Diona L. Reeves  

Use Design Templates to Improve Your Writing

The Prescott Diaries was developed using a combination of tools, design templates, and software. I wrote it by hand, used Scrivener to transcribe the first draft (while adding text and editing it), then dumped it into a paid design template for formatting in Word.

Because this was the first offering under my publishing umbrella, I was extremely picky. While the Word template looked okay in development, I did not like the sample output in Amazon KDP.

So, I brushed off my typesetting skills and migrated the manuscript and template to Adobe InDesign.

This step was beneficial in several ways.

1—It provided a visual overview.

Having worked for years in web and publications development, it’s no surprise I am highly visual. It used to drive my former colleagues nuts when we were in the midst of a project and I shifted something midstream. Unfortunately for them, I needed to see the product before I could decide whether it met our needs.

My novel was no different. Until I could see each chapter in its side-by-side format, as close to the end product as I could replicate, I couldn’t make a decision about the font, the chapter headings, or whether to include a graphic element beneath them.

While the Word version of my template offered some visual insight, the InDesign view was a closer replication of the final product (as confirmed through previews in Amazon KDP and IngramSpark’s platform.

2 — It offered insight into the reader’s experience.

Once I had all my text in a single, free-flowing InDesign document, I could jump around and get a true feel for the reader experience.

Doing so helped me gauge chapter length and balance. Did I have one chapter that ran on for ten pages, while the next was only three? Data like this helped me to rearrange, cut, or otherwise revise my book to improve its overall feel.

As an avid reader, the formatting is important to my personal experience. Not all readers feel that way, of course. But having a sense of the aesthetics not only helps you to envision what your work will look like in someone else’s hands — a cool proposition for a first-time author! — but it also serves as motivation to finish the thing already.

3—It helped with the overall edits.

Nothing screams edit to me like windows and orphans. I thank a former boss for this, as she was a stickler for eliminating them in our publications.

At the time, the effort I spent to ensure one word or sentence was not awkwardly out of place seemed frivolous. But the more I made these adaptions to satisfy her expectations, the easier it becomes for me to see all my documents in these terms. 

With the advent of online publishing, many writers don’t worry so much about this old standard. I do. It’s ingrained in me now. Even on my blogging platform, I try to keep the text aligned and my paragraphs balanced. 😉

While this is more of a preference in today’s digital world than an absolute, I am of the mindset sticking with publisher norms makes your work seem crisp and professional. More important, though, is the driving force such conventions offer during the editing process.

When I see stragglers, whether it’s an odd word or broken paragraph, the problem-solver in me kicks in. I see each problem as a puzzle — a challenge to overcome — and my mind formulates ways to fix the phrasing. Maybe I eliminate the carryover text altogether. Or, perhaps, I combine paragraphs elsewhere on the page.

Maybe I add more description to accompany a segment of dialogue, or replace unnecessary adverbs and adjectives with stronger word choices or more pointed dialogue.

I want the reader’s focus to be on the story, not weird breaks in the middle of an emotional scene or description. Whatever approach I take to correct such breaks, the result is tighter writing.

4 — It saved on printing costs.

Using a template to corral your text keeps the printing costs down. Not only do the edits to eliminate odd breaks help here, but seeing how blank pages between chapters affect your page count provides important data to calculate pricing.

At first, it may not seem like a few additional pages matter much. But now that Amazon has changed its KDP pricing structure for print books, each page you eliminate could mean extra revenue potential.

I spent more time than necessary formatting my manuscript in Word, only to move it to InDesign and re-edit the text and chapter breakouts for a better fit and improved flow.

But, as time-consuming as this process was, it ultimately benefited my work. The Prescott Diaries is a labor of love, yes, but I am pleased with both the story and the production quality. Moving forward, I intend to use the same visual approach to bring the best possible experience to readers, both visually and narratively.


I find both tools valuable enough to recommend. Here are my affiliate links if you would like to see for yourself how the use of templates can help your production.

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Diona L. Reeves

The Prescott Diaries

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