Document Map in Microsoft Word is helpful to me in tackling this problem - particularly in the stage where I have already written some tens of thousands of words but do not yet have the whole structure clear in my mind. I use it to provide a map of the chapters and sections of the novel – presented in a side bar at the edge of the computer screen. Armed with that visual overview I find the emerging structure easier to comprehend.
Clearly, this system won't be appropriate for everyone. But I thought I would share it in the hope that it might be useful to some.
|Screen-shot, showing Document Map enabled|
The document map can be seen down the left hand side of the page. Every bit of text in your document that is defined as a heading will appear there. I use the ‘Normal’ style for the body of each chapter, the ‘Heading 2’ style for chapter headings themselves and the ‘Heading 1’ style to mark out my act structure: Part One, Part Two and Part Three - or more if necessary.
Styles are accessed under the Home tab at the top of the page in Microsoft Word. Document map is enabled by checking the appropriate box under the 'View' tab.
|Styles on the 'Home' tab|
In the screenshot, I have clicked ‘Part One’ in the document map to open out that section, revealing all the chapters within it. I could similarly collapse it down with a click and open up any of the other sections.
|Document Map close-up|
The screenshot is from the opening page of my novel The Bullet Catcher's Daughter, which is being published by Angry Robot in September.