The Maidenhead of Despair

You’re never too old to learn.

In my opinion, the moment you stop learning, you also stop living. After all, if you close yourself off to learning, or decide now is the time to rest on your laurels in a ‘my work is done’ kind of way, you could find that you missed out on something marvellous that could have enhance your life, even if it wasn’t immediately obvious.

In the past week or so my life has been enhanced by two things.

  1. Using a hyphen is not always appropriate. There is such a thing as an en dash and also an em dash (so-called because the first is roughly the width of an N, the second because it is roughly the width of an M). They are used in two specific situations where a hyphen will not do!
  2. Indents. Don’t tab to start a new paragraph. Set up your document style beforehand and you will be all set. It’s important when you’re facing the prospect of uploading your work to KDP or another bookish platform for publication.

Now then.

Cue the Slough of Despond and the Maidenhead of Despair (a pun on John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and two towns in England. If you know, you know). I had line-edited 87% of my novel (yes, I did use a calculator to work that out) before I learned this and my heart sank. Did I really need to go through all the chapters I had line-edited so far to sort out the hyphen/en dash/em dash issue? Why the heck didn’t I know about these grammatical tools until now? I’m supposed to be well-read and literate for crying out loud!

Well, I am still both of those things but I’ve never worked in the arena of typesetting for a start and, well, I had subconsciously noticed these overly-large horizontal lines but just assumed they were part of the print-justification process. So sue me (no, please don’t). But I know I’m not alone.

Dear Reader, I did absorb this learning into my novel and it is all (as far as I can tell) suitably edited to include em dashes where appropriate. En dashes were not needed. I feel better for doing it and quite frankly, it is one less thing for my editor to focus on.

As for the Great Tab/Indent Crisis of 2021… well, let’s just say it was a reminder that I never, ever had any training on how to use Word. I just play with it to make it do what I want. And it largely does, although every now and I again I have used Bad Words as I’ve hit the ceiling of my understanding on what this admittedly powerful tool can do. Hit the ceiling of my understanding and also lack the time to determine exactly what I needed to do to resolve the issue.

Dear Reader (you’re still there aren’t you?), I had a very poor night’s sleep on Friday night (something I excel at) and decided early morning on a Saturday was the perfect time to call in the negotiators and release my novel from its poorly-formatted hostage situation. In other words I used the internet to find out what I needed to do. After a bit of finagling, I got there. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that I had begun writing Anti-Virus in the Notes app on my iPad, then exported those chapters to Word, so legacy ‘formatting’ (in the loosest sense of the word) was an issue. On top of that I’m using an old version of Word for Mac, so finding out how to deal with the tabs/indents using information for more recent versions of Word was… interesting. Again, I used some more Bad Words along the way, although as I discussed with my lovely author friend Lucie Ataya, I didn’t use them all! I saved some for later.

Oh. And just in case you’re wondering… I submitted my (much better formatted and suitably em dashed) novel to my editor yesterday afternoon.

I’m happy.

For now!

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