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Using “Styles” in Word Processors

Oh my goodness, every writer who uses a word processor should learn how to use Styles, like, right now.

I recently learned it’s something you absolutely should be using if you’re going into self-publishing for reasons. But even if you’re not, they’re great. You can set one up so that it automatically indents every starting paragraph, so you don’t have to constantly hit “tab.” Better yet, you can set one up specifically for when your character is reading/writing emails, or text messages, or IM’s, or letters, or whatever else in your story. And instead of having to format within the text every time you’re writing one of those things, you can just type out the messages, highlight it, and with the click of a button, it’s formatted perfectly!

I use LibreOffice, but I imagine it’s similar in other word processors. But here are some handy screenshots to show how to make one.

First, go to “Styles,” and click “New Style.” A window will pop up, and you can type in whatever you want the style’s name to be.

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Then, go to the upper left corner and select it, then click it and select “Edit Style.

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A window should pop up giving you options upon options to choose. For what I’m doing, I’m just going to edit the spacing and make it so every new paragraph automatically indents, as seen in the below screenshot.

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But you can click all the little tabs and explore all your options, like font effects and outlines and alignments. Go nuts! And when you’re done, hit “okay” and select all the text you want to apply this style to. Go back to the upper corner to select that style, and your text should all change to it!

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You can make as many styles as you want! Here’s what my options for my online messages in my current WIP look like.

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Which makes the online messages look like this.

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And every time I need to write in an online message, I can just select the text, and go up top and select my “messages” style I made. No more wasting time fiddling with that tab key and return key. What’s great is that, if I ever decide I want to change how indented my messages are, or decide I want all of them bold instead of italicized, I can go back in and “edit” the style accordingly. No more combing through 200+ pages of text in search of messages to edit. It fixes them all at once!

If you’re still confused, or if whatever you’re using is much different than LibreOffice, then a quick Google search should help you out more. But I highly, highly recommend using these! My life is so much easier now.

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How I went Goth

May 22nd is World Goth Day so I’ll celebrate it by rambling on about my past and how I may or may not be goth.

Let me start from the beginning…

Back in my teenage years, I used to be quirky and happy and weird. My usual attire was a T-shirt and jeans, paired with a sweatshirt in the winter months. I wasn’t picky when it came to music, and was willing to listen to just about anything. And some of the kids who hung around my core friend group could be described as goth. I wasn’t close to any of them aside from friendly hellos, but deep down, I liked their fashion choices.

There was this girl I used to call my best friend though. She called herself goth. I’m not going to get into our whole history, but basically we were friends in middle school, kept in touch throughout high school, and ended up going to the same college. Her favorite pastimes included burning me mix CDs of her favorite music. While many people would say most of the bands she listened to weren’t technically goth, they were definitely “goth-friendly.” She was determined to get me into them.

And she succeeded. I liked a lot of the songs, and put them on my iPod. And listened to them on my way to school, and when making art in my art classes. I still listened to my usual hodgepodge of music genres, but now had these bands added in. The 69 Eyes, Nightwish, HIM, Within Temptation, Kerli, and others I can’t think of at the moment.

Fast forward two years later. I was taking a drawing class. And the teacher wanted our final project to be a series of three drawings that tied together somehow. I forget the exact requirements. But I remember the idea I immediately came up with.

A series of gothic-like drawings that all took place in a cemetery. Weeping angels, crows, skulls, the whole lot. In black charcoal. It was going to be so bad-ass. And so I worked on it.

Now picture this.  Happy, bubbly me sitting in the classroom. Wearing a white hoodie paired with pale blue jeans and sneakers. No makeup. Hair tied back in a basic ponytail. And what am I drawing? A crow chilling on top of a human skull next to a headstone. And I’m listening to The 69 Eyes for inspiration. That’s when it hit me.

What the bloody fuck was I doing listening to goth music while drawing a series of gothic imagery while being very obviously not goth? What were people going to think when it was time for me to present my masterpiece to the entire class? What was I thinking???

I was thinking that crows, skulls, and weeping angels were rad as hell. Along with the music I was listening to.

