Friday, April 17, 2009

Seekerville Welcomes Author Paula Roe

Organizing Your Story Using Document Map

I think of my writing in two distinct categories - before Document Map and After Document Map. Before, I hated plotting because I couldn't keep track of it all in my head - I shifted scenes, got confused about where scenes occurred in the book, didn't escalate the romance soon enough or way too soon, and had things occurring in the story that hadn't been foreshadowed. My head spins at the thought of organizing my first published novel into a story that eventually flowed seamlessly.

So what is Document Map?

It's an option in Microsoft Word that, when turned on, provides a separate screen on the left with a list of your headings (Fig 1).

How does this help your writing?

First, there's no more having separate documents for each chapter. You can jump straight to your chapter or scene with one click on the left hand screen.

But wait, there's more. Instead of having "chapter one" as your heading, you can use DM as a mini-summary of your scenes. For example, the scene headings of my working draft for my second book, Boardrooms & A Billionaire Heir (Silhouette Desire), went like this:

> boardroom confrontation

> first meeting

> holly's POV / car discussion

> at the Blackstones store

> return to Sydney on plane

> at lunch

> Jake introspection

> elevator scene / first kiss

> next morning in elevator

And so on. This is a great way to see if you're escalating the romance at the proper pace, if you have too much/too little of one character's introspection and if you have enough scenes where your hero/heroine are together. It's also a neat way to see if you're escalating the plot smoothly and foreshadowing important details. And as you click on those scene headings, you can quickly check if you have enough pages per chapter (my editor asks for no more than 20 pages per chapter, so with DM I can see at a glance if my scene break should actually be a chapter break instead.)

So how do I get started?

First, you have to ensure your headings are classed as a "Heading 1" style so they will appear in this list. To do this, you simply highlight the heading in your ms (for e.g. 'first meeting'), click on the drop-down arrow in your Style box and select "heading 1" (fig. 2).

As you can see, Word has standard styles associated with these headings, but they are fully customizable, so if you don't like the default settings (I never do!) you can change them. To do this, click the down arrow and scroll down to select "More..." at the bottom of the listing. A new box pops up ("Styles and Formatting"), roll your mouse over the style you want to change (in our case, Heading 1) then click on the down arrow key, select Modify then alter the settings: I make them standard with my ms - 12pt Courier New, double spaced, indent first line .5cm.

Now we're ready to turn on Document Map

Which is as simple as View > Document Map (fig. 4). The Document Map command is also a toggle button (click once to turn on, click again to turn off), so by adding a button to my menu bar Document Map is only a click away from on to off (this is easy to add - right mouse click on your menu bar, then Customize > Commands, then choose "view" from the left hand side, click and hold on Document Map, then drag it onto your tool bar (fig. 5).

Document Map is free and built into MS Word (yes, Office for Mac also has DM!), so it's a brilliant little option that will save you heaps in stress and pin board space. And while there isn't a feature to print out these headings, a hardcopy is just a matter of doing a screen dump: simply click your Prt Scr button on the top right hand side of your keyboard. This takes a screen snapshot and copies it to your clipboard, which you can then paste into a document and print it out from there.

Do you have any favorite tips for plotting your story? Share with us and you could win a copy of my second Silhouette Desire, Boardrooms & A Billionaire Heir, plus a bunch of promotional goodies.

(Leave a valid email address to be in the drawing! Winner will be picked tonight at 8 MST--which is Saturday at 11 PM in Australia)

British-born and Aussie bred, Paula Roe had been writing for (ahem!) 15 years before The Call came in September ’06 from Silhouette Desire. A former office manager, software trainer and aerobics instructor , she lives with her family at the base of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, where she’s currently using Document Map to plot her 4th and 5th books.


  1. Paula, you make this seem like a logical and ultimately time-saving thing to do. I must try it! Looking forward to your workshop later in the year.
    Kandy xx

  2. Hi Kandy! Also need to mention that it's equally simple turning on DM in Office for Mac and Office 2007 - just a button click away!

