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Navigating In Your Novel

Formatting-Grammar, RESOURCES-TIPS

Your New Best Friend, The Document Map

by Susan Gillett Domokos

You’re sitting in your chair, estranged from the rest of the household. (Not because you can’t stand the normal noise of your family, i.e. bellowing partner, screaming kids, blaring television, etc., but because they can’t stand the oddly vacant, zombie-like look that pervades your face every time you sit down to prove to the world that you’re a literary genius, and have therefore shoved you off into a nicely made up broom closet, with a single yellowed bulb swaying gently above your head, to be CREATIVE…)

Yes, there you sit. All alone. Plot twists you thought of at 3 a.m. in the morning taking the next train to Albuquerque (or worse, boarding the space shuttle for exploratory missions to the farthest reaches of the universe). You’re just wishing for a friendly interrogation or something, so you can actually get some thoughts in your head, other than all the stuff you need to do before tomorrow morning, the unfolded linen in front of you, or that your thighs are too fat.

Welcome to the life of a writer

If you HAVE chosen this solitary, yet strangely excruciating life, you need all the help you can get. So apart from doing your online grammar classes (what’s a preposition again?) here’s some not-to-be missed information and guidance on a wonderful feature in Microsoft Word, that promises to make booting around your lengthy manuscript (yes, yours) a dream.

I’m talking about the Document Map.

This is a feature that will enable you to navigate to any spot in your manuscript instantly. Even if you have a manuscript of a thousand pages, (Ha!) you will stay organized and be able to locate whatever section or passage you want. When you consider the alternative of scrolling through reams of pages, you’ll see the value in removing that frustration (at least) and getting on with the business of BEING CREATIVE.

So let’s get on to it.

What will I see on the screen when I use the Document Map?

When you utilize the document map, you will see two columns on your screen. On the left hand side will be a narrow column with the first words from different headings in your manuscript appearing in it. This is the “map” area. On the right side, the wide column, will be your document. These two columns can move independently of each other.


Where to start?

  • In the Ribbon, got to the VIEW menu.
  • Select Navigation from the SHOW options.

Start in your open document. Click the Document Map icon. (This icon looks like a magnifying glass on top of a Word document/form with a blue bar on top. It’s usually found by default on the standard toolbar (file, edit etc.) beside thes how/hide and the zoom box [100%, etc.]) If you move your cursor over the icons and wait a couple of seconds, a screen tip will appear, saying “Document Map”. So far, so good.  (Really, you knew you were brilliant…)

  • What will happen?

As already mentioned, the headings in your document will show up on the left side of the screen. When you click on those, they are hyper-linked to the corresponding spots in your document. If you click on Lesson 2, voila! You’re immediately transported to that spot in your document. (Beam me over, Scotty!) Yay.


Now, all this is pretty simple. Right? And as a rule of thumb, just remember that Word shows what it considers the HEADINGS, or outline-level paragraphs in the Document Map. Yes, techy-talk I know, but what that really means to you is that sometimes Word will NOT show what you want it to show, and this is where you need to take control of the situation, and make it do so. (Enjoy the control…you won’t get that with your publisher, or agent…at least not for a long while!)

To do this, you will have to format the chapter headings in your document to show up, AND you can also choose to format particular bits, probably beginnings of scenes to also show up, so you can navigate also within the chapter. (Remember this is all about making it easy for yourself! You’re a writer, you should be using your time and creative genius to pen those magnificent masterpieces, or…. You’re a writer and you need all the help you can get. (Whichever statement works at the moment – take your pick.)

Soooo, to format the chapter headings, how do I start?

  • Find the Style Menu in the Ribbon -To do this, you take advantage of another cool feature, and that’s the Style Feature. [Depending on your version of MS Word]  The Style box is on the standard toolbar again, usually to the left of the font box. (Typically you see this displaying the word “Normal” inside it.) If you click the drop down arrow on the right of this box, a whole list appears under it. Those are your default styles included by Microsoft Office. Such as “Heading 1, Default Paragraph font” etc. (There are tons more default styles than those that show up. If you want to see the entire list, hit “shift”, then the drop down arrow on the style box, and use your “down” or “up” keys to scroll the entire list. And that’s before you make up your own!)
  • Format the Headings – Once you’ve found the style box, here’s how to format your chapter headings: Select the heading in your article (i.e. “highlight” it). For our purposes, let’s say it says “Chapter One.”Click on click on the heading style [Heading 1 for your title, Heading 2 for your Chapter Title, Heading 3 for your Scene number].

The formatting or appearance will also have changed, so if you want, you can change heading back to proper Manuscript style,  Select the heading again (i.e. “Chapter One”).  Apply the desired font (Courier New, or whatever you use), center it, and change the font size to 12.