Afterwards, I went to my then best friend to tell her all of this and it made her very happy. One thing led to another, and next thing I knew, I was buying studded belts, fishnet gloves, and dragon necklaces. That summer, I spent a lot of time on Myspace discovering new bands (which goes to show you how long ago this was). Though none of the ones I loved were technically goth. I was gravitating towards industrial and symphonic metal. Bands like Deathstars and Rammstein and Sirenia and Xandria. I went back to school a new woman.

I dressed in gothic accessories and black eyeliner religiously for nearly two years but slowly stopped for a variety of reasons. But now, ten years later, I have a sudden interest in doing so again. I’d rather not scare all my coworkers, so I’m slowly incorporating the eyeliner, dark colors, and belt into my daily attire. I’ll add in necklaces later, starting with tame ones. Unfortunately, I’ll be leaving the fishnets at home…

That aside, I’m not sure what to call myself. I absolutely love the style and overall aesthetic. But a big part of being goth is listening to actual goth bands. And the only “real” goth band I listen to is The 69 Eyes. Along with some songs from other goth bands. My favorite bands are either classified as industrial or symphonic metal. Though I wouldn’t call myself a metalhead for the same reason I’m hesitant to call myself goth. But if someone who didn’t know me, saw me when I’m dressed up, they’d probably think I’m some sort of goth. Or up to no good. Or both. If I ended up at a goth meetup, I’d probably be able to fit in. I know enough to get away with calling myself that anyway. All in all, it probably depends on who you talk to. I’m not going to stress over it. I’ll just go with the flow like I do with everything else.

But if symphonic metalheads are a thing, I’m calling myself that. Maybe I’ll call myself that regardless.

As for what happened when I presented my gothic masterpiece? The teacher actually asked how someone like me drew something like that. I kid you not. I ended up explaining that, though I didn’t look it, I thought gothic things are cool. A few people laughed, and it ended at that. I just wish I could find those drawings, but I had gotten rid of a lot of drawings I made, and those must’ve been part of what I got rid of. And I could’ve sworn I had kept digital pictures of them stored away somewhere, but I’ve checked all my spare USB sticks and portable hard drive. They’re gone for all eternity. Like my soul…

The deepest story I ever wrote…

Back in elementary school, every year the entire school would do this “Young Author’s Fair” thing. Every student in every class would have to write a story that fit the requirements of the grade they’re in. Like, third graders had to write poems, or first graders had to write about their family. Stuff like that. There would be class time dedicated to this. At the end of the year, there’d be a special assembly announcing “winners” of this. Several books would be picked out from each grade and get first place, second place, honorable mention, etc. Winners got a special colored ribbon. Everyone else got a participation ribbon that we all knew didn’t mean shit, let’s get real here. In fact, I’m pretty sure winners got the participation ribbon on top of the winning ribbon.

Anyways…

Year after year I had hoped to get in some sort of place. Ever since it started in Kindergarten. But every year, I didn’t. Until fifth grade. In fifth grade, we were all required to write three short stories. All three of my stories starred animals. And it won an honorable mention. Thankfully, I found this out in class instead of at the assembly because after expressing excitement for getting an honorable mention, I got made fun of. And it’s one of the reasons why I react to exciting news with indifference. I could win the god damn lottery and I’d just be all, “yeah, that’s cool.” But this post isn’t about my tragic backstory. No, this is about the content inside my “winning” book.

I came across it the other day. I have a large box that contains all of those Young Authors Fair stories, other stories, art stuff, a newspaper from the day I was born, baby book, baby teeth, that kind of stuff. I had to dig it out to put away a birthday card from my grandma in case it ends up being my last one from her. And while I had the box pulled out and opened, I decide to poke around in there.

That’s when I found it.

The first short story was about a wolf who never ate meat. It was lame and boring. The second one was about a cat that needed glasses. It was cute and funny. But the third one… Oh boy. I have to share it. (Transcript below photo if it’s too hard to read.)

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[Transcript: Once there was a horse named Ginger. He was a poor, scrawny, clumsy horse. All the horses made fun of him. Ginger was very skinny. Nobody liked him. He wished that he was fatter and not so clumsy and scrawny. One day, Ginger found a candy bar still in the wrapper. Ginger knew that chocolate makes you fat, so Ginger got the wrapper open and ate the candy bar. He loved it. Whenever he saw a candy bar, he would eat it. One day, he became fatter, and he wasn’t so scrawny or clumsy. He was glad, but he was hooked on the candy bars. He kept on eating them. Soon he became the fattest horse. He began to wish that he was a bit skinnier. So Ginger went on a diet, but it didn’t work. He couldn’t stop eating candy bars. It was hard for him to stop. Soon Ginger learned a lesson, and that was not to eat too many candy bars, no matter how skinny he was.]