  3. Goodmorning Seekerville.

    Welcome Paula. Paula is 14 hours ahead of us in Australia.

    Not sure if we should serve breakfast or a midnight snack so I brought bagel and schmear.

    I love the DM and am very excited to finally learn how to use it.

    So Paula, when you sign your name you put X also and I see Kandy did. Welcome Kandy, btw. What does that mean?

  4. I've often wondered about this feature. Now I might even give it a go!


  5. Wow, the things I didn't know about Word. I'm a pantser but I have to say that this sounds incredibly helpful and not overwhelming.

  6. Okay, so I just tried everything except putting my own headers in and it is easy.

    But do you do this after you have started your manuscript so you can see what your scenes are or do you preplot them? That part I am a little confused on. In other words I can see myself using this for a manuscript that is started but how do YOU PERSONALLY do it as you go along in a new msc>

  7. I definitely have to try this. I keep everything in one document already. This will make navigating things easier.

  8. By the way, the poppy seed bagels with honey walnut cream cheese are particularly yummy. Try them before Ruthy gets here.

    Coffee of the day is Mocha Java.

  9. Welcome to Seekerville, Paula! Wow, something new for me to mess up. LOL. Seriously, thanks for your post. I'll give DM a try with the next book. I'm technically challenged, but this doesn't look difficult. Btw, I don't keep my chapters in separate files. Is that how most writers do it?

    Tina, to me X=hugs. LOL. I hope Paula and Kandy fess up.


  10. Oh, Paula, I have ALWAYS wanted to learn this -- thank you SO much! I am printing this blog off.

    And welcome to Seekerville! It's a pleasure to have you here. And your book sounds really good ...


  11. Paula, we do a lot on contesting on this blog also. You are a former contest diva, correct? I saw your name out there. How did you make your first sale? Any correlation to contests?

  12. Paula,
    I'm another Aussie fan of Document Map. Couldn't write without it! And I print out the outline and cut it up into cards if I need to shuffle around part chapters, or move characters. Makes it all so much easier, doesn't it?
    Sue Webb

  13. It's really interesting how different things help different people. I like to see how other writers do it. It's all kind of mysterious! :-)

  14. wow, you guys can chat :D and Tina, the 'x' is a kiss - Kandy and I can get a bit huggy and kissy ;-) Bagels are an all-the-time food (even if it is pushing towards midnight here...)

    Serena, Jessica - it's such a simple tool I'm still wondering why the heck I never used it before!

    Tina - I like to clock up my pages any way I can, so I actually do the headings before I start to write. Because my story's already been contracted from the synopsis beforehand, I've got a pretty good idea of where it's going, so it's an easy 10 pages (even though technically, there's only that heading on each one!)

  15. Mmmmm... bagels. I think I must be a reincarnated American ;-)

    Hi Walt! once you try it, you'll never go back LOL

    Hi Janet! weird that some writers save each chapter in different files, huh? It never made much sense to me because it would always throw your page numbering out if you add more words...

    Hi Julie! - I love to share (yes, even chocolate... but not my caramelattes which NO-ONE does better than my local Gloria Jeans ;-)

    Sue - what a great idea to do them up as cards! I'll have to try that out.

    Tina - did someone mention contests?? Uh, yeah. I frequently rumble with my good friend Anna Campbell for the Biggest Contest Sl... uh, Diva Award. Pre- published I think my count was around 86 (I should double check that on my website...) Love them. LOOOOOOVE them. Got me seriously noticed by Silhouette and I ended up with a contract as a result. Did I mention I love contests? LOL

  16. I, who testify before God and everyone reading this that I hate planning a plot, can do this!!!!

    Paula, you make it seem so easy, and it is! It's just a question of knowing where to push the button, (or where they hide the buttons on 2007 Word and Vista...)

    But I can follow these directions. Go you!

