Formatting your novel with Styles—Part 2: adding styles

From Rick:

In Part 1 we created a new template to use for formatting your novel. In Part 2 we’re going to start to set up several Styles for the main body and things like title, chapters, scene breaks, and a couple of others you might find useful.

The first thing to set up is the Normal style used for the main body of the work. To restate what I said last time, the beauty of using Styles is that they allow you to change whatever you used a particular Style for without changing anything else.

You also have the option of basing some or all Styles on the Normal style, which would allow you to change the font or line spacing throughout while still retaining individual aspects of each Style. But I’ll go over that in detail in a future post in this series.

Assuming you have your template saved from last time, open a new Word document and choose that template. You will see just one Style (Normal) in the Styles list at the top. Click the tiny arrow at the corner of the Styles box. A new window will open listing the styles available. You will probably see more than one. Yes, I know we supposedly deleted all of them, but Word retains some junk that you can’t remove permanently. The best we can do is make the ones we don’t want invisible.

In the new window you will have an Options button. Click this and you can choose which Styles show up. I suggest the Styles to show as “in current document” or “in use” and “sorted alphabetically.”

Now click on Normal.

NOTE: Do not try to rename “Normal.” It won’t rename the way you want because this is an embedded default style in Word. Just leave the name as is. (Or try to rename it and see what happens.)

We want to modify Normal to suit our manuscript needs. Hover over the three icons at the bottom with your mouse, one at a time. The leftmost one lets you add a new style (we’ll do that later). The middle one is the “Style inspector.” I’m not going to get into that because it’s a very advanced feature. You can look it up online if you’re interested in what it does.

The third icon is “Manage Styles.” Click on that one. You want to be on the EDIT tab, then click the “Modify” button.

Here you can set the defaults for your Normal Style. Before you do, be sure at the bottom that you click on the “New documents based on this template” option. That will save it in the template when you’re done. Otherwise, only the current document will be changed, which is not what we want. For each new window that opens when setting the template, be sure that option is ALWAYS selected.

At the top of the “Modify Style” window, you will see the name of the Style. Below that is the “Style Type” and that defaults to “paragraph.” This means that the Style will affect the entire paragraph, which is normally what you want. IN the case of NORMAL you can’t change it.

The next box is “Style for following paragraph.” In this case, leave it as “Normal.” Most of the time that’s what you want. I’ll explain other options later in this series and why you might want to choose one of them.

Below that set the font and point size you plan to use as the default for your novel when first writing it. You can change this later. I suggest either Courier New or Times New Roman. Next to that are the Bold, Italic, and Underline options. For the Normal Style, you should leave all of these off. The dropdown next to those is where you choose the font color. Always leave it at automatic (which is black). Do NOT set it specifically to black or you may cause problems later on.

NOTE: In any novel manuscript you should NEVER use any font color other than black anyway. You would only change colors if you were creating a template for some other purpose, such as a presentation. For example, let’s say you wanted headings in red. You’d set that as the color for that Style, and the nice thing is that you could change that color later and it would affect ONLY that Style.

Anyway, let’s move on. In the lower left is a dropdown box marked “Format.” Click that and choose PARAGRAPH. What we’re going to do is set the various options for you main text paragraphs: first line indent, line spacing, spacing before and after the paragraphs, alignment (left, right, center, justified). We could have set those in the previous box as well.

Microsoft as the default sets spacing after paragraphs as something other than zero. For novel manuscripts, you should set both the “before” and “after” to zero. One reason for setting these to zero is that extra spacing for paragraphs will increase the number of pages in your novel, and you probably don’t want that.

In this window set your alignment to LEFT, indentation to zero for both left and right, and at “Special” set your first line indent at 0.5. I prefer 0.3 because I think 0.5 is too large and looks unprofessional in a novel, but you can do what you want for now and change it later.

SIDE NOTE: If you decide not to indent your paragraphs and use what’s call “block format,” then you would want to add space after each paragraph. But again, that’s a decision you can make later and easily change in the manuscript.

