I still use Microsoft Word extensively for my writing projects.
But first, I want to point out that this article is not about which writing software is better. I know some die-hard Scrivener fans, and some writers who like the simplicity of a no frills text editor. Writers tend to have strong opinions on their preferred writing tool, but I gotta say, I’m a big believer in just use what you like best. There is no ‘best’ software. I just happen to prefer Word.
If you like Word too, and want to get more out of it, then perhaps this article will be of use (or at least that was my goal for writing it).
Which brings me to main focus – using the Document Map feature in Word to quickly jump around the document from scene to scene or chapter to chapter.
I don’t write linearly – I didn’t with my non-fiction books, and I don’t with my fiction books. I like jumping around and ‘layering’ my books as the moods strikes.
For those that haven’t used this feature before, you can easily turn it on by going to the View tab, and clicking the checklist (it won’t be pink – I just highlighted it here so you can see it more easily).
This will open up a panel on the left hand side of your screen.
If you are in a new document, it will be probably be blank, but if you are in a current working document – depending on how you’ve set up your styles – you’ll see a whole bunch of headings and other notes here.
Here’s what my current WIP’s document map looks like:
You can see fairly clearly that I’ve listed all my chapters sequentially and I’ve also got notes of what happens in the scene, and sometimes other notes including things I still need to do.
How do you get your document map to look like this?
As I’m writing the document, I attribute my chapters and notes to different headings.
Chapter 1 (for example) will get the Heading 1 style. Scene description will get heading 2 and sometimes I’ll write extra notes using heading 3.
This is a quick guide of which styles I personally use, although you should play around with it for what works best for you:
Heading 1 attribute: ACT #, Chapter #
Heading 2 attribute: POV, Scene Description, Scene # (if more than one scene per chapter)
Heading 3 attribute: Notes, Word Counts, To Do’s
The hierarchy of the Document Map shows Heading 1’s first, Heading 2’s indented under that, and Heading 3’s indented further again.
You can also open or close anything under the Heading styles using the tiny + or – box next to the main heading. This helps if you have a lot of notes, and just want to skip quickly around to each chapter.
I like using the Document Map so that I can quickly jump around my manuscript by clicking on the left which then brings me to the correct place on the right side of the screen, so I can continue writing.
It’s much better than scrolling through your document trying to navigate to earlier or later chapters which can be a pain for large books. It’s also a good method to see at a glance what’s going on – to see the big picture.
You might be wondering by now, what happens to these notes once you’ve finished your manuscript. I delete them.
Using the document map like this is only useful in your drafts (and I keep a few draft versions), so you will need to delete anything that isn’t necessary in your final clean document before you upload to stores.
I do keep the notes in until the very last-minute though. They are even included when my editor goes through it. She likes that she can see a good overview of the book at a glance and says it makes her job easier, too.
Using Commenting to keep track of details.
Another small tip I do is write notes such as character hair color and so on, by using the commenting feature of Word.
* No laughing at the story – it’s still very rough first draft 😉
Usually I do this for minor characters only (as I prefer to have a separate scene and character document for major characters and locations).
It’s a quick way to find out what hair or eye color you’ve made for one of your characters as you can view all of your comments at once by opening the Reviewing Pane (from the Review tab). You can either open it in place of the Document Map or at the bottom of your working document.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful for using Word to write your next book.