    And I love the fifteen year timeline. You rock. Thank you so much for being here. I can't wait to play with this over the weekend and see if I can actually pull it off without dumping the computer out the window.

    Keep an eye on your evening news for computer blow ups in Western New York.

    Gotta grab coffee. Love the mocha java and TINA!!!!

    I got in before the bagels were gone, no thanks to you girlfriend!!!

    And I brought chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven, soooo good.

    Although I'm not sure if I put six or seven cups of flour in the dough.

    Lost count. Life's too busy.


    Great cream cheese too, btw.

    me again

  17. oh, hey Ruthy! Lordy, I am SO not a plotter but I figured that Silhouette might not look favorably on me taking 2+ years to write a book ;-) and I guess nor would Mr Visa or my ISP or my son (who, oddly enough, needs to eat and be clothed now and then...)

    I have to cobble together a synopsis even when sometimes I have no idea where the story's going. Putting it down first in synop format, then in DM, forces me to think about things such as GMC, plot escalation, romance escalation, loose ends etc etc. So it's actually a godsend because the less confused I am, the less confused I make my editor ;)

  18. About to drop off my perch, so I'll catch 40 winks and talk to you guys later tonight (your time) k?

  19. Paula, the best overnight success takes years , and years. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the ten thousand hour rule for greatness. You paid your dues, and you deserve the kudos. I'm going to try DM in a few minutes. I currently use a notebook, file cards, and a big magnetic board. But there's no getting around the hard work it takes. Thanks for sharing..

    email addy--marevawrites(@gmaildotcom

    warm hugs,

  20. I'm always afraid to turn things on I've never used before, for fear I won't be able to make them go away.

    I've turned books into an email before and was just stuck.

    But I'll be brave because this sounds like a great idea. Love the book cover, Paula. Thanks for being on Seekerville.

  21. Ask away while Paula is napping. It is 14 hours later (tomorrow) in Australia. She'll be back in a bit.

    Snowing here in Denver. Looks like 6-11 inches. It will probably be 80 tomorrow. Crazy weather.

    Going out for more bagels.

    Maybe when Paula returns we can get her to share her CALL story. Love those.

  22. Paula,

    This is a great tip I'm going to try.

    By the way, while we're on computers, I may need to upgrade soon. Is VISTA the way to go? A lot of computers still have XP.

    And does anyone know if the older versions of Word (I think mine is 04, have this map feature?). Just wondering, before I go hunting for it.

    Thanks. I'd love a copy of your book.

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

  23. Neat information! Thanks. I shall definitely enjoying playing with this.

  24. I'm a Mac girl and use Office for Mac. I didn't see in the post how to turn this on for Macs, so are there any Mac users out there who could advise me?

    I googled Turn on Document Map in Office for Mac and Paula's Seekerville post was the 6th one down. Thought that was cool! :)

    Great post, Paula! I love suggestions to make my plotting more efficient!

  25. Lisa, I'm a Mac girl, too. I just looked and to find the document map function, click on the Navigation icon in the menu bar. Then you have an option of "Thumbnail" or "Document Map."

    I'm looking forward to trying this! Thanks for the tip, Paula. And I've always kept my chapters all in the same file, but each time I start a new chapter, I do a section break rather than a page break. It makes it a lot easier to jump between chapters.

  26. Thanks, Myra! I found the navigation pane and saw thumbnail, but didn't notice the drop-down menu. Now I'm set!

  27. Hey Paula, thanks for sharing. I like that possibility.

    To the Seekers at large ... I use Open Office. Does anyone know if the document map option is available in that program?

  28. All've convinced me. I'm off to turn on my document map now.

    Mary C.--I'm with you. If this thing doesn't turn off, I'm throwing away my computer.

  29. What is Open Office, Ann..okay I am off to look that up.

    I'm back. I went to I don't see document map as a tool. But you might want to check your help menu.

