I've come to the conclusion, and here's your opportunity to argue, that most fiction writers have barely a clue about the word processing software they use. I'm assuming MS Word. Yes, I know there are alternative products that may be worlds better, but that is the industry standard for submissions.

So tell me.

Do you keep each chapter in a separate file so you can find the chapter you want to work on? So you can print one chapter at a time? Because you fear that your computer can't handle a full novel in one file?

Do you know how to set up Normal style to indent paragraphs, double-space, etc?

Does the formatting change unexpectedly when you revise the ms?

What ARE your biggest problems with drafting and revising?

I want to know because I've developed an MS Word workshop for fiction writers based on more years in the corporate world than I care to admit. I want to be sure I'm connected with the real world and that would be you.

Share your frustrations, if you have them.

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I used to keep separate files for each chapter, but stopped when it became a pain to remember which chapter had what in it and having to copy and paste all those chapters into a single document at the end. Printing one chapter at a time is easy: highlight the text in that chapter and choose "Print, Selection" from the menu.

A full manuscript is well under a megabyte on a hard drive, hardly worth mentioning these days.

I never fool with styles. I've had issues with format changes I can't account for, most of which seem to be due to styles. I set the indents using the menu. The only things out of the ordinary I fool with are centering the chapter numbers and using no indents for the first paragraph of each chapter. 

I use Word as tough it were Occam's Razor: simpler is better.

My embarrassing little secret is using the Works word processor for most writing and then saving the final draft as Word 2010. I find Word so infuriatingly and needlessly complicated that I avoid it whenever possible.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:


If you've never tried it, give it a go. It's fabulous.

It keeps all of your chapters and scenes and links and research, etc. organized and at your fingertips and it compiles your manuscript into whatever format you desire easily and automatically.

Just realized that didn't really answer your question or help with your workshop planning. So, prior to Scrivener, my biggest frustrations with Word (or Open Office) was finding stuff within a document. Either you had to keep scenes/chapters in separate files which made compiling a major pain or you kept one big file which meant finding certain references within a huge document both time consuming and annoying. Oft times it felt like I spent more time wrestling software than writing or editing.

Hope that helps.

It does. Have I got a workshop for you... Really, so far, all the comments are consistent with my premise. That's not to say Scrivener isn't great, no idea. But we are stuck with MS Word for submission and there's a lot it can do to help us draft and revise. Honest. But none of it is obvious.

I've spent time learning and selecting my software.  I use a writer's program called Scrivener because it is a better tool for writers than Word or Open Office or Pages.  It costs about $40.  You can find it here:  Scrivener.

Not only does it automatically save by chapters, I can compile my story a number of formats, which saves money.  I can view one chapter or the whole thing.  I can save photos of actors or others who I cast as my main and secondary characters in the same space as my character profiles.  It has templates (that you can modify) for novels, short stories, essays, screenplays, and a bunch of others.   I can save research in a special file.  I can save photos and descriptions of specific places.  It is far superior to Word or Pages for a novelist.  Bottom line, everything associated with a story is in one place and I only create one file.  It even has a name generator if you're stuck naming a character.

And we are not stuck with Word.  Scrivener compiles in word format for print or PDF.

I agree that a writer (or anyone) should know your tools.  I also think you need the best tools available and for me it is Scrivener.  I recommend it.

Yeah, Ann, I guess I didn't properly explain that Scrivener does compile into a Word document for submission (or a number of other options).

Good luck with your seminar, there are loads of writers out there still using Word.

(As for me, there's no going back).


Well, I'm used to Word by now and don't seem to have too many problems.  I do keep running hand-written notes with chapters and page numbers so I can get to any chapter I want to work on.  My only problem happened when I upgraded.  The new system is more complicated with more choices.  But that isn't as irritating as the new Word locking up my old files and not allowing me to edit them.  The safety precautions are a major nuisance.

Yikes, what a pain. Maybe Ann can give you some advice.

I would. Email me at zoomysteries@gmail.com.

Thanks much to both of you.  I've figured out what to do. It's just irritating to have to unlock my own stuff.

Everything I needed to know about formatting in Word I learned from the Smashwords Style Guide.


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