Tag Archives: drafting

Drafting in Word for NaNoWriMo

Firstly, I don’t use Word to write – I work on a Mac and I use Scrivener for pretty much everything (soon available on Windows). But when I started writing, Word was the default option and it’s what many people wrestling with NaNoWriMo will be attempting to write a 50,000 word draft in.

The problem with NaNoWriMo is that of imposing or maintaining some kind of structure on the tens of thousands of words of creative chocolaty goodness gushing forth from your keyboard (sorry, channelling a bit of Xander, there). Leaving aside the perennial issue of planners vs pantsers, you’ll need to keep a grip on what you’ve done so far and maybe even plan a tiny bit what you’re about to do next. At the very least, you’ll want to be able to zoom up, once you get 10,000 words or more into the process, and take a view as to what direction this is going in and whether you need to steer this thing a little.

Well, the two key tools in Word you need to engage with are the Outline view and Styles.

1. Set up two basic styles  for chapter headings and synopsis

Open up Word (I’m using 2007 but the principles are the same and the dialogue boxes – once you’ve navigated to them -are almost identical right the way back to 90s versions). Look for the Styles controls. You’ll see a button marked ‘Change Styles’. Don’t click on it – click on the tiny arrow icon immediately beneath it.

Finding the Styles controls

A long list of style names for different combinations of text and paragraph layout will appear. Right-click (scroll up and down until you find it) on ‘Heading 1’.

Select ‘Modify’. The window shown below should open.

Okay. Click on the ‘Format’ button and select ‘Numbering’. Here’s what you get.

Click on ‘Define New Number’. Click so that your cursor is right in front of the highlighted ‘1’ and type in ‘Chapter ‘ (don’t forget the space) with another space and an ’em’ dash after the paragraph number. Click ‘Okay’ right back to the ‘Modify Styles’ box where you might want to modify the font and select ‘Centre’ from the justification buttons on offer. Then click okay.

Repeat the process with ‘heading 2’ as far as opening up ‘Modify style’. Change the font to a regular ‘body text’ size (12, for example) and click select the I button.

Close the style palette.  Now let’s see how we actually apply styles.

Using the styles to format a simple first draft document

This is the fun bit. If you already have chapter headings, delete any manually entered chapter numbers and just select the line of text containing a chapter title. Click on the ‘Heading 1’ button in the main ‘Home’ tab of Word controls.

Then hit enter and type in a summary of that chapter. Keep your cursor in that paragraph and click on ‘Heading 2’. With luck, the results should look something like the below.

And off you go! Use ‘Normal’ to format regular text and work through the rest of your draft. The top of each chapter should look something like the below.

Next, we’ll look at how to use the ‘Outline’ view in Word to manage your draft and take a ‘20,000 foot view’ of where you’ve got to.

Using the Outline editor

Look at the bottom of the Word window. You’ll see a row of tiny buttons on the right. Mouse-over them until you find the one called ‘Outline’ (see below).

It’s the fourth one along, and looks like a tiny bulleted list. Click on it and your text should appear looking like the below.

This is where you can get an overview. Note the ‘show level’ control. You can use this to specify the levels of text show – in this case, the first two levels only. Hey presto, synopsis! You can also click and drag chapters and experiment with different orders. The chapter numbers will reorder automatically.

Hope this is of some help! 


Make it strange – revising my first draft

Or rather, preparing to revise my first draft.

I finished draft 1.0 of my YA alternate earth novel (which followed on from a very detailed draft 0.5) just over a month ago. It came in at the planned 60,000 words, (a zillion and one articles cite anything between 40,000 and 80,000 as the ideal YA length), it had a beginning, a middle and an end and I thought it was clearly the best thing ever written.  At least by me. Ignoring all the received wisdom to put it away for at least a month, I launched straight into draft 2.0.

And stopped dead in my tracks*.

It was impossible. The first sentence alone needed every word changing. And as for the first chapter? Well, I couldn’t get through the first page, let alone the whole book. Clearly I was going about this the wrong way.

Luckily, the feedback for a “highly commended” placing in one of the Winchester Writers Conference competitions showed up at just that moment. It was a highly professional, detailed critique of my first 500 words and it tactfully but thoroughly vivisected them. Clearly the plot wasn’t set up properly, it took too long for anything to actually happen, there was too much detail and yet not enough…

After I stopped crying, I realised that Elizabeth at Fog City Writer was correct and that I was in no position to start work yet. I hadn’t achieved any kind of distance or objectivity. I need to make my book strange, to get myself to the point where I could read my first draft and discover the things I needed to do without my own feelings (or urge to tweak sentence structure to the nth degree) getting in the way. I needed to see my own book through the eyes of a stranger.

So I put it away in a virtual drawer and began to read other YA books. Lots of them. I took Holly Lisle’s invaluable How To Revise A Novel article as a guide and read them as thoroughly and critically as I could. For some of them, I made notes on plot structure, story arc, numbers and POV and the pragmatic logistics of how long particular characters spent doing what. I paid particular attention to age group – was I aiming for 10-12 or 13-14? Or somewhere in the middle? How did novels written targeting girls differ from those targeting boys? (The short answer seemed to be more guns and less kissing. Then I started The Hunger Games and all bets were off).

The best of them made me want to give up. The less good were oddly inspiring – “I can do better than that!” But most of all, I began to understand what at a more visceral level (as opposed to a theoretical level) it was I need to worry about in draft 2:

  • Plot
  • Dynamics
  • Main Character development
  • Overall tone

If I can crack the worst of the many issues I have relating to the above, I’ll have something I can feel is ready to circulate amongst my test readers for critique on the same issues. After that, I’ll probably have to start the whole thing over. There’ll certainly be another draft. And another.

Meanwhile, it’s printed out, my red pencil is sharpened and I don’t really recognise my own prose any more. I’m ready to revise.

* If I ever use that phrase in an actual piece of art, shoot me. Really**.

** Unless I’m clearly doing something clever and witty.