  30. Wow, excellent tip, thanks Paula! Just when I thought I knew all there was to know about Word someone teaches me something new. I can really use this. LOL on the Contest Sl...Diva! It sure paid off, your writing is fab.

    Cathy, I checked in my ancient version of Word (1997!) and it appears to have exactly the same feature. What I saw when I went looking was pretty much identical to Paula's screenshots, so I'm sure the 04 version will be just fine.

  31. Hi Paula,
    Loved your wonderful, step-by-step through the world of Document Map. Do we think WordPerfect offers a tool similar to this?

    Out of necessity I've learned to navigate Word, but only use it to send/receive contest entries. Still write in WP then save to Word files when I need to.

    Thanks for the lesson on Document Map. I love anything that helps me get organized!!

  32. Oh, wow, Paula!! I've always wondered how to use this feature. Thank you so much for explaining it! It sounds like it'll be perfect for me as my head starts spinning. :)

    Thanks so much for joining us today!


  33. Thanks for the post, Paula.

    I may just have to try it. I'm more a word perfect person, but have been using word, and have never tried the feature.
    I figure I do enough just to type...
    I like the idea of the headings, and with the novel I'm working on right now, a time travel, it would come in handy.

  34. I am avoiding using Vista as it has so many bugs. I use 04 on my computer and 07 on my laptop but no VISTA.

    SO are you liking that snow? We have thunder and cotton balls falling from the sky here in Denver. LARGE COTTON BALLS.

    I wonder if it is fall in Australia?!!

  35. okay, I'm up!

    Hi Mareva! - I've also got two whiteboards which I use initially to get the story out. Then I transfer it all to DM. I also use a spiral-bound notebook with page dividers (discovered these wonderful little things recently) that keep all my story ideas separate from each other. I'm a bit of a stationery freak...;)

    Hi Mary! The beauty of DM is you can toggle it off and on once you get it up in your icon bar. And that cover is gorgeous, isn't it? Much better close up! It actually won the JABBIC contest and was featured on the inside cover of RWR's May issue :) I told the Art Dept that the hero was David Boreanaz and the result isn't too shabby ;D

    Hi Cathy! - Please, please do not get any computer with Vista! It's like getting your own personal evil poltergeist - you're stuck with it and it makes your life hell until you can exorcise it. Many notebook computers are now being sold with XP (and they advertise the fact!) but if you can, go Mac (yay, Lisa and Myra!). I have a PC because, well, it's cheap and I have some programs on it that aren't compatible with Mac, but I also bought a MacBook over Christmas and it's soooo fabulous - efficient, cute and knows what to do without crashing or destroying your programs (kinda like a brand new boyfriend ;)

    hi Audra! If it's in WordPerfect, it'd probably be called something different. I used to use WP about 15 years ago, so my knowledge is a little out of date :) Glad to see the rest of you found the Mac option while I was sleeping ;)

    Ann - not sure OpenOffice has the function... isn't it a pared down word processing program? A lot of our mini notebooks here come loaded with it as an alternative option to Microsoft.

    Tina P - DMs great for organising a 200p ms, so I'm sure it'd be even better for longer! Will eventually get to try it out for that SF/F erotica I've got running around my head... ;)

    Missy! You sound familiar to me... maybe we met at nationals? Or maybe you frequent the lists I do?

    Tina R - snowing? I never saw snow until I was 22! Right now it's Autumn here. We're only a few weeks out of a scorching 45C (around 110F I think?) to a beautiful 26. Veeery nice because our summers can stretch from mid-October to mid-April. And you Do get sick of it, believe me! But hey, I'm off up the north coast on Monday for our usual school holiday jaunt... and more sun ;b I'll be posting photos on my blog around Friday so you can see just exactly how gorgeous this place is LOL.

  36. Thunder snow in Denver and idyllic fall down under.

    And it's a lovely spring day in New York!!!

