1 Easy Trick to Help You Keep Your Story Straight


Writing the first draft of my WIP was a test in endurance. I planted my butt in the chair every day and sloughed out 3k words. A day. Some of the resultant scenes and dialogue were passable. Most of them were not, but I wasn’t overly concerned about it at the time. First drafts were made to get all the garbage out. Did I mention it was also the first time I’d written a story over 100k words long? By the time I got to the editing phase there was quite a bit of garbage to wade through.

All my initial drafts and pieces of drafts were done through Google Docs. It was liberating for me. I could write from my laptop, my computer, even my phone. But after sharing a sample of my work with a professional editor, she suggested I transfer my work to Microsoft Word. At the time I didn’t have access to Word and was loathe to purchase a copy, but I finally bit the bullet. And boy, am I glad I did.

Word allowed me to “search and destroy” words I habitually overuse. (Like ‘that’ and ‘just’.) I didn’t have to burn my eyeballs out digging through page after page looking for every unnecessary instance of the word. Despite the convenient search feature, editing was (and still is) an overwhelming endeavor. But one thing, in particular helped me wade through the slosh: the table of contents*.

I went through my work and formatted the beginning of every scene with a heading marker. With Word’s navigation feature, I suddenly had access to a panel with links to important parts of my story. It created a living outline of the story as a whole and allowed patterns to pop out at me like never before. My TOC also highlighted several flaws in my story arc as well as plot points which could be better addressed in a different order. I am now well into my third pass of rewriting (not editing, but actually REWRITING) my entire story. It’s a fairly overwhelming task. But with my linkable TOC and handy navigation panel, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

(P.S.: This post has not been endorsed by Google or Microsoft.)

*A new update to Google Docs includes a similar navigation feature.

Post may be re-shared for non-commercial purposes with credit to Ditrie Marie Bowie. If shared digitally, a link back to this blog is preferred.

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