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Chapter by chapter rules!

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Posted by Hugh
May 7, 2012 at 05:19 PM

 

I lost work using MS Word. It usually happened when I was re-ordering chunks within files amounting to 20,000-plus words, and when the Document Map was involved.

There used to be a useful website giving instructions about how to avoid instability with Word and strip it down for longer projects: among many pieces of advice to help make the UI less bloated and more reliable it stressed that one absolutely shouldn’t use the Document Map (as I only discovered later). This really wasn’t acceptable to me, as an unreconstructed re-orderer and re-drafter.

That was several years ago and I was using Word 2003 or 2000. Its failings started me on the lengthy search for a satisfactory replacement for long-form writing. Most of the would-be “longer-writing” replacements for Word share the Document Map plus Editing Pane model that Word uses—but try in various ways to avoid the corruption/instability/loss of work risks that Word seemed to run in the past (e.g. Page Four, Liquid Story Binder, Scrivener, Storyist, Chapter by Chapter).

I’m now back using Word, but for revision and editing only. It still seems to me that it’s designed primarily for business correspondence and reports. Most of those new-ish rivals have now added functionality specifically designed for long-form, which Word lacks, although I’ve heard that by stripping it down and using macros you can achieve something that approaches Scrivener/Liquid Story Binder. Sounds too much like hard work to me. So I combine a drafting application in a workflow with a finishing and polishing application - MS Word.

I can’t believe that Microsoft haven’t now remedied the issues that caused the instability previously, and, of course, our hardware is now much more powerful and should be capable of allowing one to dice and slice long documents without turning them into alphabet-sludge. In addition, .doc, and .docx are still the standards for submission to agents and publishers in the UK and the US, and Word’s revision functionality, mainly “Track Changes”, is still the best as far I’m concerned, especially where “round-tripping’ is involved. In this mode, I don’t attempt big re-orderings of sections, and so far I haven’t encountered any problems.

In this sense, Chapter by Chapter may be a solution to a problem that Word once had, but has no longer. But I still would be reluctant to trust it with hatching a book-length project from concept to query-letter.