Making a Map of Your Story

So, you’ve finished your first draft. You’ve typed those two wonderful words ‘The End’. Wouldn’t it be lovely if it really was, if the book was finished – but it’s not. After writing comes re-writing.

I’ve been working on the first draft of Cradlesnatch on and off for over three years, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. I’ve lost sight of the thing as a whole and what I’m left with feels like a big messy plate of spaghetti. It has no structure. What I want is a beautifully constructed lasagne, with its organised layers of pasta, cheese and sauce. The perfect balance of tastes and textures.

So what should I do?

Before I can even begin to unravel the mess of words in front of me, I have to find some way to see the ‘whole picture’. I could use charts, or spread sheets, or post-it notes stuck on a board, but what I really want is something which helps me break down the story scene by scene which I can view as I write.

Thankfully I’m able to do this by a nifty use of formatting and taking advantage of the document map view in Word (apologies for those of you not Microsoft friendly, but I’m sure most word processor packages will offer the same functionality).

All you have to do is use the Heading formats already provided in Word. You’ll find them on the Formatting toolbar (I’m using Office 2003 but the principle is the same for Office 2010).


Cradlesnatch is separated into Parts, Chapters and scenes.


By highlighting Part 1 and selecting the Heading 1 formatting style; doing the same for Chapter 1 with Heading 2 style and formatting scene descriptions with Heading 3 style I can use the Document Map view to ‘see’ my outline structure.

Like so:


The Document Map view button looks like this: image

I can extend my scene descriptions to include scene goals, conflicts and outcomes, or add any notes.  So long as they are formatted as Heading 3 they’ll show on the document map.

Here’s one I made earlier:


If you have enjoyed this post – you might like to see how I put my methods into practice in my other work by reading SNAP by Lizzie Hexter, available from,,,, iTunes and Kobo.

5 thoughts on “Making a Map of Your Story

  1. Mark says:

    Great post, I’ll be trying this out hoping it can tame the block of text I have.

  2. Ha, I always wondered what I was supposed to do with that bit of Word functionality! Enjoy your “lasagna” 🙂

  3. Thanks for the support guys. Glad you found the post useful.

  4. Helena says:

    All the food metaphors~!
    Have bookmarked your blog and will be reading all updates yup

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