Monday, July 12, 2010

More About Software and Writing

I told you about how I use Microsoft Excel to summarize scenes in my novels, Where Love Once Lived and Vengeance Is Mine. That made me think about how I use hidden words in Microsoft Word. At the beginning of every scene, I include the following information formatted as hidden:

• Time (day of week, date, time of day)

• Weather (temperature, rain, etc.)

• Scene number

• Scene setting

• Scene goal

• Scene conflict

If you're not familiar with hidden text, read up on it in Word Help. It can be quite useful. You'll also need to go to Word Options to turn on display and print for hidden text. If you want to see the manuscript without your notes either on screen or in print, modify the settings

Sometimes the date doesn't matter to a story. However, I included it anyway to add realism. I don't always include the year, but it helps to know the month and day. Same for weather. You can use the real weather for a particular day by looking it up online, or use some imaginary dark clouds or rain to add a mood if it helps your story.

One problem with using hidden text in this way is that when scenes are added, deleted or moved, the numbering has to be changed. However, if you do this in conjunction with the Excel scene summary I described previously you can make the change there first.

I teach Excel, plus the rest of Microsoft Office at Austin Community College, so feel free to ask if you have questions.

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