This is a rerun of a computer tip I posted early in the life of FtQ, slightly updated. Many writers find it enormously helpful. In my archives is also a post on how to use comments for better writing. If you have any computer tips such as these that help you, please share them.
To use bookmarks effectively, first you should keep the entire book
manuscript in one electronic file. I know writers who use a separate
file for each chapter of their novel on their computer. Each of my
novels is in one file
A file-per-chapter writer friend didn't see how I could do it. The key is using bookmarks to navigate quickly and easily around a complete novel manuscript.
With the Microsoft Word and WordPerfect Bookmark tool, wherever you are in a manuscript you can insert a bookmark and easily come back to it from any other place in the manuscript. One obvious use is when you're somewhere deep in your book, rewriting, and it's time to hang up your brain for the night, your eyes having become loose in their sockets. Just insert a bookmark (I usually use the word "here"), save the file, and shut down. Next day, you're at the exact spot you left off with a couple of keystrokes.
Another way I use bookmarks regularly: I'll be at a point in either polishing my own work or editing a client's manuscript and need to check something earlier in the manuscript. To return to where I am, I insert a bookmark, usually just the letter "a" (so it appears at the top of the bookmarks list). Then I'm free to search and go back to look up whatever it is I need to know, and then a quick control+g and a selection of the "a" bookmark gets me back to where I left off. You can use the same bookmark over and over, too. Maybe 6 pages later I need to look for something else. I just insert the "a" bookmark at that spot, and away I go.
How to insert bookmarks
Here's how to do it in Word: click Insert in your top toolbar; click
Bookmark; type in a letter or word in the Bookmark name box, then click
the Add button. For some reason, you can't use words separated by
If you already have bookmarks inserted, such as the "a" example above, you can select one and reinsert it at another place rather than create a new bookmark name.
When you next open your document, to go to a bookmark you type control+g (PC) or, for MACs, apple+g, select Bookmark in the dialogue box that pops up, select the bookmark you want (there's a little arrow button to show a list of all bookmarks), click okay and you're there.
Revisiting work that needs work
Let's say you're really struggling with a passage or maybe just chugging through the narrative, laying track, and you know it'll need more thought. You can bookmark it and move on, knowing you can return with ease. Using bookmarks, I will revisit material that needs honing a number of times until I'm satisfied with it, and then I delete the bookmark. With a bookmark, it's easy to go back and keep at it; without a bookmark, I suspect work that needed work would get far fewer visits and less thought.
Keep track of new material you insert
Here's another one: deep into the umpteenth rewrite of a novel, it came to me that I needed to add a key visual and emotional element to a character's scenes in several places in the story. When I went through the novel and added the element in several places, I also inserted bookmarks at each scene (Jake1, Jake2, Jake3, etc.). Later, I jumped easily from one spot to another to make sure I had kept things consistent yet varied and had done all I needed to make the new material blend with the old. Because my first drafts tend to be on the lean side, bookmarking those additional bits of narrative enabled me to visit them after they'd cooled a little to see if they needed more work.
Keep track of important information
Because you can give each bookmark a different handle, another handy use is the ability to check back to important passages. This is especially useful for continuity checks. Let's say that early in the novel you created a detailed description of a room, and the things in that room are important to your story, and they come up again. Put a bookmark there ("the-murder" or "crimescene" or some such) and it's easy to refer back and keep later references to that place accurate. This could be darned handy for placing and checking clues in a mystery novel.
Bookmark each chapter opening
I bookmark the first page of each chapter to hop to one instantly. If you know you had Heather shoot the green bunny in chapter 4 but can't quite remember the sequence of events when you're referring to the shooting in chapter 16, it's easy to go back and check.
Return to edit points
Marking a passage for later use or change is another bookmark use. In one of my novels, I planned to move the description I'd written for a character to an earlier chapter during the rewrite. I bookmarked that passage so that, when I got to the new description point in the rewrite, I could jump there, cut the description from its page, then jump back to where I was (because I inserted an "a" bookmark before I left that point) and paste it in. No hunting, no searching for keyword strings, etc.
I'm sure you'll find, or already have, many creative uses for bookmarks. In fact, if you do how about sharing them with me?
For what it's worth,
Free edit in exchange for posting permission. You send a sample that you have questions about and of which you'd like an edit. I won't post it without your permission.
© 2006 Ray Rhamey