The Most Powerful – and Most Ignored – Tool in a Writer’s Toolkit

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Starting October 31st, 2016, the Romantic Women’s Fiction Chapter of RWA is hosting Mastering Word for Fiction Writers.

“Hi. My name is Sandra and I’m a self-pubbed author. I dread preparing my manuscripts for conversion to ebooks. I have to upload over and over, fixing a different error each time. I lose so many hours when I could be writing.”

“I’m Thomas and I’m traditionally published. My editor just sent my manuscript back. Not for the usual edits and proofing, but with formatting instructions! What the heck are Styles?”

“Jamila here. I’m entering lots of contests to get noticed by an agent or editor. I keep losing so many points for formatting, spelling, and grammar that I just miss first place and now I’m no place. How do I fix this?”

Are you like Sandra, Thomas, and Jamila? Aggravated and confused by technology? Frustrated by wasting your precious writing time not actually writing? Continue reading

Off to Nationals

Handmade HatsThe Romance Writers of America is holding their annual conference, this year in New York from July 22nd to 25th.

I’ll be there with three hats on:

  1. Joan the Contemporary Small-town Romance Writer,
  2. Joan the President of the Romantic Women’s Fiction Chapter of RWA, and
  3. Joan the Word Expert and Formatter at Woven Red Author Services.

If you’re attending Nationals and you’d like to discover more about the RWF chapter, please join us in the Broadway Lounge on Wednesday, July 22nd at 8 PM.

If you’d like to chat about writing or get some help with Word, please use the form below to set up a meeting. Or flag me down whenever you spot me.



© 2015, Joan Leacott
image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

What I Learned at My Own Workshop

Have you ever wanted to design your own print books? I did, so I taught myself how. And recently, I led a workshop to teach others.

At the most recent gathering of the Toronto Indie Publishing Meetup group, I presented the FIVE MUST-HAVE TECHNIQUES FOR DESIGNING YOUR OWN PRINT BOOKS.

An exciting group of authors attended—newbies, self-pubbed, and hybrids—happy to network and connect. But the computers… not so happy. My PC ignored the projector. Sigh. Fortunately, organizer Michael came to the rescue with his own laptop. But… mine’s a PC and his a Mac. Would worlds—I mean, operating systems—collide?

I’d laboured over the PowerPoint deck. Would it work? Would it transfer? Would it be legible? Anytime you move a document to another computer, if that computer doesn’t have the same fonts installed, it’ll substitute some boring default.

It opened! Hallelujah! With my gut in knots, I scrolled through the document. All my lovely font choices had converted to Arial. Oh, no!

I zipped through the content—the learnings remained.


With a deep breath, I began my presentation. It’s smooth sailing, until we get to the segment on sexy fonts. They’d all gone from sexy to boring.

But never fear!

I had hard copy of my work with me and was able to hold up books and pass them around.

We all know how important fonts are to cover art, but they can also be used to great effect in your interior. Here’s an example from Karen Blake-Hall’s You Are Mine*. The villain sends messages with letters and words cut from magazines and newspaper. How do I make this stalker tale more visceral, more creepy?

By reproducing the note visually in the print book.


As a self-pubbed author and book designer, I strive for a professional look in the print books I craft. I study blogs and books, desperate to avoid the dreaded “self-pubbed” look. I follow the advice of experienced professionals, especially Joel Friedlander.**

But as I was showing off Karen’s book to the Meetup audience, I had a major AH-HA moment.

I can engage the reader in a way that big publishers rarely do.

Can you imagine an interior designer for a big corporate publisher being allowed to sift through hundreds of fonts to choose something as significant to a story as cut-out lettering?

Maybe if you’re Dan Brown or Stephen King, but for the rest of us? Uh… no.

Would they allow anything other than italics for a hand-written note? Or irregular spacing to mimic a real person’s note?


Nope. Not happening in a big shop.

Definitely happening in my small shop.

Have you ever considered your font choices when designing your print book?

See more examples of my work at Woven Red Sampler Page.

My favourite source for free fonts is Font

**Find Joel at

*Connect with Karen Blake-Hall.

Join our merry band of Toronto Indie Publishing.

Thanks to Micheal McPherson for organizing, and saving, the day!

cross-posted from Woven Red Author Services

© 2015, Joan Leacott

WORKSHOP: Get Word Working for You

Wednesday May 6, 2015, 6:45 pm to 8:15 pm
George Locke Library Meeting Room, Toronto

link to Meetup
Regardless of your path to publication or your genre, all fiction writers have one thing in common–we need to create a clean, error-free manuscript for professional editing, uploading to retailers, and sending to printers. The first step is to get Word working for you. The workshop will include an overview and, time permitting, a live demonstration of the must-have Word techniques: Styles, Margins, Headers, and Section Breaks. Don’t fight your book, write your book.

Register at

New Name, New Home, Same Great Course

Tips 4 WIPs + POD has a new name and a new home.

You can find Mastering Word for Fiction Writers at Woven Red Author Services. While you’re there, register for the next online class at Savvy Authors using the link in the sidebar.

On our new home page, you’ll find a Quiz to Test Your Word skills, a Tip Sheet for eBook Formatting, and a Reference Guide for Print Book Formatting.

So come on over and click around the new place.

link to Woven Red

© Joan Leacott 2014

Microsoft Word Techniques All Authors Should Know

word cloud 5Are you looking for a class that will help you to:

  1. improve your efficiency in Microsoft Word
  2. master advanced Word techniques
  3. create pristine Word files ready for e-formatting and print-on-demand?

Then sign up for the March 2014 Tips 4 WIPs + POD at Author E.M.S.

But don’t wait too long. The classes fill up quick.


Note: The Tips 4 WIPs + POD course is now known as Mastering Word.


Tame the Beast

Guy Kawasaki at Digital Book World said:

The Top Ten Mistakes Writers Make When Self-Publishing a Book

5. Using a word processor other than Microsoft Word. Admittedly, Word is a beast, and you will need to wrestle it to the ground. There are cheaper and more elegant word processors, but nothing has the paragraph styles capability of Word nor the universal acceptance from the reviewers, testers, editors, designers, and resellers that you’ll use downstream.

Agent Zack said:

What’s Wrong with Writers’ Conferences?

I would like writers’ conferences to be more about teaching. Teach authors how to write query letters. Teach them how to properly format their manuscripts (please!). Introduce them to the Chicago Manual of Style and what “style” is. Teach them how to use Microsoft Word to apply styles (the other kind) and create a clean manuscript that can easily be converted for eBook publication or printed book production.

Why have I highlighted these two excerpts?

I can help you tame the beast that is Microsoft Word.

I thrashed through the wide array of MS Word commands, winnowed them down, and created an online course, Tips 4 WIPs, Microsoft Word for Fiction Writers.

You can see the course outline here, applicable in either MS Word 2003 or MS Word 2007/10.

I’ve whittled the more complex commands, e.g. Track Changes, down to a process that suits the way critiques are passed back and forth. I provide templates with pre-set Styles that work for fiction writers, whether pursuing traditional publication or self-publishing.

To see how you’ll gain efficiency, check out some before-and-after keystroke sequences.

Tips 4 WIPS is available privately, or in groups, or as a gift certificate.  If you belong to a writing group, Tips 4 WIPs can be held in a Yahoo group for all members.

Pricing details are available on the Sign Up page.

@ Joan Leacott, 2013