How to Keep Track of all that Action

I write romantic suspense, which means I have (at least) two plots running simultaneously through my books.  Since I love to torture my characters by throwing them into dangerous situations, that ‘s a lot of action to track in an 80,000 word document.  Scrolling through 350 pages of text to find a specific paragraph can be frustrating.  And printing out all those pages for edits?   Too overwhelming for me.  I do all my revision on screen.  I never print anything.

I use the Document Map feature of Microsoft Word (2007 version and previous).  The document map is a separate window that can stay open on the left of the screen while I work on my manuscript.  It lists all headers in the document. A click on a header in the document map takes you to the corresponding section of the main document.  I format chapters as HEADER 1.  Scenes within each chapter (sub-headers) are formatted as HEADER 2.  To stay organized, I list abbreviated plot points and point of view for each scene.  Also, I format the sub-headers as hidden text, I can show or not show them through the tools/options menu.

So, on the left of my open document, I have an outline of my entire book as I write it.  An outline which can be printed if I ask Word to generate a “table of contents.”  Not only does this make editing easier, but writing the synopsis is easier with an outline of all the plot points at my fingertips.

Does anyone have the 2010 version of Word?  Does anyone have any other way to keep a mega document organized?

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6 responses to “How to Keep Track of all that Action

  1. Whew – I have a hard enought time keeping track of eye color let alone 2 plots. You are a better woman than I!

    I’ll have to explore this document mao thing. Maybe then I won’t have the ever-changing eye color problem.

    thanks for the tip

    • I use it for plot points, but you could put any notes you like in the header. Makes revisions much easier. I used to use a piece of software called Power Writer, which allowed me to embed hidden notes into the text. But then I’d have to go through this conversion process to put it in Microsoft Word to send it to anyone. That got too cumbersome.

      But I sure miss those embedded notes!

  2. Melinda: Have you ever considered Scrivener? Based on what you’ve set up in Word, I think you’d absolutely love it. I don’t know how I ever wrote without it, and they have a Windows beta out right now that you can try for free until the full version is done. (Or if you use Mac, they have a 30-day trial of the new 2.0 version, which rocks, BTW.)

    I can keep everything organized by scene and use keywords to quickly find those scenes again, plus the Binder is much like the map you made. I promise I’m not on commission (though I probably should be!), I just found it to be life changing for my writing. I could go on for days about the features, but it’d be easier if you went to http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php :-)

  3. It sounds like a great program, Gwen. How do you convert to word or rtf to sent the doc out? The reason I stopped using Power Writer was that I’d have to convert after every round of revisions.

  4. There’s a compile draft feature that will export whichever portions you want (a selection of scenes or the whole MS, whatever) and save them to an RTF or DOC, epub, etc. I’m not entirely clear what you mean, but when I do revisions, I do them all in Scrivener, even if I get feedback on a Word doc from my CP (two computer screens helps here). You do have to “compile” any time you want to send it out to someone because it’s meant for writing, not formatting. For me, the flexibility and organization of my writing process far outweighs this.

  5. P.S. I have a section on the left-hand side of my blog dedicated to Scrivener. You might scroll through it to get an idea of what I think are the best features, screen shots often included. ;-)

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