Smashwords Template, Paying Forward, & Writing with Passion

Most people who are inspired to do something with passion can look back on their lives and point to a few specific times when another human being reached out and helped them in a meaningful way.  I’m among that group, and one of those human beings who reached out and helped me was a man named Christopher James Canali.

Almost two decades ago, I was at a low point—heartbroken, living in a strange city far away from family, and barely eeking out enough of a living to call it a living.  I met Chris, and Chris Canalihe and I became close friends.  He was a former radio announcer and journalist who had turned his keen observation, bold critical thinking, and love of good writing into a career in medical writing.  Our common connection, however, was our mutual love of Shakespeare.  I still remember both of us sobbing aloud when we went to see “Shakespeare in Love.”

Chris knew I was struggling, and he knew I wouldn’t take a handout.  When he got the chance to do so, however, he recommended me for a job at the firm where he was the Manager of Medical Writing.  I started out organizing an internal medical library and establishing systems for acquiring journal articles and other reference material.  It wasn’t a high-paying job, but it was a steady gig that let me keep writing and teaching part-time.  Before long, Chris shifted my duties to writing continuing medical education.  I remember telling him, “Just don’t give me an assignment in neurology or cardiology.  I don’t want to mess up anything important.”  My first assignment was in cardiology, and my second was in neurology.  Chris believed in tossing a non-swimmer into the pond, and I’ll be forever thankful that he did that for me.  He taught me everything I know about medical writing, and that job changed my life.  When I decided that I couldn’t not write fiction as my primary job, I remember the initial terror I felt, and I also remember thinking, “Well, at least it’s not neurology!”

Chris was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known.  Even when he wasn’t working, he was working. Before he “semi-retired” (He just couldn’t bring himself to retire fully.), he’d established himself as a Red Cross Volunteer for national disaster response—floods, hurricanes, earthquakes.  He did that during his “vacations.”  He was there to help do whatever needed to be done to help others because his volunteering was a natural extension of his personality and ethics.  Anyone who knew him knew that he was all heart, a passionate half-Italian, half-Australian who never failed to offer a hand to anyone who needed it.

Today, I learned that Chris passed on, and my heart is so very, very broken.  It will heal.  But I can’t let this day pass without honoring Chris Canali by doing something for someone else.  I thought about what I could do, and it seems appropriate to do something to help other people who are passionate about writing.  I think Chris would like that because he loved good literature, and he encouraged people to write with passion.

A lot of writers new to self-publishing have commented about how difficult it is to get their work through the Smashwords metagrinder, also known as the MEATGRINDER (for damned good reason).  I’ve had great luck with the MS Word 1997-2003 template that I made.  It strips out all of the icky code that the new version of MS Word insists on inserting.  Chris would have approved of that, too.  He was a dyed-in-the-wool WordPerfect afficionado who used keyboard shortcuts and “reveal codes.”  All four of my books have passed the Smashwords formatting software test without a hitch the first time through it using the template.

So, if you’re struggling with how to format your book for Smashwords, just go here and download the document.  Here are some tips that will help you stay within Smashwords formatting guidelines:

  • Open the file and save it as a MS Word 1997-2003 template if you want to keep it in your MS Word template library.
  • To keep your novel file in the 1997-2003 .doc format.  Use “Save As” instead of “Save.”
  • You can use the file as a document and paste your novel’s content into it if you want to do so, but keep it as a MS Word 1997-2003 .doc file if you do.
  • You can alter the fonts for any of the styles without a problem (right click on the style in the toolbar), but I recommend you keep the style for “Normal” as is.
  • Don’t change any of the font sizes.
  • Also, don’t use more than 2 hard returns anywhere in your document.
  • Leave only one space after the end of a sentence and the start of a new sentence.

Feel free to pass along the template to any other writers you know who need it.

Write with passion!

Love you, Chris, and thank you.