Can you write a book with a word processor?
Definitely, and many authors use Word, Apple Pages, or Google Docs.
However, you should take a couple of quick precautions before you start writing your book. Doing two simple things will keep your manuscript safe and secure and make preparing your book for publishing easier.
First, create a template for your book, and second, set up your file system and backup routine.
Why use a word processor to write a book?
Yes, you can find many terrific apps, programs, and software for writing a book.
But most of them will cost you money or have limitations with free versions.
However, you usually have a word processor on most computers and laptops. So why not use it to do the same job and for free?
The fact that J K Rowling uses Microsoft Word proves that using a word processor works.
But there are two significant differences between a book writing program and a word processor.
One is how your manuscript is filed, and the other is how much formatting is applied as you write.
The big mistake is to have only one manuscript file with excessive formatting.
It is a considerable risk, as it could be damaged, corrupted, or deleted, and all your work is gone.
But it’s pretty easy to set up your word processor to ensure your book manuscript is safe and secure.
You only need to create a new lightweight template with minimal formatting. Then set up a file system to break up your book into chapters.
Creating a new book template
All paid and free word processors use templates. But the default template is usually full of styles and formatting you don’t need in a book.
Here’s an example using Apple Pages.
Too many paragraph styles will increase the size of your files.
The way to solve this is to remove all unnecessary styles and keep only the few you need for a book manuscript.
For each style you don’t need, delete them. Some word processors might ask you to replace it instead of deleting it.
In this case, replace it with the body style. Now your styles list should look something like this.
You can see that I have only three—one for the book title, one for the chapter heading, and one for the body text.
That’s all you need when you write your book.
The last step is to save your settings in a new template. Go to “save as template” and give it a logical name like My Book or New Book Template.
Now you have your new lightweight template to use for your book.
The important part to note here is that you will format your book after you finish writing it. Trying to format as you write your book can only lead to problems and possible file issues.
Keep it simple and light, and concentrate on writing your book.
Setting up your file system
If you write a book with a word processor and use only one document file, you could be in for problems.
It is especially true in Microsoft Word and Apple Pages.
As you write your manuscript, the file gets larger with text and a lot of background code.
It might take you months to write your book, and every time you open, close, and edit the file, you add more code.
The worst scenario is a warning similar to this.
While file corruptions are one drastic possibility, other things can happen.
You might accidentally delete the file or parts of your book. Then it’s hard work trying to recover your manuscript.
Most dedicated software for writing a book divides a manuscript into smaller parts.
That’s what you need to do to protect your manuscript.
Here’s how to do it.
Open a new document using your new book template.
Add your book title, the first chapter heading, and some text.
Now save it as your master file in a new folder on your computer. You can name it “Book Master File” or similar.
Close it, and open another new document.
This time, only add a chapter heading like “Chapter One” and some text.
Save it as Chapter One in your new book folder.
Now close it and open a new document and create chapter two.
Repeat the process for a handful of chapters. You can always add more as you progress with writing your book.
Check your file manager, and it should look something like this.
You can see that I have added the master document plus four chapters
Lastly, I added another document for notes. This file comes in very handy as you are writing your book.
You can save your ideas, quick notes, or research material here.
As an extra precaution, you could save your master document in a different folder.
Writing your book
Now you are ready to start writing.
Start with chapter one until you complete it.
When you are finished, copy the text into your master document, but keep your chapter file. Don’t delete it.
By doing this, you have two copies in case anything goes wrong.
Continue writing each new chapter, and copy and paste the text of each one into your master file.
Even though your master file will increase in size, it will be less prone to errors because you won’t be working on it continually.
The last safeguard is to back up your work regularly.
If you only keep your files on your computer’s hard drive, you could lose all your work if your computer has a problem.
The best and easiest way is to use a cloud drive such as iCloud or Google Drive for your backups.
But you can also use thumb drives if you don’t have cloud access.
Don’t format as you write
Formatting is the last step in publishing a book.
You will need to format your manuscript differently for an ebook and a print book.
So formatting as you write is a waste of time and an opportunity for things to go amiss.
Don’t worry about copyright pages, author pages, table of contents, indexes, or headers and footers.
When you finish writing your book, you can create copies of your master document to complete the formatting process.
And if anything goes wrong, you still have your master copy, as well as all your chapters, in safe files.
Using your word processor like Word or Pages to write a book is logical.
You have it already, and you don’t need to spend time learning how to use new software.
It’s also a safer way to write because you are not writing online.
But be aware that it is not specifically designed for extremely long documents of 40, 60, or 120 thousand words.
But if you take the two measures outlined in this article, you will reduce the risks of things going wrong.
Using a lightweight template and splitting your book into smaller files, and keeping regular backups is all you need to do.
Then you can have peace of mind as you get on with writing your book.
Related Reading: Protect Your Manuscript By Being A Good File Manager