Wednesday, April 24, 2013

For Writers: How to use Microsoft Bookmark to navigate long manuscripts

Writing a book is a huge undertaking; although I am not (yet) a published author, I have still been writing storylines for the last ten years with a view of becoming published one day in the future. I also am one of a (rumoured-to-be) rare breed of users that like using Microsoft Word, which is the program I used in 2007 and 2008 to write a 120,518 word, or 417 double-spaced page, manuscript for a fantasy storyline (I have since revised and am will rework on once I complete my current project).

As you can imagine, as you are committed to typing so many words to electronic file and screen, navigating the document can pose quite a challenge, in a number of different ways.  Today, I am going to show the basics of how I work around one of those challenges, and then let you, the creative writer come up with more ways that this one feature can benefit you as you work on your manuscript.

So, what do you do when, for example, you are working on say Chapter Twenty Three and you need to add – immediately – say a bit of foreshadowing of [this], and you know the perfect place to add this must be included detail is way back in say Chapter Five, you know, in that scene, right where the character is [whatever]. One way many writer handle this is to scroll back through the pages, looking for that scene.  This method takes time, and can be frustrating, especially when you don’t find the section of text you want quickly, and you need to act upon writing the brilliant one line in that scene before the sentence slips from your memory never to return. And then, when you are done, you find yourself asking, ‘Where was I?’

Now, the above scenario isn’t too frustrating if you are working on a document of only a few pages, but it can be very hard to find text you are looking for (a sentence you could have written months ago, for example) if say you are working on – let’s pick page 352 of a now 416 page manuscript and you need to find the scene which you think might be somewhere around pages 60 through to maybe 90 IF you are remembering your own story and word count estimation correctly.  A number of things could happen:  you could concentrate so much on finding the text that once you find it you forget why you were trying to find it in the first place; you could find it easily, but then forget what you were doing before you returned to this part of the manuscript.

This is when Microsoft Word’s Bookmark feature – if used well – can come to your rescue.

So today I am going to provide step-by-step instructions on how to insert and how to use a Bookmark, and give some suggestions on how writers can use this feature to their advantage.

Now, before I leave what I’m writing I create a [return here] Bookmark, and only once that is done do I then go back and act on my idea to add foreshadowing of [this] earlier into the manuscript.  There are other ways of course, but this is quite easy.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Let’s pretend for this tutorial that this Microsoft Word document I’m using to type up this blog post for my blog is my novel manuscript, and let us also pretend that I am up to [Return Here] in my manuscript when I suddenly realise that to be fair to readers I can’t just fire this loaded gun without having foreshadowed the loaded gun in a much earlier scene.  As this I realise my responsibility to be fair to my readers, I also immediately know the perfect scene and moment within my storyline where all I need to add is one simple sentence and hey presto, problem resolved.

Now, when I first started writing my manuscript, I had a scenario something very close to that described above, and I immediately scrolled back through my document in search of that sentence so that I could attach my foreshadowing.  The trouble was, I was working on my story climax, and the scene where I could show my character taking the loaded gun with her was way back somewhere in the first third – the beginning – of my novel.  By the time I scrolled through 300+ pages in search of that scene and actually found what I was looking for, because I kept going past it, I forgot the words that I wanted to add to the end of that sentence. So to prompt me, I scrolled back and searched for the page I had just left, to reread the sentence that had caused me to realise I needed to foreshadow the gun, in the hopes that rereading the sentence again would re-spark the sentence wording again.

Now, through experience I am not so quick to start scrolling forward and back – until I have left myself a bookmark to return with ease. As soon as I realise I am going to have to scroll through the document, I press the enter key to take me to the next line and then type the words ‘Return Here’.

So, without further ado, here are the instructions to add a Bookmark to a Microsoft Word document:

1.      Type the words Return Here.
2.      Highlight the words [Return Here]
3.      Go to the Ribbon and choose the Insert Tab, and locate the Bookmark button


4.      You will get a pop up dialogue menu that looks like this:

5.      In the text box where it says “bookmark name”, I write the words ReturnHere (no spaces are allowed, so I capitalise any second words to make it easier for me to read – this is particularly useful when you have a lot of bookmarks). This is what I am calling my bookmark (ReturnHere).

6.      Click Add, and the bookmark will be created and the dialogue box will automatically close. 
7.      Now you are free to scroll back through your document and work on somewhere else within the document.
8.      When you are ready to return to your ReturnHere point, click on Bookmark on the Insert tab (instructions above)
9.      Click on ReturnHere within the list (as mentioned earlier, you can do multiple bookmarks in the same document, so the bookmark titles are listed alphabetically, or by location depending on how you sort the list).

10.  Once the bookmark is highlight, click on “Go To” and Microsoft Bookmarks will take you straight to the highlighted text, in this case, the words Return Here.

Now the above is a simple bookmark, but with a bit of creativity, you can use this feature within a large writing project so you can return to anywhere you like quickly and easily.  I am now in the habit of making bookmarks every time I start a new chapter; the first time a character appears, key scenes (e.g.  LauraInClass, LauraLeavingClassCrying, LauraMeetingTheWitch etc.)

It makes the list in Bookmarks long, but it is so much easier to search for key scenes in this way rather than scrolling through a very long document trying to find text - which can feel very much like looking for a needle in a haystack if you don’t recall what page it appears (and face it, in a document that is almost complete, you only have a rough idea where it is).

Well that’s how quickly and easily you can create a bookmark within your own manuscripts. Please use the comments section below to let me know if you found this tutorial helpful and to share any tips you use to navigate your way through long documents.


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