Lessons from a Writers’ Mill Journal

Our local writing group, known as the Writers’ Mill (http://portlandwritersmill.org/)  has produced its third journal.

The Writers' Mill Journal
The Writers’ Mill Journal

and it’s on sale from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powells.

As “fearful leader” of the team, I had the honor of coordinating a great group of editors, learning more than I’d ever imagined about page-setting from my son and a wonderful friend, and ordering a box full of goods to be handed out to the authors at our next meeting. Just look what’s in these boxes!

Journals in a box
Journals in a box

Profits from sales go the library that hosts us, so readers and reviewers can enjoy benefiting our local community.

And what did I learn?


  1. Pages of text look better if they line up at the top, even if the bottoms don’t line up.
  2. Paragraph indents should be smaller if the page size is smaller.
  3. Strategic use of “shift enter” will allow you to avoid having one-word lines at the ends of paragraphs, or one-line ends and beginnings of paragraphs across pages
  4. Lists look better if they’re not right-justified. Text looks better right and left justified.
  5. Reducing the paragraph spacing is a great way to make a poem fit on a page.
  6. Start the first story on the right hand side of a two-page spread.
  7. Blank space is good. Even blank pages can be good, e.g. before that first story.
  8. Use a section break after the contents, then start line numbers from 1 in section two. Make sure section two starts on that right hand page with the first piece of text, and with page number 1.
  9. Headers and footers are great for the body of the book, but you might not want them on the contents and acknowledgement pages. Make sure section two’s headers and footers are not linked to previous section, or you’ll find yourself wondering why they keep disappearing.
  10. Everything takes time, but editing the Word doc while you read the pdf is a good way to speed things up. Then close the pdf, save your Word doc, and save as pdf again. The pdf reopens automatically and you can continue editing.
  11. You don’t need a backup Word doc for every change, but make sure you have a pre-formatted copy to compare with your final document. Then use review>compare in Word; examine every difference between these two, and make sure you didn’t accidentally remove any lines of text or words while formatting.

If you decide to read the journal, you’ll see how well or badly I learned it all, but I tried, and we’ll do even better next time!


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