With the end of NaNoWriMo, I’ve plunged back in for the final edits and design of Stone Alliance. It’s been a JOY. You have no idea. Writing is my first and truest love, but honestly, editing work is not far behind. There’s something so satisfying about nitpicking and fine-tuning, and I LOVE that I get to do my own layout design this time around.
As I go through this, I want to share a few tips for other authors who are looking to learn more about designing their own layout. Of course, you can always hire out for layout design, but if you want the control and want it to look professional, I can help you out.
Now, my first tip to anyone planning to lay out their own book is to get Adobe InDesign. However, you have to subscribe to the ENTIRE Creative Cloud to get that one program, and if you’re on a budget like me, that’s not the best option. So I’m working with Microsoft Word. Since most people have that (or the Mac equivalent), that’s the program I’ll use to give any technical details.
So where do we go first?
I’ll start with my favorite, most underused function of word processors:
Why are paragraph styles important?
They make it so super easy to make sure your formatting is consistent across your entire manuscript. Instead of finding every chapter heading and laboriously making them each 20 pt, bold Arial or something like that, you can click the heading, select your paragraph style, and–tada! It’s also great for the main text of your manuscript, ensuring that every paragraph is the same instead of having a weird paragraph that somehow ended up being 9 pt font instead of 11 pt.
ALSO, I like to mess with my formatting a lot and try different looks. This is the way to do it. You can change every chapter heading at once by adjusting the paragraph style, rather than hunting down and changing each one individually. Same with the body text.
So where do we start?
You know that weird bar on the Home menu in Word that has boxes titled “Heading 1,” “Normal,” “No Spacing,” etc?
Those are your paragraph styles. The default ones are fairly useless, which is why you make your own. Start by clicking this button.
That will expand the menu. Click on Create a Style.
I believe that in an older version of Word, this takes you straight to the control center of paragraph styles, but Word 2013 brings up a useless dialog box prompting you to name your paragraph style. Give it a pertinent name and click Modify.
Then you get to the fun part. This is where you set your paragraph style exactly how you want it to be. But there are a few important things you want to check first:
- Make sure Style type is set to Paragraph.
- Change Style based on to (no style).
- If you want this style to show up in the style menu for all new documents (so you can use it again in another document), click the circle at the bottom that says New documents based on this template.
From this main screen, you can format your paragraph style just like on the home menu: font, size, justification, line spacing, etc. It will show you below the formatting menu what your paragraph will look like.
And there you have it! Your very own paragraph style to fit your very own work.
I like using paragraph styles even when I’m just hammering out drafts, because I can easily set every new document to my “Stories” paragraph style and have it look clean, crisp, and uniform, just how I like to read it.
Stay tuned for more layout design info! Next time, we’ll delve into some deeper aspects of text formatting.