Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Those Pesky, Unwanted Black Lines in Your Manuscript

Do you suffer from those pesky* black lines that appear in your manuscript for no apparent reason and will not delete under any circumstance?

I had this problem, literally for years, when I was working on Zinovy's Journey.  I was super frustrated, because I could not submit a manuscript to an editor in that condition.  

I finally asked a workshop presenter at a Mt. Hermon Writers' conference what to do about the problem.  She couldn't help me, but a couple of young techie guys sitting behind me heard my question and solved the problem in less than three minutes.

First, the problem:  

It happens with Word, when you use a repeated series of symbols without spaces between them in your text, as you might do when you're creating scene breaks.  Word "auto format," in its great wisdom, thinks you're trying to create a border, so it gives you part of one, across the page, at whimsically selected places throughout your text.

Here's the simple solution:

1)  Highlight the text on either side of the black line.  Word won't let you highlight the black line, itself, but if you select the text above and below it, continuously, the black line will be highlighted invisibly.

2) Go to "format" in the menu bar at the top of the document, then select "borders and shading," and click on "none." The black line will disappear as mysteriously as it has appeared.

3)  Ever after, if you want to use symbols for scene breaks, just put a space between each character and it won't happen again.

When you do get a manuscript in front of an editor, they will likely take out all your fancy-dancy scene breaks anyway, but in the meantime you can enjoy them all by yourself.

Hope this helps!  Happy un-formatting!
* (Randy Ingermannson's favorite word)