It would make me happy if I could submit manuscripts to publishers again. I don’t need instant success, I  just want to be in the game and fulfill the dream I had at 15 while singing along to my favorite Beatles song, “Paperback Writer.”  I’d be a part of publishing.  All I need to do is get those stories on (virtual) paper, and submit them.  Rejections are part of the process, so even receiving rejection slips would show I was officially working at writing.  Before I do this, though, the computer daemon also demands submission, but submission of a different kind:  apparently as a rite of passage, the word processing program wants me to suffer before it gives up the secret for applying headers on the pages I create.

In order for a writer to successfully storm the transom and convince the publishers’ slush pile readers that a manuscript deserves a second look, any piece she sends them must conform to the standard format. Not using standard format will get your manuscript sent back to you far faster than it took you to write it. Part of the standard format is using headers on each page. Among other things, this allows publishing company minions to reassemble a story if the printed manuscript falls to the floor and the pages scatter.

When I was composing on a typewriter, putting in headers was easy, you typed them at the top of the page before carriage-returning your way down the paper.  Since processing words is now computerized, putting in a header isn’t managed through the simple task of typing.  Yes, in our complex word processing programs the “find and replace” function is marvelous.  Yes, spell- and grammar-check are amazing.  Voice recognition programs save, save, save my wrists.

Up until now I’ve been a successful word processing autodidact, but the basic header is about to do me in:  I can’t get it to work.  Multiple menus are involved; many boxes need clicking; and what you click affects the next action you humbly ask the program to perform.  Also, some buttons are located on ribbons, which has me baffled because the last ribbon I used was in a typewriter.  However, since I’ve made it this far — we didn’t have blogging classes in the 1960s — I’m sure I’ll catch on.

To get myself in gear, and because Word doesn’t come with the much wished for Abracadabra shortcut, I asked friends in one forum for a how-to on headers and received two separate instructions.  The first instruction mentioned the ribbon, and after later watching an online tutorial, I think the ribbon instruction is for Office 2010.  I have Word 2003 (hey, I’m not still using GeoPublish).

The second set of instructions almost worked, except they didn’t because clicking buttons that are supposed to separate the first page from all the others so that page 1 is its own section isn’t sticking. I click for the header to be activated “from this page forward” and with “first page different,” only to scroll back and find the header imprinted at the top of page 1, as still and obdurate as a rock.  The shouting had no effect and the curses aren’t working.

Using the hints my friends supplied, I played around — unfortunately, rather than sorting out my characters’ timings, manipulating the subtleties of scene decoration, or crafting a really brilliant twist — and I did manage to keep the header off the first page with the numbers starting on page 2.  I was so happy.  Then I scrolled down to page 3:  nothing.  Oh, my text was there but pages 3 and 4 of this trial document had no header. The only page displaying a header was page 2, the “from this page forward” page. I did have pages from that page forward, I just didn’t have any headers. The curses still aren’t working as I haven’t yet seen any reports about the programmers of Word 2003 spontaneously combusting.

Part of me figures it doesn’t matter whether I ever learn how to make Word’s headers. At the rate I’m flattening this learning curve, I won’t have to worry about making an incorrect submission because I’ll never again have time to write: I’ll spend the rest of my life figuring out headers. Problem solved.  No writing = no need to submit.

It’s at this point that self-publishing doesn’t sound so bad. I self-indulgently blog, I can self-indulgently publish.  Who cares if I have validation from the minions of a conglomerate whose main interest is the bottom line? Minions begone! If I don’t have to fight with a mute computer program that formats as it pleases, frustrating my desire to please minions, I’m happy.  I just hope that the self-publishing format doesn’t require headers.


Update:  Repeating the header insertion on page 3 after inserting it into page 2 kept the page 2 header and also inserted headers on pages 3 and beyond.  Odd, but if that’s what it takes …