How can I write a complex book moving around bits and pieces?

I saw a tip about writing long books as a maser document with sub-file or pieces that can be moved around. However, I cannot find it more a out that method in the documentation.

Basically, a master document is a binder to host several subparts. The subparts can be easily reordered if needed, more easily as a block than if you used the Navigator on a single document.

Every subdocument is a document on its own. That is, you write it independently from the others. And this may be the source of difficulties:

  • the global document must be consistent style-wise; there is an easy solution for that.
  • it is more difficult to cross-reference across documents.

The main issue is presentation consistency. Youo have two ways to address it:

  • the troublesome one: *direct-formatting

    All your documents are manually formatted so that they don’t depend on anything. Thus when collected into the master, there is no odd they coud be changed in any way. Needless to say, it is impossible to tune easily formatting. You must review absolutely all documents with a high probability to miss something.

  • the recommended one: template + styling

    Use styles to mark up the significance of your text.

    Paragraphs receive a “global” meaning with paragraph styles, e.g. Heading n for headings, Text Body for the discourse without particular significance, Citation for citations, Numbering 1 for numbered lists, … You can define your own styles to make a distinction when needed, such as Comment, Explanation, Caveat, …

    Within paragraphs, some words may not fit the general significance of the paragraph. You then use character styles to mark up these words as Emphasis, Strong Emphasis*, … If needed create your own for Foreign Word, Abbreviation, Irony, …

    Pages can also be styled for front cover (First Page), TOC, dedication, chapter, … Apart from Default Page Style or Left Page and Right Page, you’ll have to create your own styles. Note that page styles can automatically switch to another one when end-of-page is reached. This can save you adding some manual formatting.

Note that I gave “semantic” names to the styles. I didn’t use “bold”, such “font face” or “size”, … It is important to segregate what you, as an author, think about the importance of such and such sequence, and the way it is presented to the reader. You must preserve the possibility to radically change the presentation without contradicting your style names.

If you completely avoided direct formatting, the whole appearance of the document can reliably be dramatically changed consistently only by playing with the style parameters.

When dealing with master and subdocuments, it is of utmost importance to implement consistency across the documents. When documents are collected, the master uses its own style definition to format. Formatting directives are the style names: this means that if styles with same name have different attributes, the definition is the master is the effective one. You experience then differences between what you see in the master and the sub!

To avoid this, collect all your style definitions in a single document called a template. Create the master and the subs from the template and never modify the styles in any document. You should adopt a strict strategy where you tune your styles only in the template. Next time your open the master or subs, you’ll be asked if you want to propagate the changes.

This means you must think about your style collection beforehand. This is not that hard, because you already have an idea about the structure of a long document and what you’ll put inside.

I recommend you practice a bit on dummy documents first. Use as many built-in styles you can. Never (repeat seventy seven times) use Default Paragraph Style: it is the master of all other styles and what you change here is forwarded to all others. This is its role and only role: to define document-wide defaults.

When you get used to styles, you’ll discover they are hierarchically organised so that you can define “families” where the family heads govern all dependent styles. For example, built-in Heading defines the font face for all Heading n. Changing the font face there has on effect on all heading levels without the need to change levels individually.

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Master documents in Writer

English documentation

I hope it helps you.