I have been talking to a lot of writers online about how I use Microsoft Word to write my novels. They think that it is too hard to use and disorderly, and as a result they have spent money on expensive writing software. I honestly have never tried other writing software because I find Word the most useful and simple program to use. Plus, I am a student I do not have endless amounts of cash to go throwing around for every writing craze that comes along. I don't see any point in buying something else when I have Word on my computer already for all other purposes. All you need to do is learn how to go about using Word in a organised fashion and it will be the best program you will ever use.
Step 1: A Different Document For Each Scene
My method of using Word is really simple and it stems from the fact that I know that my story will change along the way and therefore, I have to make it easy for myself in the editing stages later on. What I do is write each scene or a collection of scenes that follow along the same line of thought in a separate document. By a "collection of scenes" I mean the string of events that:
- Cause the issue
- the resultant problem
- the reaction post problem
This way they wont get lost in the mass of pages if you have written it in the same document. This also helps if you don't write chronologically as you won't be confused as to where you are up to or worried if the document seems messy. Personally, I write chronologically and this still helps me in case the plot changes (as it generally does) because my work from the moment I change my story's direction will not be tainted by the novel my book was following before.
Step 2: Naming Your Document
You may think that by making a clean document for each scene would be really messy but believe me it isn't as bad as you think it is. It will not get lost as long as you save it in the same place. You may be wondering, how on earth will I know what document is for what scene? It is simple, name your document what your scene is about, after what happens in your scene, or even state which characters are involved.
For instance, "K and S go to XYZ" or "The Assassin Scene".
If you keep it short and to the point then you wont have a problem. Also, if you know your WIP well enough you should know instantly what scene it is. You won't have so many scenes that it is overflowing, so you shouldn't have a problem.
Step 3: Organising Your Folders
Organising your WIP folder is essential to do in order to help yourself once the first draft is done. You need to create a master folder for your story and name it either your book/s name or the main character's name. Inside that folder create smaller folders, like in the picture below, detailing what scenes you will find in there. For instance I have a few scenes with different characters which I know need to go into my WIP but I am not quite sure where they live just yet. Those are indicated by the folders titled "Segovia/Raina" etc. Any scenes I write with those two women go in there. Then I have folders which relate to a catalyst event which may include many characters in it, such as "The Whispering Wood" and "Bloodstone Castle scenes" folders.
In this master folder, I have other folders such as "background" where all my other information is held. I have a folder for additional information and spare dialogue I decided I didn't need but may use later, and my research folder.
This is probably the most important point I can EVER make. You have to save everything to Dropbox. This is not a request. Dropbox is a cloud system where you can save all your documents and once you amend the manuscript it will sync the changes to all your devices. Nothing will ever get lost. All you need to do is go to www.dropbox.com and download the free program onto your computer. This will then act like your "my documents" folder and it will look the exact same, just create your master folder in there. If you have already got a folder for your WIP on your computer, simply drag and drop it into the dropbox folder. The only difference is that it is constantly saving and isn't staying solely on your computer. It is on the web. Do not worry about security because Dropbox is top of the line, no one will access your documents. You can download dropbox on your Ipad and phone as well.
Step 5: Keeping Track of your progress
Word is not just good for writing your manuscript, it is an easy way to plot everything. Check out my blog posts on how to plot properly on Word here. This is the short version though: Break up your novel into beginning, middle and end. Then outline your story in bullet points. This will keep you to the point and give you room for creativity in the actual writing process. I have three stages to plotting and the last includes a structuring it out properly with a table. Once you have done a scene you go to your plot outline and highlight what you just did. It really motivates you to see your plot become more and more yellow. You should also build an inspiration board, where you plot out your scene and tick it off as you go along. Click here to see how to build one.
This is how I plot my novel:
One you have finished your first draft, you need to open up a clean Word document. Then start copy and pasting the scenes you need into that document. Make sure you number the pages, but you do not need to separate them into chapters now, you can do that in editing phase 2 or 3. Having your scenes all separate is good because as you write you will realise maybe some scenes are relevant and others aren't. This way you can copy and paste which scenes you need, but you still have them on file if they are ever needed for this WIP or another. It saves paper, time and sanity.
I hope this helps you with writing your WIP and convinces you not to invest in some expensive program when you could stick with what you know, but just be more organised in the way you go about it. Let me know what you think of this article and if you do something similar, or if you are going to try this method out!