Thursday, January 29, 2009

Word for the Novelist - Master Documents

Do you, when you are writing, typically have a bunch of files open, and you're constantly switching back and forth between files? Well, with the Master Document approach, you can greatly speed up how you get things done.

This article assumes a couple of things:
  • That you have Word 2003 installed on your computer. I'm told that my instructions translate easily to 2007.
  • That you have a manuscript split into many segment files, probably chapter files. It does not assume that you are beginning a manuscript from scratch (although you could easily do so).
Setting Up the Master Document

First, create a new document with all the basic formatting you usually use. Set up the header and footer as per whatever guidelines you follow. Set up your address block, title and byline. Then, position the cursor at the top of the page where your first chapter should start.

Put the document in outlining mode by clicking View, and then Outline on the menu bar. The Outlining toolbar should appear. If no toolbar appeared, right-click the toolbar and click Outlining.

Yes, the document is now ugly. Don't worry about that. None of that formatting stuff will print, and none of your subdocuments will be uglified.

Inserting Your Chapter Files

Toward the right end of the Outlining toolbar, look for this button. If the toolbar is cut off at the right end, simply click that little tiny down arrow at the blue end of the toolbar, and you should find the button in there.

Click the button. Browse to your first chapter file and click OK.

Your first chapter will appear. It will be uglified. Don't panic. Trust me. Your original document is not affected. It only looks that way in the Outline mode. Your first chapter will now appear where you positioned your cursor. If you had any blank lines at the beginning of your first chapter, they will appear as well. Everything in that first chapter file will appear at the point where you inserted it.

"What a mess!" you may be thinking. "This is the worst 'feature' I've ever seen! Guess I won't be reading THIS blog, anymore."

We're not done yet, so stay with me.

Look for and click this magic little button on the Outlining toolbar.

Behold! A hyperlink!

Go ahead! Click it! You know you want to!

(Ooops! Word complains that you need to hold the control key down while clicking. Well, go ahead.)

Your original file pops open, in all its original glory. Aren't you glad you trusted me? How would you like an entire document set up like this, with all 40 of your chapter files just a click away? Better yet, the headers and footers you set up for the master document will work for the whole shebang, including all 40 files! When you print it, it magically acts like one document. No more combining files! No more fiddling with headers so they all look the same! In fact, don't even bother creating headers for your subdocuments. The master document ignores them, anyway.

Goofing Around With Subdocuments

But what are all these funky little symbols in the Outline view? Let's examine them one by one.

If you double-click the top ugly little thing in the left corner, your document will again pop open. That's the subdocument icon.

The little padlock lock indicates just that—that the hyperlink is locked to editing.

In the meantime, the Collapse Subdocuments button has become Expand Subdocuments. If you click the Expand Subdocuments button, you will get your uglified document back. Here's a screenshot of one of mine:

Sorry about the poor quality image; Blogger insisted on shrinking it. We should be able to work with it. Notice the lock is gone. You can now edit your document. But what's with the dots next to some of the lines? Each dot indicates a paragraph. Click a dot, and the entire paragraph is selected.

What about the broken lines down the sides of the pages? I'll admit it—I don't know. But I do know that there is meant to be a box around the entire subdocument. Maybe it's a tad buggy.

If you turn on the Show/Hide ¶ button,
you will see that your subdocument is enclosed by section breaks. The end of one document and the beginning of another will look like this:

The Master Document Portion of the Outlining Toolbar

Let's explore the rest of the master document portion of the Outlining toolbar.

To create a subdocument, click this button:

An empty subdocument frame will appear. Simply put your cursor in the frame and begin typing. Word will automatically name the file when you save, based on your first sentence or line. So if the first line is "Chapter 6", that will be the name of the file.

This is a great way of creating your chapter files automatically as you write your manuscript.

To remove a subdocument from the master document, click this button:

If you click it, it will remove the subdocument link, but all the text from the subdocument will remain. So you'll have to delete that text manually.

