Making an Index

I just created an index for a soon-to-be-published book called What Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell You. It’s been fun working on the book, but it’s also taken up huge amounts of time. So I’m looking forward to holding the finished book in my hands…except that there will be tons more to do: getting endorsements and setting up the Kindle edition, for starters.

But my topic today is the index. I did not use index cards this time. I relied on the indexing function in Word, which did an excellent job except that it required more clicking than I thought necessary, and some of the page numbers are wrong.

And there was one big problem that I’d forgotten. The index function uses Section Breaks to create columns (necessary because I’m trying to keep the book a manageable size). When I finished marking all the entries and clicked “OK,” my entire manuscript turned into three columns. All the work I’d done on formatting and page numbers was destroyed.

Well, not really. I have dealt with Section Breaks (the nastiest and most stubborn feature in Microsoft Word, and that’s saying a lot) many times. I just used the Find and Replace feature to remove all of them, fixed the index, and then put the rest of them back. I fixed the page numbers, and everything was fine (except for the time I wasted having to redo everything).

But I wonder what an inexperienced writer would have done. Sob? Give up on the book? Hire someone to fix the file?

Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. The bad news is that you need some highly sophisticated technology skills, and it takes time to learn enough so that you can solve the problems that inevitably appear. The good news is that the options available to writers are better than they’ve ever been if you have the grit to stick with a project and teach yourself what you need to know.

Still ahead: Fixing the page number errors in the index. Sigh. How did that happen?

index card ok


Leave a Reply