Now this will take care of your chapter headings. Easy. And now, they all show up within the Document Map, so you can hyperlink to any chapter you want instantly.

There is also a way to have the Document Map pick up subheadings within your chapter; ie. if you want it be able to immediately go to, say, a point of view change, without having to scroll through the whole chapter. Here’s the key. (Discovered by me on a Sunday morning that started out peaceful, went to raving lunacy as I tried to figure this out, then thankfully quieted down again.)

Say you want the beginning words of your paragraph “Gloria sighed as Adrian moved closer” to show up in the Document Map, and you figure if you select those words and format them to be heading 2, (the next level down) they will show up. HA! Fooled you! (Or rather Microsoft did…aren’t you used to it by now? :)) They won’t show up. Why? One of the vagaries of the document map I found is that you must select the whole paragraph for it to work. Every time you hit the enter key, Word considers that a paragraph, by the way. (So the words “Chapter One” are considered a paragraph, cause you hit “enter” after it.) Conversely, if you format the first 3 words of your paragraph to heading 2, Word will make the formatting changes to the first 3 words, but it will NOT show up in the document map. (Again, now that I’ve told you this, you will not have to waste a mindless hour and a half in front of the computer screen yelling, WHY? and pouting, but can apply that mindless hour to your plotting or editing or writing or being meaningful with your dh [dear husband] or whatever. So, here’s how to fix it.

Format the bits within your chapter to show up in the Document Map

Pick a paragraph or a beginning of a scene of POV change, the first line of which you would like to show up in the document map.

Select the whole paragraph. (“Highlight” it)

Click on the drop down arrow of the style box, and hit “Heading two”.

All done! Now the first few words of the paragraph will show up under Chapter X, in your Document Map. That’s great, but this has most likely changed the appearance of your paragraph too. And while it may look kind of cool, and funky, if you want the ms to look all neat and proper, you can then change the font etc. to your desired MS formatting. In other words,

Select (highlight) the paragraph again, and just change the font etc back to what you are using for the rest of the article.

Your bits will now show up in the document map, meaning you can immediately boot to those areas. Yay!

One last tidbit for all of you smart writers, if you’re interested. What if you don’t want to have to do the last step above, but just want the formatting to be what you want as soon as you apply the heading style? Well, how about creating a “style” of your own, so instead of clicking “Heading Two”, you click your own personal style, and it’s done?

To Create Your Own “Style”

[This is not recommended for manuals you submit electronically as publisher’s will not have your personally created styles available to them and it’s very frustrating to have to change styles in a manual — you don’t want to make them mad at you before they even get started. – Deanna Lilly]Go the Format menu, and pick “Style” – (the “Style” dialog box pops up).

Then pick “New” – (the “New Style” dialog box pops up)

For “Name”, type a name you’ve chosen (I used Heading 2 MS), and,

It must say use the word ‘Heading’ as part of the style name, if you want it to show up in the Document Map.

It must also be a bit different than “Heading 2” or you’ll lose the default Word “Heading 2” one.)

For “Based on”, it can say “Heading 2”. “Style type” – should say “Paragraph”, then hit” Format” at the bottom of the dialog box.

Go to “Font”, make the desired changes, Hit “OK.”

Then, going back to “Format” at the bottom of the dialog box again, go to “Paragraph”, and make the desired changes (if you are writing an MS, you may be already using .3 as indentation, line spacing as ‘exactly’ 25 pt, etc. – just do what you are already using), and hit “OK” (this step is optional).

You’ll now be back at the “New Style” dialog box, and here MAKE SURE you check the box at the bottom that says “Add to template” (which means it will always be available for you in all your documents) before you leave this box.

Hit “Ok” in the “New Style” dialog box.

Hit “Close” in the “Style” dialog box.

Yay! (Check to see your new style listed in the Style box.)

Simply apply this style next time to your ENTIRE PARAGRAPH, and it will keep your normal manuscript formatting, but still show up as a “Heading Two” in the document map. Yay again!
If you need to, don’t forget you can right-click anywhere in the Document Map area, and select how many levels you want showing. And you’ll also get + boxes and – boxes beside your headings in the Document Map to expand the contents under “Chapter One” or collapse them. Lots of fun!

One last tip…Can’t help myself…. to select an entire paragraph within your document, just put your insertion point inside the paragraph, and triple click. Voila! All selected.


Hope this helps, all you fellow writers. Microsoft Word can be one of a writer’s best friends, and make life much simpler. And don’t forget, while you’re manipulating the software unmercifully, that you’re a pretty admirable person – lots of people SAY they want to write, or KNOW they could…but you’re one of the few that is actually taking the bull by the horns, and doing it!…with all it’s attendant learning curves in so many areas.

Till next time,
Sue Gillett

Ps. If you liked this article, send chocolate and masseuses who love what they do.


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