How to Make Word Behave Like Scrivener

One of the greatest benefits of Scrivener is its ability to help manage sections of a book-length document. You can quite literally select a section of your book, and then drag it and drop it to another part of your book without any fuss.

Scrivener’s Binder (the left pane in Scrivener) also allows you to see at a glance which sections you’ve written, which can then help you to do determine which sections you may still need to write.

Scrivener’s Binder

But not everyone is comfortable with Scrivener at first. Things may not be where you expect them to be (though this downloadable cheat sheet can help you get your feet under you). If you prefer to stick with the devil you know, then there’s a way to “hack Word” and get it to behave like Scrivener.

Scrivener’s Binder and Word’s Nav Pane

Did you know that Microsoft Word has a feature that’s similar to Scrivener’s Binder?

Word’s Navigation Pane

It’s called the Navigation Pane, and while it isn’t ready-to-use when you first open Word, a few simple tweaks can get Word’s Nav Pane working for you.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Sketch a book outline.

Open a new Word doc. If you like to plan before you write, quickly list the sections you want to include in your book.

Outlining lends itself well to nonfiction books (my outlines usually consist of a rough table of contents), but you could also list all of the scenes, plot points, or story beats for a novel.

Here are the “bones” for Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast:

Chapter 1: Develop a System
Chapter 2: Just Start
Chapter 3: Motivate
Chapter 4: Collaborate
Chapter 5: Brainstorm
Chapter 6: Research
Chapter 7: Organize
Chapter 8: Draft
Chapter 9: Revise
Chapter 10: Edit
Chapter 11: Add Images
Chapter 12: Clean Up
Chapter 13: Format
Chapter 14: Proofread
Chapter 15: Create a Cover
Chapter 16: Publish
Chapter 17:
After You Hit Publish
Workflow Tools
Sample Revision Checklist

Don’t be too concerned about getting you structure perfect. Your structure can change as you write. And that’s okay because we’re setting up Word to handle that.

2. Assign a heading style.

Once you’ve laid down the bones of your book, assign a heading level to each item in your outline. Each of my chapters in Idea to Ebook is a Heading 1. If I were to include sections, I’d style them as Heading 2s and subsections would be Heading 3s.

In fiction, your chapters will be Heading 1s and your scenes can be Heading 2s. Apply your heading styles using the Styles menu  in Word.

Word Styles menu

3. Manage your headings in the Navigation Pane.

After you’ve applied your heading styles, open the Navigation Pane with the Keyboard shortcut CTRL + F. Click on the tab on the left. You should see your headings in the Navigaton Pane.

If you click on the headings, Word will whisk you to that section of the document. If you drag a heading in the Nav Pane to a different place in the Nav Pane, that section will be moved to a different place in your running document.

By setting up the Nav Pane, you’ve essentially set up Word to behave like Scrivener’s Binder.

You’re not limited to one heading level. If you create subsections and style them as Heading 2s in Word’s Style menu, they’ll show up in the Navigation Pane as well. Play around with it. You can also delete an entire section in your running document by right-clicking on a section title in the Nav Pane and selecting delete.

If Scrivener is too steep a learning curve for you right now, there are ways to tweak Word so that it serves you better. In the end, it doesn’t matter what tool you use to write a book. Your readers will never know, anyway. Why not begin by getting to know the tool you already have?

Related Posts
25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story
Scrivener Cheat Sheet (Downloadable)
Ebook Formatting Principles: Organizing the Reading Experience

7 thoughts on “How to Make Word Behave Like Scrivener

  1. Yes, this is what I do in Word. I easily move sections around by dragging the ‘heading’ in the side panel. And it’s so easy to change the heading title or delete just the title once you’re done. If you delete the title in the document (or change the formatting), you still have that section of text where you want it to be. This is how I’m organising my first non-ficiton book. It’s so much easier than using Scrivener.

  2. Thanks for this post. Note: In the Mac version of Word, the Navigation Pane is called the ‘Document Map Pane.’ And for whatever reason, the Mac version doesn’t seem to allow you to drag and drop sections. :-\

    1. Nick,
      Thanks so much for that clarification. I’m sorry to hear that you’re unable to drag and drop sections in the Document Map Pane on a Mac. This one feature makes the Document Map (or the Nav Pane, as the case may be) a powerful feature for revising and restructuring a document.

      If it’s any consolation, Scrivener for Mac will allow you to move sections around in the Binder, which behaves like the PC Nav Pane in Word. It’s a small consolation, I know. But on the up side, I’m told that Scrivener for Mac has more features than Scrivener for Windows. So, sometimes, finding the right tool for writing will also mean finding the right tool for your computer.

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