Formatting your novel with Styles—Part 1: template creation

From Rick:

In the past I’ve talked about basic manuscript cleanups, creating a clean source file for your manuscript, and formatting. I’ve also mentioned using Styles in MS Word to help with formatting, but I left that topic to your own research because I felt that it was perhaps a too complex a topic to deal with here.

Recently I’ve had second thoughts about that because writers are becoming comfortable enough with the intricacies of self-publishing that I believe a how-to of Styles will be beneficial. Before I launch into this topic, I want to let you know that this will be a multi-part discussion, and I’m going to go slowly and take it a step at a time so I don’t intimidate or overload you.

Word comes with other templates, but none of those is really set up for novels. My goal is to show you how to set up your own custom template in MS Word for writing novels. This template will set up Styles for the body of the novel and will set up other Styles for titles, chapters, and scene breaks. Once you’ve set up this template, it’s there to use for all your future books, and it’s easy to customize for particular needs and special cases. Further, it’s going to allow you do things like easily change the font or line spacing for the entire book or just for your chapter headings. The really nice thing is that not only won’t touch or change the default template that comes with Word (unless you want to do that), and you’ll be able to create multiple templates for different uses.

Let me give you an example of the power of what I’m about to teach you. Let’s say you’ve written your novel, set up chapters and even chapter titles or sub-titles, and put them in 18-point font. You then decide that’s too large a font and would like to make it 16-point. Or maybe you want to change the spacing between the chapter number and chapter title.

Most writers who are unaware of Styles will simply change the font size and format as if these things are all part of the rest of the manuscript. Without Styles, you’d have to go to every chapter beginning, highlight the chapter sub-title, and make changes to the font size. If you only have ten chapters, it’s not too bad, but if you have fifty chapters, then it becomes time consuming.

What if there were any easy way to change ALL of them in a couple of steps? You’d probably love that. I’m going to show you how to set up a template for your manuscript that will allow you to make such changes without affecting anything else in the manuscript.

To be able to do this, you still need to create and use Styles. If you’ve already written the novel, you’re going to have to do the work of putting in the Styles where needed. Later in these tutorials I will show you how to add Styles to a manuscript, but pre-planning is the best way.

In this first post I’m going to show you how to create a separate template for a novel (or whatever kind of book you want). I’m also going to set this up as if you’re making a PRINT book, but it can be used for e-books as well. In fact, when I’m doing a novel, I set it up as a print book (usually 6×9 size) then make the e-book from that same manuscript with only minor changes. When making an e-book, the page size doesn’t matter, so you can leave it at 6×9 or whatever.

I also want to point out that you can find and download templates for manuscripts (some free, some not free), but by making your own, you learn how to do it, you customize it however you want, and you’ll know how to modify it whenever you need to.

One more thing: I’m using MS Word 2010. Later versions may look a bit different, but you’re all smart people, so I’m sure you can figure it out.

Let’s get started.

The first thing you need to know about is MS Word’s default template. It’s called NORMAL.DOTM (or NORMAL.DOT or NORMAL.dotx, depending on your version of Word). This is template stored in a folder in AppData on your Windows PC. For the computer literate among you, the file path is given below, but you don’t need to know it.

C:\users\(your username)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates

Windows stores additional custom MS Office templates in a folder in Documents, appropriately called “Custom Office Templates.” This is probably where you should store your custom manuscript templates. When you want to open a new document using a custom template, in MS Word 2016 and Office 365, you’ll go toe FILE/NEW and click the “Custom” heading. This will open the folder containing any templates you created. You would simply click the one you want and you’re ready to go. In Office 2010, when you click FILE/NEW, you’ll be presented with available templates and a folder called “My Templates.”

The first step in creating a template is to remove all the unwanted Styles in the current template, which for most of you is probably Microsoft’s default template. It contains a lot of Styles you won’t need. In fact, I’m going to have you remove all but the Normal style from what’s called the “Style Gallery.”

In the MS Word ribbon, look for the subgroup called “Styles.” In that you’ll see things with the letters AaBbCc and a label below the letters. Right click on any Style that is NOT the “Normal” one. One of the options is “Remove from Style Gallery.” Click that option. Don’t worry if you accidentally remove something you wanted to keep. You’re not deleting anything, just hiding it. You can always restore any Style.

After you’ve removed all Styles except “NORMAL,” we’ll save it as a template instead of a document. Make sure the document is blank first. Then go to FILE and SAVE AS. The next step will depend on your version of Windows, but you want to save it as one of three types:

.dot (Word 97-2003) template
.dotx (Word template)
.dotm (Word macro-enabled template)

Unless you’re using an older version of Word prior to 20078, I recommend the .dotm format).

Give your template a name, perhaps something like NOVEL Template or MANUSCRIPT Template (or you can leave off “template”).

Then SAVE it. To verify that you saved it, go to your Documents folder and look in Custom Office Templates. It should be there. If it is, then we’re done with this first tutorial. If it’s not there, try saving it again. Then close Word, open it, go to File/New, click Custom and the “Custom Office Templates” folder, select your new template, and make sure it open. You should see only the NORMAL style showing up.

Next time we’ll customize the NORMAL Style and add some Styles to it to continue create a usable template. In subsequent lessons, we’ll modify and customize the template, learn how to use it, learn how to add new Styles and make changes for individual situations, and I’ll show you how to set up a template for 6×9 print books (or any size you desire).

This brave new world of self-publishing requires that you learn how to do these things yourself if you want to avoid paying someone else a lot of money. The big advantage to setting up your own template and formatting the book yourself is that you’ll know it’s done the way you want it and that you can easily make changes yourself whenever you want without having to pay someone else to do it. If you can write a novel, then you can learn to format it yourself easily.


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