How to Write a Book Using Microsoft Word

By Kevin Lee

Microsoft Word 2013 is an excellent book writing tool -- as long as you stick to typing text for the book's chapters. It's less than stellar at handling jobs such as editing cover images and positioning objects to precise page locations quickly. Don't let those limitations stop you, because you can actually use Word to write a book, if you don't have other desktop publishing programs to help you. Microsoft packed a surprising number of tools into it's word processing application that simplify your writing task and help you create a book you'll be proud to share with the world.

Basic Tools You’ll Use Frequently

Authors often have target word counts and Word's word counter displays that important number on its status bar as you type. If you need the word count for a specific block of text, highlight it to view that number. Although you probably won't use a dozen fonts to create your book, Word lets you apply any font on your computer to text you select. After you select text, you can make it bold, italic or underline it quickly by clicking the appropriate button on the pop-up menu that appears. Most books aren't 8.5 by 11 inches, the default page size you see in Word. You can switch to a new size from the Page Layout tab. This tab also has controls that adjust margins, indentation and spacing between paragraphs. These are critical properties you'll need to adjust to create a professional looking book.

Identify Your Chapters

Critical book elements, such as chapter headings, are just a few clicks away when you create a book using Word. Add a chapter heading by highlighting text, clicking "Home" and selecting a heading style you like. If you don't like any you see, click "Create a Style" to create one. You can also change a heading's font size instantly from the Font Size menu.

Find Needles in the Haystack

Regardless of the type of book you're writing, you'll probably need to search for specific text one day. Word's powerful Fine and Replace tools help you find all occurrences of a word or phrase quickly and replace them with new text, if you like. For example, if you decide to change the name of one of your characters from "Jennifer" to "Jennifer Lou," you can do that instantly using the Replace feature.

Say It With Style

Word's grammar checker is an invaluable aid for checking your book for spelling and grammar errors. When you adjust the Proofing settings correctly, the program even checks your book for style issues and computes a readability score that shows how readable your book is. You can also adjust AutoCorrect Options that enable Word to correct mistakes as you type.

Don't Forget the Intricate Details

Many books contain other elements besides text and photos. A children's book, for instance, may have stars and other small shapes. Add them anywhere by selecting one from Word's Insert tab. This tab also has a button that enables you to insert tables and SmartArt. Review some of the Shape and SmartArt samples, because they may inspire you to add them to parts of your book.

Dazzle Them With Your Cover

In a world where some people really do judge a book by its cover, it's important to create an impressive one. You can do that by adding a photo to a page and overlaying it with the book's title, your name and other text you'd like to appear there. Add text by inserting text boxes on top of your image and typing your text there. Adjust the text's horizontal position by clicking one of the alignment tools in the ribbon's Paragraph section. Word’s image-editing capabilities are limited. However, formatting tools such as Shadow, Glow, Reflection, 3-D Rotation and Artistic Effects help you turn ordinary pictures into spectacular ones that can make your book cover stand out.

Track Changes: Your Built-in Safety Net

You don't have to worry about losing that excellent section you wrote previously, if you use Word's Track Changes feature. It keeps track of all changes and enables you to revert to any previous document state at any time. For instance, if you delete a sentence, one day, you can put it back another if you like. You'll also find this feature helpful if more than one person works on the book, or when you are working with an editor. Track Changes can show you who made updates to the text.

Give Me a Break

Word also helps you save time by inserting page breaks for you when your text exceeds the page you’re on and when you are ending a chapter. You can also insert page breaks manually. You may also find column breaks useful if your book needs to display text in columns. Section breaks help you separate information on a single page. Each break can have its own footers and headers.

Other Essential Word Tools

If your book needs cross references and an index, Word can build them for you. It also inserts page numbers automatically and helps you create a bibliography containing reference material you used to write the book. One of the most important elements in a book is the table of contents. Word helps you build one when you add heading styles to your text. The program finds those headings and uses them to create your table of contents.

Begin With a Building Block

You don't have to start from scratch when writing your book. Many vendors offer book templates that can help you get started. Choose one that already has margins, sizes, spacing and other properties already set, and all you have to do is insert content and tweak it to suit your vision. You can also search for book templates from within Word.