Here’s where I go wild…

Don’t be frightened. A copy editor’s idea of going wild is admitting that sentence fragments might be allowable in fiction. I just thought I’d designate this as the one spot on the site where I’m a little less plain. You might find full-color book cover thumbnails on this page — or even a video.  I hope to include information that’s helpful to authors.

Useful Wildcard Searches in Word

If you’ve ventured into Word’s “Advanced Find” feature, you may have seen the option to search for wildcards. These are special characters and codes that enable you to search for certain kinds of characters or combinations of characters, rather than for a specific character or string. For example, [A-Z] will search for any capital letter.

Here’s where to start (I’m using Word 2010; other versions are similar but may not be exactly the same):

On the Home tab, click “Find” (or use Ctrl-f) then “Advanced Find” (if using Ctrl-f, click the arrow to the right of the search bar to get to Advanced Find).

In Advanced Find, check “Use wildcards.”

Paste in one of the expressions below or create your own. It’s easy to find lists of Word wildcards online. Here’s one trick that it took me a while to learn, though: if you want to search for a wildcard in combination with a regular character–say, a particular letter–or with a Word formatting symbol, you’ll need to use an ASCII code for the non-wildcard.

  • To find repeated words in the document (yes, Word’s Spell Check will flag these, but sometimes it’s easier to run a search for them and evaluate them all at once):
    (<[A-Za-z]{1,}>) \1[!A-Za-z]
  • To find paragraphs that end without final punctuation (assuming you used a paragraph mark at the end, not a manual line break): [A-Za-z]^13
  • To find a closing curly quote without punctuation: [A-Za-z]^0148
  • To find a space at the beginning of a line (a common typo): ^13 space (type a space after the code “^13”) (You can also do this without wildcards.)

If you’ve given this a try for the first time after reading this post, please leave a comment and let me know how it went. Are there any other searches you’d like to perform that I can help with?

Did you win NaNoWriMo?

You did it! Congratulations, National Novel Writing Month winner!
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I’ve written three NaNo books myself, and I know the sweet excitement of having written a novel in thirty days. You want to tell the world that YOU WROTE A BOOK. I’m so proud of you!

However, I don’t want to see your manuscript yet, assuming you’re reading this in December. There’s work to do yet, my friend.

First, you want to book a developmental/story editor. This is a person who will look at the narrative arc, your characters’ goals and motivations, and whether you have created a believable story world.

Then, because editors book up quickly, you’ll probably have a bit of time. Use that time to revise anything you already know is wrong with your book. Don’t pay a story editor to tell you stuff you already know. She’ll be able to see the remaining flaws better if your story is as good as you can make it before she sees it.

Somewhere in there, send me an email with your best guess for when your manuscript will be ready for me. I’ll pencil you in on my calendar. You can firm up the dates later.

If you need a recommendation for a story editor, I have worked with Bev Katz Rosenbaum personally on my own books. Go book her and good luck!

Some of my favorite editing and grammar books for writers

I keep meaning to write a series of reviews of these explaining why I like them so much, but for now I’ll just list them with links.


Spell Check Is So Twentieth Century (editing software)

In 2014, I gave a talk at the Romance Writers of America national conference called “Spell Check Is So Twentieth Century: Using Editing Software to Improve Your Writing.” I posted the slides for my audience, and now I’m making them public in the hope others can glean something useful from them, although some are a bit cryptic without my commentary. Please feel free to post questions in the comments. Thanks!

Spell Check Is So Twentieth Century for web