To my surprise, I happened to discover somebody else on this site who was writing their first drafts of stories for this site in Microsoft Word.
I thought I was the only one.
I don’t begrudge any author’s choice of word processing software. Word is kinda klunky, its spelling and grammar correction tools are absolutely not to be trusted, and most importantly, it’s not free. But it was the tool I grew up with, so I stick with it, mostly because I know all of its ins and outs. I also don’t trust using Google Docs as a middleman to get from Word to FIMFiction, because I suspect the importer still misses a few things, and Google Docs fails to reproduce the formatting of everything pasted in from Word.
Based on my experiences, here are my tips for getting the most out of Word on this site, for the possible benefit of anybody else in the same boat as me:
* My default paragraph formatting for new documents includes 0 pt before and 10 pt after paragraphs, and a first-line indent of 0.25”. For Auto-format As You Type, I turn on straight quotes to smart quotes and internet paths to hyperlinks, but not automatic fraction formatting, bold or italic formatting, or hyphen formatting—I find that those tend to screw up on me too many times.
* When I’m writing in Word, I use Heading 2 style for chapter titles, then I view headings on the Navigation Pane to easily jump between chapters. I end a paragraph with a blank line with a bottom border, to make it easy to spot.
* I use two kinds of separators to divide up text within a chapter: scene breaks for minor changes in location or time, and section breaks for major changes, or any time the point of view character changes. Scene breaks are indicated by using three centered characters on a line by itself. Which three characters I decide to use in a story is a stylistic choice for me, although I can’t really explain why “% % %” seems appropriate for a story about a stiff and formal character, while “& & &” is better for a story about a crazy extrovert. For scene changes, I use the Horizontal Line, but formatted to have a width of 50% of the page (so it’s visually distinct from the border I’m using between chapters).
* When I need an em-dash (“—”) in my writing, I either type “--” with the intention of using Find/Replace later, or I use the (Windows) shortcut for an em-dash: Crtl+Shift+Minus (the one on the numeric keypad, not the one between “0” and “+”).
* For block quotes, I put a border around the text and change the shading to 25% gray, to make it visually distinct and somewhat resemble what it will look like in FIMFiction.
* When I have a chapter ready to post on FIMFiction.net, I copy it into a new Word document, and perform the following global Find/Replace operations on it:
* Find: “--”. Replace: “—” (If I didn’t type them all correctly at the time.)
* Find: “ ” (two spaces). Replace: “ ” (one space). This was back before I had trained myself out of the bad (for the Internet) habit of putting two spaces between sentences.
* Find: “^p”. Replace: “^p^p^t”. What this does is find every new line, and replace it with the original new line, another new line (to create a blank line), and a tab character before the new paragraph. Obviously, I have to go back and fix this for those occasions when I don’t want a tab at the front of a paragraph, and for the first paragraph in the chapter.
* Find: italicized text (press Ctrl+I while your cursor’s in the Find What box). Replace: “[ i ]^&[/ i ]” (without the spaces around the “i”s). The characters “^&” in the Replace With box mean “the stuff you just found”. So what this does is find every italicized text in the chapter, and put [ i ] tags around them: if you’ve got “this” in italics, you’ll end up with “[ i ]this[/ i ]”.
* If I had bold or underlined text in the chapter, I’d use variations on the above tip, only with [ b ] or [ u ] tags instead of [ i ].
* If I had colored text in the chapter, I’d search for each color and replace it with the appropriate color tag using the above method. For example, Vinyl Scratch’s thoughts in my Thought Experiments stories are always in this shade of blue, so I’d replace text with a (red, green, blue) of (0, 119, 208) with “[ color=#0077D0 ]^&[/ color ]”.
* Find: “^t* * *”. Replace: “[ center ]* * *[/ center ]” (without spaces around the brackets). This finds my scene breaks—which one of my earlier Find/Replace tasks added an unwanted tab character to—and automatically applies the center tag to them.
* Find: “^t^g”. Replace: “[ hr ]” (without spaces). In Word, “^g” finds graphics, and the horizontal rules I’ve been using as section breaks count as graphics.
* Now here’s what I have to find and fix manually: images, hyperlinks, and block quotes. Because hyperlinks and inline images are such a pain to find, I tend to just write the code directly into the Word document as I write, instead of trusting that I’ll find them at this stage. For block quotes, remember that to get the proper spacing, you need to have the initial [ quote ] tag on a line by itself, followed by the text to put in the box starting on a new line, followed immediately by the [/ quote ] tag without a new paragraph between them.
* Also needing to be manually fixed at this point is any formatting that spans paragraphs, as that tends to get reset on FIMFiction.
And that’s everything I do. I hope some of these tips were helpful. If any of you have any tips that make it easier to put Word-generated content onto FIMFiction that I missed, please feel free to share in the comments.