This may seem useless, but if you just want a time stamp of what your all your files looked like at a certain moment in time, simply remove all the subdocuments and save it as a different filename. Your original master document will be as before you started.

To merge two subdocuments, click the subdocument icon in the upper left corners of each subdocument that you wish to merge together. Then, click the Merge Subdocuments icon on the toolbar:

When you save the file, the file behind the top document will now contain the contents of both files. The file that was merged into the first will remain unchanged.

To split a subdocument, position your cursor at the position where you want the split to occur. Click the Split Subdocument button:

A new subdocument will appear immediately below the one you are working in. When you save it, it will name the document based on the first line or sentence.

Lastly, you can lock a subdocument:

Click it, and edits will no longer be allowed in the subdocument that you locked, and a little padlock will again appear below the subdocument icon. If you collapse the subdocuments and open them up again, the lock will be gone, and you will be able to edit once again.


I first did this way back when in about '95, and things really haven't changed much since then. I'm curious about whether Microsoft has prettied things up in Word 2007. The very first time I tried to use a subdocument all those years ago, I was so alarmed by how different my document looked that I panicked and exited without saving. Once backed up my work, I was able to calm down and play around. I used this method for my first novel, but when I started on my second novel, I switched to the Document Map approach, which I still prefer.

Please let me know if you think any of these instructions need clarifying, and if you were able to successfully put these instructions to use.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Status Report

Sickness is good for writing. I wrote a bit of everything last week; Starcaster II, Christian thriller and time travel fantasy. The Christian thriller went into a direction I didn't expect, and then came to another screeching halt. I wrote an opening scene for Starcaster II, then fizzled because I don't have a plot. I have a plot for a later book in the series, not the second book. And my time travel fantasy is still very much in the idea stage.

So I'm doing a lot of writing, but getting very little done. This is typical for me while I am querying. The querying is going well--better than the last time--but no representation yet.

Since I'm neck-deep in trying to prepare for my Word Expert certification exam, I started thinking about my Word for the Novelist series. Would you guys be interested in an article on Master Documents? I know some of you use separate files for each chapter. Well, a master document allows you to jump to each file in the master document by way of a hyperlink. It's very cool and would be a very viable alternative to the Document Map method I already detailed in this article. I used the Master Document Method for my trunk novel, Oath of the Songsmith.

Let me know and I'll get writing!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

False Starts

I wrote several chapters of another Starcaster book before I realized that it can't be the second book. It has to be a later book. If it is used at all. For now, I'm discarding it and the entire outline I wrote the other week. Why? Because the stakes weren't personal enough for Tory. I still think the idea has merit. It is exciting and dangerous. But I think it's an idea before it's time because I can't think of a way to make the stakes personal for Tory.

For the second book, I need to keep it close to Tory and personal. After all, most of the time, we will not be following Tory through her espionage adventures. We'll only be following them when they get personal. That's the way these kinds of books work.

In the last book, I had a nicely corrupt police officer. I also threw an enemy at Tory without fulling exploring her potential. In the second book, some people in the Intelligence Ministry thinks that Tory's division needs to be disbanded. The corrupt police officer will happily get involved with this endeavor, because some people in Tory's division--including Tory, herself--knows just how corrupt he is.

And then we have Cecil, Tory's gentleman friend, who is just a magnet for trouble. He and the police officer would absolutely clash. And the boss of Tory's division is not really all that fond of Cecil.

Sounds like this could be the plot I was looking for. I'll explore it a bit before I know for sure.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fun With Research

I'm doing some research again. I like looking into to obsolete stuff that was in use way back when and incorporate them into my writing. For Starcaster, I used coding disks, black powder revolvers and hackney coaches, among others. For Forging a Legend, we had codexes, papyrus and chariots, because horses weren't large enough in ancient times to carry a rider. Oh, and aqueducts.

