5 steps to minimise Word Woes

Before I even begin, I know there are other options for Word processing, all of which are better. I have read many posts about the ideal software for writing, and Microsoft Word is the very best said none of them ever.

And yet I am stuck in a symbiotic relationship with my publisher and editor, and they in turn are trapped by the necessities of those they rely on for printing, ebook creation et cetera. And they all use Word.

Early on I tried to stick to my guns and imported the copy edited drafts sent by my editor into Pages. And it works. Kinda. I can see revision comments, I can use the review function to accept or reject changes, but such a conversion adds so many formatting gremlins that the process to undo them at the end is just not worth it. It is easier to just stick with Word. It is essentially the same on both PC and Mac, it does everything you need, and most of the time it works.

Until it doesn't. And then you want to throw your computer across the room. I mean seriously? I can run a game that renders an entire world in amazing detail but I can't write for more than an hour with my computer crashing?

Here is a summary to show Word's apparent upper limit of reviewing:

This much markup makes Word crash. Not regularly, not with any consistent cause that you can merely avoid, but timed exactly to coincide with the end of a stretch of furious re-drafting in which you have solved all the problems of your novel but are yet to save. Good times.

So here is how to combat the worst of Word and minimise the rage against the machine.

Step 1. Update word. 

I hate updating. One of the reasons I liked apple computers in the beginning was that they didn't badger me incessantly for updates. That dream has died with mountain lion, but I will still hold off auto updating when at all possible. I figure if a program is working, let sleeping dogs lie. But I finally bit the bullet and have updated Word to the lastest 14.1.0 version. So far, so good.

Step 2. The cloud is your friend.

This one is obvious to some, but for the love of all that is holy, save your MS into a dropbox/sugarsynch/googledrive folder. I guess this comes under the bigger heading of good data management, but do it. Even if you accidentally save over the wrong file, most cloud storage platforms can retrieve the older versions and undo your idiotic mistakes. 

Step 3. Auto save preferences.

If you havent set your auto save option to under 5 minutes, do it now. 

The default is 10, but a lot can happen in that much writing time. Characters can die, revelations can be made, and you will never quite remember that brilliant turn of phrase and it will drive you mad. 

Step 4. Simplify your review data.

This one I found here. Basically, turn off the date and name stamp of the reviewer. Word can't handle so much meta data, and it is useless, filling up your screen with endless facts when all you need is the content. This turns your MS from this.

to this:

Apparently this also stops a fair amount of crashes caused by Word's memory-hungry processors. Which leaves us with......

Step 5. Do not run multiple programs.

This last one is another good general tip, but if you are like me and write with 20+ tabs of Chrome open as well as itunes, thesaurus app, photoshop and email -- then you are limiting Words available memory, and Word likes its memory. So close everything. I use my phone now as email app + music player, and have even taken to consulting it for dictionary needs and occasional research. Not only does it keep Word well fed with ram, but it also keeps me focused on writing. It is hard to go back to drafting once you are knee deep in wikipedia.

Okay, thats my 2 cents for the day. Hopefully I can make a post soon about the exciting new cover design for book 2, The Sceptre and the Sword. Just waiting on word from the artist to see if I can show off her early sketches and work-in-progress.

Now, back to Word.



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