This is the deepest, most realest story I have ever written in my entire life and nothing could ever top it.

I’m joking, but it blew me away how this could be interpreted as a commentary on body image and addiction. Little ten year old me lived in a bubble. I didn’t know about addiction. I mean, I knew what it was but I didn’t know what it was. And I’ve always been really skinny, but I don’t remember ever feeling insecure about it. (At least not until my 20’s, anyway.) I knew fat people got made fun of, and that dieting was a thing people did to lose weight. But I never actually sat down and thought about the effects of having negative body image. I never thought about how addiction can affect lives. I was ten, living in the year 1999. All I ever thought about was Pokemon.

Yet there I was, writing out what I probably intended to be a story about a horse and “ha ha ha what if he found a candy bar?? candy bars are yummy I’m addicted to candy bars myself!!!1 and if u eat 2 many u get FAT!” That’s probably what my stream of consciousness was doing.

And adults were probably reading this and being all “wow, that’s deep for a little kid let’s give her story an honorable mention.”

I’m not even gonna touch upon Ginger traditionally being a “girl’s name,” yet I used male pronouns for him. There’s an element of trans issues thrown in on top of everything else. But trans issues were far off the radar back then.

I just thought I’d share this story and anecdote, because I can’t get over 10 year old me writing what I thought would be a funny story but is actually about serious issues I was too little to understand at the time. I don’t know how I managed to pull that off but hey, at least I had finally gotten a ribbon for something that wasn’t just participation.

Exclamation Points, Emoticons, or Just Plain Periods

Recently, my boyfriend brought up an interesting point regarding writers (artists and musicians too) responding to online compliments. Specifically, thanking a person for their comment.

Now, this is something I always had more problems with than anyone should have. I mean, all you have to write is “thank you,” right? Or go a step forward and say something along the lines of “Thank you for your feedback. I’m glad you liked it.”

Except when I write “thank you,” I never know whether to put an exclamation mark, an emoticon, or a good old fashioned period. I try my comment with all three options. Exclamation marks, to me, always come off as way too over-enthusiastic. Don’t get me wrong, I do get very happy over nice comments. But every time I use one, I feel like I’m screaming excitedly like a little kid going to Disneyland. And then, with emoticons, I feel like I’m trying too hard to be hip and cool. It’s not so bad if it transfers over as an emoji, but on sites where that’s not the case… It looks too outdated and almost cringey. In the end, I usually go with a period. Nothing wrong with the tried and true period.

Except there is nowadays? Back when I learned about exclamation marks, before cell phones and the internet, the teacher told us to basically never use them. Only under rare circumstances. Like fiction writing, I guess. That was my assumption. And I went on with that line of thinking. It’s just not professional.

But apparently things have changed in the age of cell phones and the internet. Now I’m hearing that periods sound too serious and not at all friendly. Exclamation marks are good to use, even in “professional” emails. I thought I was the only one who read too far into what punctuation mark to use when responding to comments, and most people didn’t care. I feel like I’ve been living a lie.

But unless I want to come off as a cold, disinterested person, it looks like I’m going to have to get used to using exclamation marks!

Blogging?

I feel like I should start keeping a blog. Since I have a habit of falling into depressive episodes that cause me not to write anything, and then my motivation to write comes back months later, but then it’s hard because my skills are rusty since the only writing I had been doing is writing the occasional email at work. Also, it seems like keeping a blog is something a lot of writers do.

But I don’t know how to start this off, or what to even write in it. I mean, I actually used to have a blog on Xanga, which is an ancient blogging site popular in the mid-2000’s and now nobody uses it. I always used mine as a sort of public diary where I’d just talk about what happened that day. Or ramble on about random stuff. I could do that with this one but, eh. My days aren’t all that exciting. But maybe I could ramble about things when I think of something to ramble on about. And obviously, I’d at some points give news about my writing. But what will probably happen is, I’ll forget all about this and this particular post will sit here, all by its lonesome self.

We shall see what happens. Check back next week. Or month. Or year. Or decade…