MS Word to InDesign best practices for novels

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Sean O’Donnell 12 months ago.

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  • #95549

    I write novels in Word, and like to format for print in InDesign.
    The Word files are very straightforward, using only a basic paragraph style for the text, with styles for the chapter name and chapter number. The only character styles I add are italics.
    I found a post on how to copy and paste the file into an InDesign file (I started with a template) which kept the italics, and the other styles. Then I went about swapping the styles for the ones I want to use for my print copy.
    I am hoping to streamline this procedure between the two programs.
    Can anyone send me toward a resource that might have what I am hoping to do outlined. Whether it be a guide, plug-in, or macros I can write.
    Can the styles be set up to sync when I paste the text into ID?
    And is pasting still the only (or best?) way to get my copy from Word to ID?
    Should I be marking my italics and using a character style for them inside ID?
    What can I set out to automate? I use an insert odd page break for every chapter end, can this be automated?
    I add a drop cap to start chapters, can this be automated?
    On all the blank pages I delete the header and footer, can this be automated?
    And automated to delete the header on every chapter starting page?
    Anyways, any input would be appreciated. TIA.

  • #95551

    David Blatner

    No, you should definitely not be copying and pasting large chunks of text from Word to InDesign. That’s what the File > Place feature is for! :-)

    We have a number of tutorials on this site, and there are also movies on Learning. For example:

    Mapping Word Styles to InDesign Styles: Free Video

    Import Word Files into InDesign, Remove Local Formatting but Keep Italics and Bold

  • #95558

    I agree with David about not copying and pasting, but instead using the “place” feature. So far as the other stuff:

    Unless there are scripts out there, I don’t know if you can automate some of the stuff you want.

    Your InDesign paragraph style sheet can control whether a chapter starts a new page or an odd page. That has to be done in InDesign. But you need a separate master page and you can’t tell Word how to do that. You have to apply the master page in InDesign.

    You InDesign paragraph style sheet can add the drop cap, but that has to be done in InDesign.

    For blank pages—you have to do that it in InDesign.

    In my workflow—I run macros to capture the italic, bold, small caps, superiors, etc.

    Then I search and replace on the Word paragraph style sheets and have my InDesign paragraph style tag put into place.

    Then I save as a .txt file and import via xTags.

    xTags could do what you want so far as chapters starting new rights and the appropriate master page, but it’s expensive and requires a lot of tagging ahead of time.

    Sounds to me like you want a magic way to automatically flow into Indesign with an “Easy” button or something. Please don’t take that the wrong way. But Word is a word processing program, and InDesign is for page layout. It’s not so simple to automate. There’s always a lot of work involved.

    Maybe some script writers will chime in if they know of scripts to make things easier.

  • #95559

    Thanks David. Yes, I’ve seen various tuts that cover bits and pieces of what I am looking for, or to see (As Dwayne pointed out) what is possible, and what will be needed to be done part by part. I’ve done some stuff in Photoshop where I can record actions, but I think that is a different animal here. The mapping of styles looks like it should be of some help, unfortunately the video won’t play, saying I am not logged into

    Thanks, Dwayne. As for the easy button. Not really what I was looking for. More a prep accordingly, and the task will be easier sort of approach. Since I am starting fresh in Word, I was looking to see if I prepped a template designed for the transit into Indesign, if that could cut down some of the steps involved.
    Of course, I was hoping all those little things could be automated, or some of them!
    Since a lot of the heavy lifting is done around chapter starts, I do recall seeing a bookmarking feature. If I can bookmark all the paragraph headings for the chapter numbers, I should be able to navigate a little quicker. Of course, I am just laying out novels, with a little extra front and back matter, so I should probably count myself on easy street compared to a lot of the projects ID is designed for!
    I’ll go tinker some more, and see what I can find.

    • #95560


      You can definitely capture the styles in Word (and the italic and bold and stuff). But not capturing new rights or blanks and stuff like that). Basically–you can import the basics into InDesign. You can import the paragraph and character styles, but that’s about as far as it goes.

      You will still write your InDesign style sheets so they come in correctly. And the InDesign paragraph style sheets will have the stuff like chapters start odd pages, or drop caps for the first paragraph. But that has to be written into the InDesign style sheets–not the Word ones. I don’t know of a way to create blanks via Word.

      And besides–your layout in Word will not match InDesign’s layout.

      I personally wrote macros and use xTags (and save Word files as .txt files). I rarely import regular Word files as I find they are more trouble than they are worth, and macros can clean up that stuff in Word saves more time than trying to fix afterwards in InDesign.

      Good luck–If you’re mainly doing novels, then definitely set up a template in InDesign. And use the same style sheet names in both Word and InDesign. It should map properly. But be careful of ellipses coming in wrong, or single/double quote combinations which can come in screwed up. But it’s stuff you will see and get used to (which you can fix via search and replaces) (or a macro).

      But basically–you want the Word paragraph and character styles to match your InDesign paragraph and character styles. But–your InDesign styles are the rule that is followed. When you import, you want InDesign’s styles to be used–not Word’s. So set up you InDesign styles for what you want and ignore Word’s styles. The important thing is they have the same name and the Word file flows in using InDesign’s styles (not vice versa).

      I am probably rambling.

  • #95562

    Not at all, Dwayne :)

    I can picture most of what you are suggesting. And my first novel layout looks great, so I have my InDesign styles down to where I want them.

    Okay, now I remember why I was having a problem placing my file. When I place my file into InDesign, my font sizes have shrunk from 11 pt down to 3 pt, even though the paragraph style (and without a + after it) is reading 11 pt. Same goes for my headings, all reduced. Also, the placed text goes over the top of the text box.

    I’ve got something out of whack. So, what is overriding that font size? It is also shrinking to a size I never use? Strange.
    Hmm, with an empty text box (with no Word doc in the file) I just clicked on my InDesign style, and the cursor dropped to 3 pt, even though the style is set to 9.5. I must have something clicked on by mistake…

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