A different kind of style

I’ve talked about formatting style but there is also a style for writing your story. You can go with the traditional chronological order, but that’s not the only option.

Sometimes the story is better if you divide it up into related sections. You can tell the story from more than one person’s perspective. You can tell it by seasons. There are lots of styles to go with.

How do you decide? It’s your project. You decide.

The only caveat is to make sure your story flows. If you use something other than chronological style, be sure that you can and do create flawless segues. Your story has to seamlessly pick up where you left off before you switched to another viewpoint. If you lose your reader, you may not get them back.

A good technique for making sure of that is to edit your work by following one viewpoint all the way through, skipping over the other chapters. But, you still need a segue.

The most clever way to do that, in my opinion, is to bring each chapter around so that it could continue without switching to a new chapter while, at the same time, creating a segue that comes full circle with the previous viewpoint. In other words, the end of each chapter, for each viewpoint, comes to a single point that could go either way: continue with the same viewpoint or with that of another person.

No, it isn’t easy. But, who said writing was easy?



What every writer must write

The one thing every writer needs to write is their author bio. It goes on the book jacket, it goes inside the book, it goes in PR pieces and it, perhaps most importantly, goes on your Author’s Page on Amazon.

I just took a close look at what is being sold on Amazon and have been astonished to see that very few writers even have an author’s page. Every author of every book for sale on Amazon is missing a great opportunity by not creating an author’s page.

How does it happen? You write it.

This is self-publishing. You have to self-publish your author’s page, as well.

If you allow yourself to indulge in writer’s block, divert your mind and write your author’s bio, even if you haven’t finished anything yet.

Write about who you are, what your writing experience and motivation is and add a photo. Take advantage of SEO and select terms that are commonly used in your specific field. If you wanted someone to find you via a Search, what words would you expect them to search? Incorporate thoseo words in your author’s bio.

Not sure how to write it? Just look at any Author’s Page on Amazon.


The myth of writer’s block

How self-indulgent writers can be. I don’t personally believe that writer’s block exists. There, I said it.

I am aware that Merriam-Webster considers it a real enough phenomenon that they included the definition. I am frustratingly aware of all the articles, websites, workshops, conferences, books and cartoons devoted to writer’s block and how to cure it.

I cry fowl.

It’s as if (some) writers don’t feel like they have arrived until they can mourn aloud, hand-to-head, that they, too, have succumbed to the mysterious illness that can generally only be self-diagnosed.

How precious. How indulgent.

Hokum. Baloney.

Why do writers get an out?

When was the last time you heard a truck-driver claim they couldn’t navigate to their destination because they had Driver’s Block? When was the last time you heard anyone say they couldn’t cook dinner because they had Chef’s Block? When was the last time you heard a schoolteacher say they couldn’t teach class one day because they were suffering from Teacher’s Block?

I just don’t buy it.

Maybe the English are right: [writer’s] block is just a hocus-pocus covering life’s regular, humbling facts.

Writers write. Truckers truck. Chef’s cook. And, teachers teach.

The best article I have ever read on the subject is “Blocked: Why do writers stop writing?” that appeared in a 2004 issue of the New Yorker. Among other things, the author talks about how “romantic notions about writing had filtered down to the public.”

I can see that. I first began to realize how some writers embrace a mystical view of the writing process, in the most literal of ways, when I first participated in NaNoWriMo. There was open discussion of choosing a toy mascot to help you write.

An odd baby-talk has emerged, with writers talking about writerly things and noveling. Noveling, according to the Urban Dictionary means “a long, overly wordy text message or social network update.” Hmmm. I don’t think that’s what would-be writers understand that they are saying.

I was astounded that anyone would waste time picking out a toy and waiting for that toy to mystically imbue them with the unique ability to write beautifully. I could not help but wonder how much closer they would be to actually writing if they didn’t waste time shopping for toys and waiting for a near-religious experience.

I also noticed that most of these writers never finish anything. They never publish. A published author commented on a local writers’ group in our area that he found it sad that the same group was still meeting on a regular basis after five years and none of them had made any progress.

