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Using templates to make book writing easier

31 March 2010


I've just started work on a new book (more news on that later), and one technique I've used which saves a lot of time is to create a basic template that I can use for each chapter.

In this book, as in many practical non-fiction books, there are highly formatted sections (introduction, summary etc) that are the same in each chapter. Each of these sections needs to be formatted using the right styles in the publisher's Word template.

So I've created an empty chapter. It has placeholder copy for the chapter title and all the headings and styles that occur in the same place in every chapter. It doesn't cover the body of the chapter and all its subheadings - it just covers the regular features that are always there in the same place.

This has two advantages: firstly, it saves time. I don't have to worry about formatting the chapter title ten times because I've already done it. Although that in itself doesn't take long, the template I've created uses nine different styles and has fifteeen different content elements that require formatting, so the time does add up. All these bits are guaranteed to be in every chapter, so it's work I have to do anyway. I've just chosen to do it once, rather than doing it 10 times.

The second advantage is that it means I can get up and running with a new chapter straight away. I don't have to mess around with styles because that's already done - I can just start writing. Given that one of the challenges is to create momentum on a new chapter, having these templates makes the whole project run much more smoothly.

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