If you’re a writer you probably use a word processor, or maybe some kind of specialist writing software like Scrivener. But whatever you use, you need to learn how to use it most effectively. It’s your toolbox. You wouldn’t think much of a carpenter who didn’t know how to use a saw, or a surgeon who couldn’t use a clamp, would you? Writers need to know their tools too.
Imagine if you had a typewriter and you’d figured out that you make letters on the page with the keys with letters on them, and you stumbled over the fact that the big long key makes spaces. But that every time you needed to move down a line, you reached up and turned the roller instead of whacking the carriage return lever? You’d feel like a bit of a divvy when someone pointed out the easier way of doing that.
You save time, because you don’t have to bodge up a solution that may take a while to do and may take even longer to undo, when you could have done what you want in minutes.
And It’s important because you don’t want to be up against a deadline and trying to figure out something you should already know how to do. It’s important because it will help you quickly and correctly change your MS to fit a publisher’s submission guidelines. If you’re self-publishing and have to prepare your MS for conversion into an ebook yourself, then anything that reduces the amount of time spent howling and gnashing your teeth is good. Understanding your word processor will help there.
Of course this doesn’t mean you have to learn EVERYTHING about your word processor (and other programs.) Some of these programs have vast capabilities, most of which you don’t need to worry about. Frankly, there’s not enough time left before the universe finally dies to learn everything Microsoft Word can do.
But you don’t need to. A lot of features are for creating very fancy pants business documents. The manuscript of a novel is a piece of cake in comparison. So you only need to know a limited number of features. But learn them! And spend less time fretting and fiddling and more writing.
How do you learn? Well start with the HELP feature in the program. Give that F1 key a bit of welly for a change. Do online tutorials. The MS Office site has absolutely masses of training material on the Office programs. Enormously useful. Videos too, and tests to make sure you’ve grasped it. Get a “Program X for complete morons” type of book. And ask people. Ask them in writers forums. Ask them at work. Most people love to show off their knowledge!
A few more of my posts about word processing
Seven More Word Tips
My top five favourite word processing tips and features
The second most useful tool in your word processor