Writing is about writing and it is work. It is wonderful work. But, it is work.

Writing is not a religious experience. Angels don’t descend from heaven (or devils from hell) and take hold of your keyboard, hammering out completed works. They don’t even pound out rough drafts. Too often, the writing experience too many people describe is reminiscent of spiritualism, with some spirit doing the creating.

Writing is something humans do. That’s where writing comes from. Take responsibility for it and take credit for it.

I see no point in discussing how to overcome writer’s block, if you have succumbed. There are people who earn a living talking about writer’s block. I guess that’s one way to overcome it. At least they are writing, right?

If you have something to say, say it. Write it. Move on. While you’re at it, cook dinner.

hackTomorrow: what every writer MUST write..





When most people set out to write, the TOC is not the first thing they think of.

But, if you plan to self-publish, it is a good idea.

If you plan to publish an eBook, it is essential.

The Table of Contents is a Word References feature (OpenOffice, too).. It is part of the “programming” that goes on behind the scenes while you type. It is one example of Word doing some of the thinking for you.

When you download a publish-on-demand book template, you will find that it includes a Table of Contents. You don’t have to get very elaborate. You can literally leave the chapter names as “Chapter 1,” “Chapter 2,” and so on. But it does help guide your reader if you name the chapters. Plus, most of us look at the chapter titles when we decided whether to read a book or not. A numeric chapter name is not going to convince anyone to buy a book. But, you should have chapters and a table of contents so the reader can go directly to a chapter.

If you plan to publish a digital version of your book, format the print version for publishing first. Trust me.

The automatically-generated TOC is based the Styles palette, but uses the References palette.

To see how this works, download a template from a publishing site.  You don’t need a Createspace account to download a template for this exercise. Go to HERE to download the pre-formatted template for a book that is 8.25 inches tall and 6 inches wide. It is just one of more than a dozen sizes you can choose from.

Open the Styles Palette in the Home ribbon menu. To do, this click on the little icon in the lower right-hand corner of the Styles Palette.


The Styles panel opens on the right-hand side of the page.

Far down the list, you will see “CSP – Chapter Title.” All of the “CSP” styles are the basic Createspace styles. The other styles are ones you may, or may not, need to use. Later, you might even want to create your own.

The Style called “CSP-Chapter Title” is the key that generates a Table of Contents. Any item that is formatted as “CSP-Chapter Title” will automatically generate an item in the Table of Contents.

That means if you need to create additional chapters, format the title with “CSP-Chapter Title.” When you update the TOC, Word will automatically add that chapter. It’s just name your chapter, highlight it and apply the chapter style, and update the TOC.

There is nothing magic about “CSP-Chapter Title.” You can create any Style you want for your chapter headings and call that Style anything you want. You just need to remember what it is called.

Did I lose you? Let’s take a closer look.

Hover over the “CSP-Chapter Title” until you see a dropdown arrow appear at the right-hand end of the Style in the list. Hovering will show what kind of formatting will be applied.

But, it helps to know how many times the formatting has been applied within this document. If you know you should have 16 chapters, click on the “CSP-Chapter Title” Style to see the popup window.  Does it show 16 chapters?


No. The “CSP-Chapter Title” Styles has only been applied in 14 instances.You would need to find the other two chapter headings and apply the same chapter Style to them.

Don’t change anything else on this style, at this time. (You can quickly change the font, size or color used for all your chapter headings by modifying and updating the Style, but we will save that for another time.)

If you want to see, in detail, what formatting is included with the template, click on Modify. The Modify Style window appears and shows how text formatted as “CSP-Chapter Title” Style will appear.


Chapter Titles are Paragraph styles, meaning they will modify all the text until the next hard return. All you do is highly the chapter name and choose “CSP-Chapter Title” Styles to make the text:

Times New Roman, 14, All caps, centered, single line-spacing with no space below.

Let’s say we do have the correct number of chapters formatted with the “CSP-Chapter Title” Style. Now we want those chapter titles to show up in our Table of Contents.