I decided that for Starcaster II, the spy headquarters needs a network of speaking tubes. Here's a brief explanation of speaking tubes I found online:
A normal installation had a removable whistle plugged into each end. To initiate a conversation Person A removed his whistle and blew down the tube, sounding the whistle at the other end. Person B then removed his whistle, and talking could begin. Hence the expression, still current in Britain, "I'll get him on the blower" when a telephone call is meant.

Such systems appear to have been quite common in homes and offices, though very little information about them, and very few references to them, seem to remain today.
Naturally Mr. Felding, the Commissioner of the Starcaster Corps, will have a network of speaking tubes that all lead to him. And naturally, he will keep the whistle removed at his end, because that's just the way he is. And naturally, a bunch of people will constantly be sneaking into his office in order to use the speaking tubes when they can't find someone. Down in the workroom, people will quickly get tired of the tube whistle and may even "lose" it from time to time. It will drive the dog--who belongs to Tory but stays at HQ because HQ has a larger garden--insane, and I'm thinking that the dog really needs to start howling whenever the whistle sounds.

Low tech. It's fun stuff. It makes my imagination run wild. I have as one of my reference books a copy of Isaac Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery. Sadly, it appears to be out of print, but some people are selling used copies at Amazon. One is even billed as a collector's item!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Frame for Forging a Legend

After reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, I found myself thinking about Forging a Legend again. I'm thinking it needs a frame.

Blog newcomers have not read much about my epic fantasy, Forging a Legend. It has been rejected over 50 times. I wrote an epic at a time when epics are a hard sell. My beta readers liked it and one agent liked the opening chapters enough to request the full manuscript.

But that was it. So on the shelf it went.

At the start of a new prologue, Verit is a fallen god who has become a recluse. His nemesis, who is Abriel, my protagonist, shows up. She gives him a bundle of journals where she has both written and drawn (she's an artist) her story. She tells him that he deserves an explanation for what she has done.

Verit takes her memoirs and drawings, and he writes her story. He interjects his own side of the story where appropriate.

To do this rewrite, I'll have to rewrite all the Verit scenes as first person. I have a few scenes in the POV of Thesk, Abriel's antagonist for book 1, but at least one of them will have to go. I had an epilogue, but I think it will have to go as well.

But Abriel's story--which currently takes over 95 percent of the book, I can leave untouched. So it may only take a month or so to accomplish this rewrite. I do believe I'll start now.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Spy and a Lady - Progress

The second Starcaster book is opening a bit rough. But that seems to be par for me. I take a while getting into the story, then I go back and whack alarming chunks off the start of the story. And then I rewrite what's left two or three times.

But it's not wasted effort because it gets the backstory in my head, where it can leak into the rest of the story only when it is necessary.

I have over 6000 words written, and it's unlikely I'll get 4000 words written tomorrow and meet my 10,000-word 4 day weekend goal. I found myself absorbed in a Janet Evanovich novel (Twelve Sharp--her best one in a while) and my story was unable to compete with hers. She gave me a lot of good ideas. Never mind that her voice and my voice are about 200 years apart. The way she has Stephanie's running commentary throughout the novel must have influenced the way I wrote the first Starcaster. And I wasn't doing that enough in what I just wrote. It was boring--just a recitation of events. Since the voice was probably the strongest aspect of Starcaster, I need to stay consistent.

I did write a number of scenes that I like. In one, Miss Young, Tory's mentor, lectures her for spending time alone with Cecil, her "gentleman friend". (Anyone know a good word for "boyfriend" that might have worked in about 1810? I know Jane Austen used "Beaus" but that's too French for me.) Tory's got to protect her reputation, you know. In those times, a girl's reputation was her strongest asset.

And in another scene, Tory wants Cecil to go to her mother's soiree, but he flat out refuses. There isn't going to be a soiree, of course--Tory doesn't have time for soirees. She's got a mission to perform.