Tools for Disabled writers

If I had it my way, publishing would be a lot more accommodating to Disabled authors regardless of fabulousness, but, unfortunately, publishing still has a mountain to climb when it comes to treating Disabled authors as well as it treats status quo authors, especially Disabled authors of color including Black Disabled authors and indigenous Disabled authors.

Even though there’s still a mountain to climb regarding accessibility and inclusion, I’d figure I’d try to do my part to make it easier on Disabled writers.

I believe the best way for me to help others open doors is to give them tools to struggle less.

Converting Markdown to Shun format.

I wrote this tutorial explaining how to convert Markdown manuscripts into Shun manuscript format for Windows

Paying markets RSS feed.

This is why I have a freely available RSS feed of paying markets. I want other Disabled authors to succeed. Of course, the RSS feed that updates with paying markets won’t solve all systemic problems, but it does cut down on having to search for paying markets.

The linked items go directly to the original posts, always giving the original poster traffic to the pages.

I’m always open to finding more resources I can turn into tools for others so don’t be afraid to get in touch with resources. The paying markets tool isn’t the only tool I’ve created, though.

Modern manuscript format templates for Word.

Even though I strongly think editors should provide their own templates when creating submission guidelines, I’ve created a Microsoft Word template that should take the Burdon out of formatting a short story or novel. I’ve also included an anonymous template.

My template is based off Shunn’s Word templates but with a few things changed. Some of his macros conflicted with Word’s modern keyboard shortcuts so I changed some macros around and added some macros to make basic cleanup far easier.

I created a templates package based off the proper manuscript format. The templates come packaged in a zip file.

Download version 1 or view the releases page for later versions.

These templates are fully accessible to screen readers.

To ensure the macros work, you have to enable macros in Microsoft Word.

The wiki page serves as a guide to the templates and how to use the macros. Of course, all of this is free and open source. If you can improve on my work, do it. Make it better and easier to use. I’ll explain some differences between the old templates and my modern templates.

Titles, such as story title, chapter titles, and novel title, are all headings. Main titles are heading level one. Subtitles and chapter names are heading level two. This should make it far easier for people to skim their documents as well as allow screen reader users to jump sections in their manuscripts.

I created a macro that will do basic cleanup. Remove extra white space at the end of paragraphs. Remove extra line and paragraph spacing. Removes double punctuation marks at the ends of sentences. Removes all extra spaces between words, such as when someone accidentally hits the spacebar twice, and more. this macro is called QuickFix

I created macros to automatically insert chapters when needed. Press Alt, C, Charlie, to create a new chapter with a number. Press Alt T, tango, to create a new chapter with chapter title. You will have to go back and replace the, X, after the word, chapter, but it works. It will automatically place your cursor into the proper place for typing your body text.

Word has a longstanding bug where if you put a quote before a letter after the previous sentence, this letter isn’t capitalized. It’s caused many problems for me when writing dialog after finishing a sentence. This second macro fixes that bug. When you run the, CleanDialog, macro, it capitalizes every letter after an opening quotation mark.

My templates will automatically count words for you and round them to the nearest hundred or nearest thousand. These fields are already in their correct places in the document. These fields don’t require macros to run but there is a macro that will automatically update the fields upon closing your document.

Lastly, I’d like to share a tip in case you’d rather just create some macros or templates yourself.

Create your own word count macro.

Even though this trick is mainly for VI writers, others can use this trick too. Here’s how to automatically round words in a Microsoft Word document using a screen reader and the keyboard.

First, a bit of an explanation.

Proper manuscript format explanation.

When submitting to pro markets, the submission guidelines require that the manuscript be formatted in, what’s known, as proper manuscript format. AKA, Shunn manuscript format. This format has a lot of visual specifications that make it easier to read manuscripts. It, also, though, puts a ton of extra work on those of us that are blind or visually impaired.

All the same, fiction and nonfiction publications like this format. Book publishers love this format. Even if they don’t say they want this style, you should change your normal template to this style anyway, just because it will make your life easier in the long run. Plus, it looks professional.

I’d suggest you use the below templates and make changes to them. These templates are the only screen reader friendly ones I could find, so far. I’ve included an anonymous template because some pro publications do blind readings.

  1. Shunn templates. Made for Word 2007 but is screen reader friendly. There is no modern version that’s screen reader friendly.
  2. Anonymous template. Provided by the very inclusive folks at Escape Artists.

Now that you have your template, let’s get counting!

I’d suggest you practice on the below with a document first, not a template. When you’re ready to edit a template, open the template with Control O, as you would a regular document.

Counting words using fields.

It’s tiring to have to open up the word count dialog, copy that number, then paste it in the document. It’s far better if you insert a field that will count words for you into the Normal template so you won’t have to enter the number every time you want to write a story.

At the top of your template, delete the numeral that says 100 words. This numeral is aligned a certain way, so be careful not to delete the tab stop before the word, about.

Once, 100, is deleted, do the following to insert an automatic word count.

  1. Place the cursor exactly where the 100 was or wherever you want this field.
  2. Press CTRL F9. NVDA won’t speak at all.
  3. Type, NumWords without spaces or pressing anything else. The label has two capital letters in it.
  4. Press F9.

To update the count, select the field and press F9. Alternatively, select the whole document, CTRL A, and hit F9.

You can also update the field automatically. Here’s how to automatically update all fields when closing a document.

Record your Macro. Name it, AutoClose. Make sure the, A, and C, are capitalized.

  1. To open the Record Macro dialog, press Alt+W, M, R.
  2. Type AutoClose as a name for your macro, and then press Enter. The name cannot contain spaces.
  3. Record the macro by performing the commands or pressing the keys for the steps in the task. Word records your keystrokes.
  4. While the macro is recording, press, CTRL A. Then, F9. Then, CTRL S. Don’t do anything else!
  5. To stop recording, press Alt+W, M, R.

You’re done! If you put this macro in your modified normal template, your workflow will be basically automated. Now, onto rounding the above field.

Automatically round word count fields.

The reason you may want to insert a rounded number rather than an exact number is because it makes writing cover letters easier. It also makes looking for paying markets easier. Always look for markets that are 100 words higher than your rounded count, by the way.

  1. Press Control-F9. You are now in a field. NVDA does not speak, at all, so you need to be very good with keyboards and cursors here.
  2. In the field, type, =ROUND(,-2)

This is the rounding function, where the -2 indicates how many digits you want rounded off. If it were -3, it would be to the nearest thousand. Case isn’t important: you can type =ROUND or =round or anything in between.

  1. Put your cursor between the left parron, ( and the comma.
  2. Press Control-F9 again to get another field inside the first one. NVDA will not speak, at all, but you are exactly where you need to be. Don’t press any other keys!
  3. Type the field name, NUMWORDS.
  4. press F9 to update the field. Alternatively, Toggle the whole thing so it shows as text, either by hitting Shift F10 and choosing “Update field” from the context menu or by pressing Alt-F9.

So, your field code looks something like this, using {} for the special field characters:

=round({ numwords }, -2 )

It took me a few tries to get it right so always make a backup copy. Try doing the above on a document first, rather than a template to be sure you got the hang of it. When you’re ready, apply it to your actual template so you never have to do this again.

Also, backup your writing templates in OneDrive so it travels with you. OneDrive is accessible to screen readers.

If you liked this post, and enjoy my fiction work, donate to me.

Happy writing!

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