The Table of Contents in this template you downloaded is on page 5. (Type CONTROL+G, 5 to get there quickly.)

This is NOT a functioning TOC. You will have to create one that updates automatically. You do not want to have to type the TOC manually, and then keep all the page numbers manually. Word needs to do all of that for you.

To create your own functioning TOC, hover above the chapters listed in the Contents on page 5. You will see the following. It is just a table, not a Table of Contents. The word “Contents” was just manually typed in.


I prefer to keep the word “Content” until I have completed the TOC setup and have it working. But, the fake TOC needs to be deleted. To do that, highlight the table.

Tap the Delete key. The fake table is gone. Now we will create the real TOC.

Before we begin, we know that the first chapter is “1 Chapter Name” and begins on page 1.


We want to give this chapter a name that means something. We’re going to rename it “1 In the Beginning.”


Rename as many chapters as you want before we begin. You can rename all the rest of them at any point so don’t worry if you aren’t ready to name them all. When you are finished naming chapters, we’ll create the TOC.

Go back to the page where the word Content is, where you deleted the fake TOC. One reason I leave the word Content there is that, if I get confused, I can use the Find command to locate Comment.

Move your cursor one line below the word Content, for now. (When we are done, we will delete the word Content.)

The Table of Contents Panel is on the References Palette in the ribbon menu. Click on the dropdown at the bottom of Table of Contents. We are going to Insert Table of Contents.


You will need to “decorate” your TOC, by selecting Styles, in order for Word to pick up the chapters for your Table of Contents. There are defaults you will need to change.


When the Table of Contents popup window appears, you will see examples of TOC formatting. In the default example,  you will see the Print Preview shows Heading 1, Heading 2 and Heading 3. These are headings for different levels of content. Heading 1 would be a chapter; Heading 2 would be a subsection of that chapter; and Heading 3 would be a subsection of the subsection of the chapter. Keep in mind that the default TOC consists of THREE heading levels. In this template, we are going to use only 1.

To do that, we click on the 1 Options Button. That opens the Table of Contents Options window.

There are 4 things we need to change in this window.

In our template, we know that “CSP-Chapter Title” is the Style for all of our chapters. The default Style is Heading 1. We need to change that. Use the scrollbar all the way over on the right to scroll down through all the Styles in this template.

2  In the box next to the Style “CSP-Chapter Title,” type a number “1”. 3 The moment you do, a checkmark will appear next to “CSP-Chapter Title.”

Now, all text formatted as the “CSP-Chapter Title” Style will be included in our Table of Contents.

BUT WAIT, the Table of Contents Options still show that text formatted as Heading 1 should be level 1 in your TOC.

You probably don’t have anything formatted as Heading 1 – but just to be sure, 4 I delete the number “1” from the TOC level. Doing that makes 5 the checkmark next to Heading 1 disappear.

I do the same with Heading 2 and Heading 3.

Click Okay.

The TOC will automatically appear, with corresponding pages numbers.

Since we changed the name of the first chapter to “1 In the Beginning,” that is what appears in our TOC. Rename your chapters whenever it feels convenient.

Then go back to the References Palette and find the Table of Contents panel. Click on Update Table.


A popup will ask whether you want to update page numbers only, or whether you want to update the entire table. I usually choose entire table.

If you don’t fiddle with this template too much, you can safely paste your text into the chapters or type your chapter content right in the template.

This is the basic TOC you will need for either a print book or an eBook. You can now safely delete the original line that has only the word “Contents” on it.

You can alter the Style for your chapters to a different font, or size. But, if you rename the Style in the process, you will need to go back to the Table of Contents setup, find the new Style you want to use for chapters and make sure that is selected as Level One in the Table of Contents format.

Once you understand how the Styles work, you can make your books look attractive and appealing. Books should be more than just words. They should include this roadmap we call chapters and they should be consistently formatted.

Many people are overwhelmed by this very first and very basic task. If you are, hire someone to do it for you. (Yes, I can do that for you!)