thank you!

    I just have to say that this is an absolutely brilliant piece of writing!! A vampirehunter story extraordinaire from the brilliant @EvelynChartres I loved every minute of reading and I can only recommend following and reading to everyone!!!

    Curious about the book? Get the Van Helsing Paradox now!

  • Interesting Research

    It’s astonishing what people will research! I was looking for a common Chinese restaurant names for my current work in progress and came across this article on the Washington Post.

    We Analyzed the Names of Almost Every Chinese Restaurant in America and This-is-What-we-Learned featured on the Washington Post

    Now I can cobble up together some popular words to make a fictional restaurant name feel authentic! Chang’s Lucky Wok anyone?

  • Inspiration in Panoramas

    It always surprises me how much detail the human eye can capture.  I look at a scene, seeing an object in the distance with something in the foreground and pull out my camera.  Looking through the viewfinder, I play between the various zoom settings only to find that I cannot replicate what I see.

    Typically the frame is too tight, or I cannot seem to get just the right perspective.  Fortunately, a couple of years back I discovered a handy program called AutoStich.  I take a series of burst shots of a location and have AutoStich make it into a whole image. It can take a while, especially when you are dealing with hundreds of shots but it can really generate beautiful images.

    This time around, I had an opportunity to try it out near Saint Jonh’s, Newfoundland. Here are the shots and I hope they serve well for inspiration!

    None of these images were modified, hence why there are missing sectors. Still I think they are lovely.

  • Spiral Development for the Literary World

    I’ve worked on software development projects in the past. So, once I began writing, I fell back on the tricks of the trade to refine my work.

    My writing process borrows from the Spiral development model. As an author, this permits me to power through an initial draft, and polish the work over several iterative cycles.

    Diagram denoting the steps taken for the Spiral Development in the Literary Word loop.
    Diagram 1. Spiral Development for the Literary World

    To guide progress, I track trends to measure success. The following section outlines improvements that were made over time for two (2) of my releases:

    The Grand

    tutorial,spiral development,manuscript,literary,books,writing,writing process steps,writing process
    Diagram 2. Shows the progress made for The Grand over nine (9) cycles

    What’s with the yellow line? While others measure the number of revisions within a measurable area, the yellow line measures words between revisions. I.e., the more words you have in between the better.

    Visually, the changes are more dramatic:

    Dark Hearts

    Diagram showing the progress made for Dark Hearts over seven (7) cycles.
    Diagram 3. Shows the progress made for Dark Hearts over seven (7) cycles.

    Again, the visual changes are more dramatic:

    The Difference

    The Grand (2017) was written with little feedback. Without release pressures, there was plenty of time to refine. After the book was published, several changes were made to the manuscript to account for feedback in reviews.

    Dark Hearts (2022) involved external feedback throughout which led to more work up front. Once I got near the one thousand (1000) revision count for the manuscript, I knew that it’s time to pass the work on to my editor.

    The Process

    The process is roughly four steps as follows:

    Working Version

    Convert the manuscript into the format to be used for revision. While I convert the manuscript to an eBook, there are other methods available:

    • Printing the manuscript.
    • Modifying the manuscript styles to force yourself to view the content differently. For example, change the font, size, and colour.
    • Use Text-to-Speech to read out the manuscript.

    The goal is to avoid reviewing the document in the same way you’d write or edit. I often call this switching from content creation to reader mode.

    The Great Pause

    After my working copy is complete, I set the project aside and tackle something new. Tasks range from reading a novel to painting the house.

    If you want to maintain momentum, you may want to consider:

    • Working on cover.
    • Working on the blurb.
    • Preparing the website for the release.
    • Preparing the marketing material. Or.
    • Writing a newsletter to mark your progress.

    This phase seeks to take your mind off the manuscript and approach the work with fresh eyes in the ensuing steps. This increases the chances of being objective when reviewing the manuscript.

    A good example about this behaviour is an article on how the brain interprets words. Note how this paragraph is legible for many despite the spelling.

    Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

    If your mind can read such garbled text. Imagine what it can do when intimately familiar with the text?


    It’s entirely possible to edit too much. A good sign is when you’re skimming the material vice reading. If you become sick and tired of reading your own manuscript, it’s time to take a break and step away.


    Feedback is critical for this process, otherwise our creation exists within a bubble. While challenging for new writers, engaging others is a good way to catch plot holes, or fill in the details that your readers will be looking for.

    There are different types of feedback:

    • Alpha Readers. Alpha readers are typically engaged during the writing phase. These should be trusted readers that you can bounce ideas off.
    • Beta Readers. These readers are engaged later in the process, and for me that’s around revision 2 or 3. For new readers, it’s a good idea to provide them with a list of questions to work through.
    • Editors. Editors here will focus on story structure and pacing who help you keep the reader engaged. Some editors may advise you that there could be significant structuring or restructuring of a manuscript, so engage them early.


    Good editors are worth their weight in gold. Because of the investment, some independent authors rely on Alpha and Beta readers to address developmental concerns.

    I don’t recommend engaging a developmental editor without prior interaction. Many will do a sample for you, which is a great way to determine if the opportunity exists for a lasting working relationship.

    This step is often concurrent with The Pause. This is an opportunity to distribute a working copy to readers in order to solicit input and opinions.

    This step can employ services like Wattpad and Patreon for enabling interested readers to follow your progress and interact.

    Revise and Implement

    In this step, you’ll revise chapters, tweak, and make corrections to the content. This process is sometimes referred to as redlining and was traditionally done using pen and paper. The term also evokes memories of school papers dripping in red ink.