Set your line spacing to whatever you want now while writing the novel (probably 1.5 or 2 is good at this stage). Later in the series, I will discuss what you might want to change this to.

Before leaving the Paragraph setting, consider setting one other option. Click the “Line and Page Breaks” tab. Under the Pagination options are four choices. The only one that concerns you here is the Widow/Orphan control. Clicking this option prevents the first or last line of a paragraph from being isolated at the bottom or top of a page respectively. I recommend checking this option. You can always turn it off if you find it causes issues, and it makes one less thing you’ll have to watch for in the final formatting.

When you’re done with settings, be sure to verify the “Set as Default” button at the bottom before you click OK. This completes the Normal Style settings.

The next step is to create other Styles that you may need to use in the manuscript. These, as mentioned previously, may include things like chapter headings and chapter titles.

I’m going to leave these other Styles except for one for the next installment, but to give you an idea of how using Styles really benefits you, we’re going to create the Scene Break Style.

One rule of manuscript preparation is to use a physical scene break mark other rather than a blank line. As I’ve discussed in the past, the reason for a physical mark (often one or more centered asterisks) is to ensure the scene break is visible if it happens to fall at the top or bottom of a page. A blank line will be invisible in these locations. Always remember that even if the blank line scene break is visible now in the manuscript, when the manuscript is formatted and line spacing and pagination change, that scene break could easily fall at the top or bottom of a page and disappear to the reader.

The reason for setting up a separate Style for the scene break is to control the spacing independent of the line spacing of the Normal Style in the manuscript, usually to make the scene break with wider spacing. Also, you want the scene break marks to be centered and NOT indented.

Here’s now we do that. In Styles section on the Word ribbon, click that little arrow at the corner. Click the New Style icon (bottom left of the window). In the “Create New Style” window, name your style (Scene Break), make sure the Style type is “paragraph” and that the “Style based on” and “Style for follow paragraph” are both set the “Normal.”

The reason for these choices is that the scene break is only one line/paragraph and you want the Style after it to revert to the regular Normal Style. It won’t always be the case that you want Normal to follow a Style selection, but here you do.

You’re probably going to want the font and font size the same as Normal, so leave those choices alone (or change them however you want because you can modify it later). You also want the Scene Break centered, so click the “centered” setting under the font.

Near the bottom again be sure the “New Documents based on this template” is selected, then in the bottom left corner at Format select “Paragraph.” At the top of the new window verify that it says Alignment: Centered.

At Indentation, under Special” change it to “none.” The reason is that we do not want indentation on a centered line because then it won’t be centered.

Under “Spacing” is where we will ensure that the scene break line is separated from the lines above and below it to provide extra spacing. In the “Before” and “After” boxes change the numbers both to 12. I find this is a good spacing, but you can add more or less as you choose.

For those interested, 12-point spacing is the equivalent of an extra line in a 12-point font. (For the more technically inclined, one point is 1/72 of an inch, so a 12-point font is 1/6 of an inch high.)

Click OK as many times as needed to exit back to the Styles box, then close the Styles box. Before you close Word, you need to be sure to save changes to this template. If you checked the “new documents based on this template” you should be okay. But let’s be sure. Close Word.

Now open Word and go to File/New and select your Manuscript template (or whatever you named it). Then create a new document. You should see the Scene Break Style showing up. If not, you’ll need to recreate the Style and be sure you checked the proper option to save the template for all new documents based on it. Hopefully that will fix it. If not, do SAVE AS and use a new template name. Then you can delete the old one and rename the new one.

Unfortunately, the location of the custom templates is different in Office 2010 from the newer versions of Office. In Office 2010, they are in the folder I mentioned in Part 1 of this series:

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

In Office 2016 and 365, they’re in Documents in a folder called Custom Templates.

I hope everyone is sticking with me on these tutorials. I admit that they do get a bit technical at times, and I won’t blame you if you choose to ignore this series as too much trouble. That’s fine. You can always pay someone to do your formatting and cleanup for you. I’m more than happy to do it for a reasonable price. Contact me via my website at if you need to.

But if you want to learn it yourself, keep following this series.


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