    Paula, my workday just ended and I want to play this weekend between shifts, so I'm anxious to have some 'down' time...

    but I've got to be honest, gals, I love my Vista. It's on my laptop from Lawyer Boy and once I found the Office button (duh, why would they HIDE that???) I've had a ball. The internal programs that I've had time to play with are click-of-a-button easy. Seriously.

    But Zach had a techno-geek friend help him pick it out and it's got a huge memory and a wireless mouse because I'm still more comfortable with an external mouse, but I'm loving this. AND...

    It converts old files to accessible files both ways, so I can receive in all kinds of files, and make them compatible with the click of a button. Sweet.

    So, Paula, I like the idea if the divided notebook, too. Do you, um, have to like, WRITE things in the notebook? I mean, physically? Because if you don't, I'm totally in favor of it.


    I brought more cookies and I figured for a Friday night fun time we'd do Buffalo Chicken Wings (Buffalo the city, not Buffalo the Bison, they don't have wings last I looked) in honor of Tina's heritage in Western New York. I've got sweet-n-sour and medium-heat wings, didn't go super hot because I know we've got some older gals here...


    And grilled kangaroo steaks with veggie-ka-bobs to celebrate Paula's visit.

    Yes, they eat kangaroo like we eat deer.

    And I've been marinating prawns for the barbecue and they're amazing. Yum.

    Anybody bring drinks???


  37. Hey, y'all,

    About Open Office ... it has a feature called Navigator that is supposed to do the same thing.

    Also in Help, you can look up a MS Word feature in the Help Index and find a comparison.

    I plan to fiddle around with the navigator and see what happens.

    (Thought maybe somebody else was as cheap as me and got Open Office ;-)]

  38. Paula, it has been awesome to have to here today. How fitting to end with an Aussie BBQ.

    I brought Aussie wine and lots of iced tea.

    We will draw our book winner in about an hour and a half and I will announce it here and Paula has graciously offered to mail the goodies straight from the outback!!

  39. Hi Paula,
    Thanks for all the great info! And thanks for being with the Seekers!

    Love your cover!

  40. thanks for having me, gals!

    Ruthy - yep, I WRITE in the notebook LOL. I've got one in my handbag and one in my gym bag because you never know when those ideas are gonna hit (like in the middle of a chest press..) Okay, maybe Vista isn't *all* bad ;D But all my friends would rather XP or wait for the new Windows... 7 or something?

    As for kangaroo - I only had it once and it tasted like beef. But I couldn't get over the fact that I was eating Skippy... :::sob::: Watch our yummy Bondi Vet save a baby walleroo and you'll see what I mean (warning - it's addictive!) Bring on the Buffalo wings, prawns and Balmain bugs, I say!

    Ann - yay, you found it on OpenOffice. I should make a note of it in case someone else asks.

    mmm.... iced tea. Every time I make it I think of San Francisco and Orlando... Our bottled tea is way too sweet ;))

  41. Paula,

    Thank you for this tip.

    I just had a chance to try it out on my WIP. It's AWESOME.

    This will make it so much easier to review information in a previous scene.


  42. Cathy Shouse is the book winner. Cathy if you can send your snail mail addy to me at I will forward it along to the lovely Ms.Roe.

  43. I'm thrilled to win!!

    I'll e-mail you my address.


  44. Hi Paula, Thanks for coming to Seekerville. Sounds like you had a super time and we sure do enjoy hearing new ways to do things. I've never heard of this feature and am anxious to try it.

    It always amazes me that we can chat to someone clear around the globe as if we were next door. Love it.

  45. I'm so thrilled that everyone got something out of my post - it's great to help writers find more efficient ways of writing.

    Congrats, Cathy :::cheers::::

    Hi Sandra! I just love the internet... it's so amazing and it makes the world a much smaller place :D

  46. Hi Paula,
    I have struggled for ages, okay years, working out plots. Being a complete panser I've been resistant but as I sit forlornly looking at a blank screen, I think I'm ready to try this.


  47. I hope so, Sandii! It's so simple I can't think why I didn't find out about it before now :D