    Tools like Grammarly and ProWritingAid are invaluable during this stage. They can help with your writing and even assist you in finding issues like inconsistencies in spelling, echoes (repeated sentences and lines), complex sentences, and so forth.

    However, these programs are not perfect and should not be trusted blindly. It’s often possible to have the tool recommend you add a comma, only to recommend its removal the next time you run through.

    I use a Kindle Keyboard which permits me to type in comments. These comments are annotations of changes that will need to be made to the manuscript later. Early revisions tend to generate lots of corrections, so I transcribe often to avoid data loss.

    tutorial,spiral development,manuscript,literary,books,writing,writing process steps,writing process
    Diagram 4. Mock-up view of a review process on a Kindle Keyboard

    Over the cycles, the number of revisions drop in number and complexity. Whereas during the final cycle, I’m looking for things like elusive typos.

    This stage also permits you to adjust chapters, including their order. You may opt to add, rewrite, split or remove chapters. Just like you would add, fix or remove features in a software project.


    Start the process all over again. Create a new version of the manuscript, take a break, revise and implement. With every revision look at your metrics to measure progress.

    Towards the end you’ll know when it’s ready. For me, that’s when I hit one thousand (1000) revisions for whole of the manuscript.

    Revisions may have different goals. The first should be about adjusting the structure and detail, while later revisions concentrate on trimming the fat and finding those elusive typos.

    A good way of staying focused is to track your progress. Otherwise, you’ll end up in an infinite loop. You have to find that point where the manuscript is ‘good enough‘ to be passed on.

    After ‘Good Enough’

    This is the stage where you hand off the manuscript to someone else for a sober second look. Primarily someone who will review the document for lingering errors. I use my editor for this step, but a trusted reader can help as well.

    Alas there is no rest for the weary, as there’s still work to be done before release. This includes but is not limited to:

    • Normalise your manuscript (editors often help with this step).
    • Format your manuscript for print, and eBook.
    • Integrate the cover with the manuscript.
    • Release your book.
    • Advertise!

    More on Editors

    There are many types of editors. Here is a distinction between the types and when you should engage them in the process:

    • Developmental. Major story and character points, early in the process, no line editing or proofreading.
    • Substantive/Content Editors. Once you have a solid story, it’s time to catch lingering plot issues.
    • Copy/Line Editors. Your story itself is solid, now it’s time to make the writing tighter, sharper, and stronger; improve the reading experience.
    • Proofreaders. This is absolutely last step before you go to print, addressing only basic punctuation and grammar, but not touching the story or the writing style.

    Some editors will perform one or several of these roles. In many cases, it’s prudent to get another editor for proofreading as a final check of the manuscript.

    That’s it!

  • On the Subject of Names

    Finding a good name has been the bane of authors and expectant parents alike.  For centuries we have struggled to come up with names that fits our characters and sets them apart from our other creations.

    Would Jane Doe work as a name for this young lady?

    It is my belief that stories set in the future names have no limits. How cold anyone fathom naming trends fifty years from now? How about a thousand? A good example of this phenomenon can be drawn from history. During the 1920s these were the most popular names for girls in the United States.

    • Mary
    • Dorothy
    • Helen
    • Betty
    • Margaret
    • Ruth
    • Virginia
    • Doris
    • Mildred
    • Frances

    Fifty years later these were the most popular names in the United States.

    • Jennifer
    • Amy 
    • Melissa
    • Michelle 
    • Kimberly
    • Lisa
    • Angela
    • Heather
    • Stephanie
    • Nicole 

    Who could have foreseen such a shift in names over a half-a-century? Mind you there is a reason why names from the 1970s are more mainstream now. Those names belong to people in their 30s to 40s which are now mothers, teachers and even celebrities.

    Still we look for inspiration when it comes to finding names. We desire some sort of guide which will shine the way. Fortunately, when it comes to historical names we have the benefit of foresight.

    Most countries have records spanning centuries, these also provide an invaluable source of names. The trick is to avoid using names from the decade in which the story is based. Instead, we have to rely on names from an earlier period.

    For example, a forty-year old character set during the Roaring Twenties would have been born in the 1880s. Knowing this, the name Dorothy may not be accurate for someone born in that era.

    For North America, a good source of names is the Social Security Administration‘s website and records.  To find names, select the decade you wish (starting from 1880) and look at the top 100 names for the period.  Next, simply scroll through the names and find one that strikes your fancy.

    As for family names there are a myriad of sites which carry that information as well.  I found a site which contains the 1000 most common family names in the United States.  Again, use such sites to narrow down your selection and make it historically accurate.

    That is how I came up with names like:

    • Ida Bell
    • Elmer Bell
    • Eleanor Green
    • Molly Webster
    • Thelma Walker
    • Mavis Johnson
    • Eugene White
    • Cecil Clark
    • Lewis Hall

    Some of these names are clearly dated but are oddly familiar. Hence these are the names that may be associated with a  grandparent or even a great-grandparent. They feel old and dated, hence they feel authentic for someone who lived during the Roaring Twenties.

    To find names which are modern, the same resources can be applied.  Just dial in the appropriate decade to work from and you are done.

  • Google Docs Does EPUBS

    Since 7 Mar 2016, Google Docs permits users to export directly to the EPUB format. This feature is purportedly reliable in exporting hyperlinked chapter index.

    Google Docs now exports to EPUB on

    Some articles state that Google Docs will import from Microsoft Word and generate a viable working product. So given Google Docs‘ collaborative capabilities and this export feature, this may prove to be an invaluable tool for drafts and early beta releases.

    I am curious as to how this compares with Calibre generated documents. Normally, I export to HTML from Google Docs to create mine and that has worked well in the past.

    Still this is another tool for the shed!

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