Saturday, April 28, 2007


By Keith Fisher

In Microsoft Word there is a keyboard shortcut you are probably aware of. When you open a document and use it, the cursor will go to the exact spot where it was when the program was closed and you saved your work. Just hold down the shift key at the same time hold down the F5 fuction key.

This is very useful when editing, because you don’t have to remember where you left off. I’ve been doing this a lot lately, and I have discovered a weakness that I hope you can avoid in your writing. I can edit a 600-word article or blog with no problem—I just read it out loud five million times, correcting as I go.

My problem comes when I think of my 80,000-word novel. I have purchased books to assist in the process and they are helpful, but they do nothing to help me tackle my 80,000-word mountain. It seems hopeless and I fear I’ll be stir crazy and blubbering to myself after reading through it five million times.

This is where Shft-F5 comes in. I’ve discovered that if I go scene by scene, I can tackle the task in bits and pieces and once I get one scene perfect, I can move on. Of course this is for the line edits. (The time when I find a better way of saying something, or correct grammar and misspelled words). If I find a hole in the plot during the process I can mark the spot where I was, and come back to it by using the edit/find function. (ctrl-F) I use a %%% mark, because I’m not likely to type the percent symbol in simple prose.

Does this method sound crazy? There are many methods used by writers, such as checking the content first, then the line edits, etc. I have used those methods, but with my latest work in progress, I’m having a hard time. Every time I look at it, I find myself crossing methods and getting confused. I can’t help it, my attention span is getting worse, do you think it’s the old age thing?

So, with tools like shift-F5 to help me, I will take my 80,000-word mountain and climb it; chuck by chunk, scene by scene, until I reach the top and look down upon my masterpiece. My friend reminded me of alt-tab because when I get reader’s feedback in an electronic format, it helps to have two windows open, then I can switch between windows. Switch to see the comment—switch back to fix it on your manuscript.

I’ll use F7 to ask for a spell check, then ctrl-S to save it. I hope you find an editing method that works for you and don't be afraid to try a new way.

1 comment:

C. L. Beck said...

Good advice here. I used your %%% trick just the other day.

And thanks for the tip on the 'alt-tab' to shift between windows. How cool! I never even knew that existed.