5 steps to creating a formatted interior template for your print journal, planner, or workbook

November 11, 2017

HypothyroidWriter.com blog graphic for journal interior post Sarah Lentz
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D.I.Y. Journal / Planner / Workbook Design

Have you ever wanted to design a journal to suit your own particular journaling style -- or that of someone you love? How about a planner for your friend who'd like to combine the things he likes best about the bullet journal with his favorite features from another journal?

Or how about a workbook to serve as a companion to the book you just wrote -- something to help your readers apply what you're teaching them in the book?

Did you know you could create your own journal in Word and/or Canva without spending a penny. In fact, you won't spend anything until you're ready to print your own first proof or published copy. And you can then make it available for others to buy, too. 

And if you give it a beautiful cover, which you can design using Canva (my go-to design program), you might even get comments like "Well, that's a pretty [or "good looking"] journal! Where did you get it?" 

Here are a few covers I've created on Canva for my own "Daily Jots Journals," which I made in two sizes: 6" by 9" and 5.25" by 8". I'm using the printed proof of the left-most journal in the 6" by 9" size. It has lined pages on the right-hand side and blank pages on the left (for mind-maps, diagrams, etc.). 

Before you start creating the interior of your own journal, workbook, or planner, you'll want to sketch out the main features, based on what you (or someone you know) look for in a journal (or planner) or on what would best serve your readers in a workbook. 

For a journal:

  • lined pages
  • unlined pages
  • writing prompts
  • quotes
  • daily planning pages (journal-style)
  • list-making idea pages (eg. "Ten ideas for ____ (including some really embarrassing ones)"
  • week-at-a-glance planning pages (for a planning journal)
  • month-at-a-glance planning pages (" ")

For a planner:

  • lined or unlined daily planning pages
  • week-at-a-glance pages
  • month-at-a-glance pages
  • quarter-at-a-glance pages
  • year-at-a-glance pages
  • most audacious goals pages
  • "So far, today ...." list pages
  • brainstorming / mind-mapping idea pages
  • important websites page/s
  • a page describing how to add D.I.Y. ribbon markers -- since neither CreateSpace nor KDP Print will add them (this would also be great for a journal)

For a workbook:

  • an outline of your book
  • a new section for each chapter
  • lined or unlined Q & A pages
  • idea-generating list pages
  • fill-in-the-boxes charts/worksheets
  • quotes (from your book or from something else)
  • a page (or pages) with helpful supplemental information or related books or courses

Creating The Template

I started creating my first-ever print journal using Canva for the interior as well as for the cover, but I ended up switching my interior to Word, because it made it much easier to create consistent mirror margins for a print book. 

Plus, each Canva project can only be 30 pages long. I like my journals to have at least 90 pages, and usually more. Word just makes it easier. 

(Canva is where we get to have fun making the cover, but we'll cover that in another post.)

For your Word template, you'll want to get a few things set up before you start adding lines and other features. 

1. Set up the mirror margins and page size

Go to the Page Layout menu and click on the tiny arrow in the bottom right corner of the Page Setup section of the menu. 

In the Margins tab, go down to "Pages" and select "Mirror margins" instead of "Normal."

In the "Paper" tab, change the width and height to match your book's trim size (the dimensions you want your book to have when printed). 

2. Set the style to "Simple"

Back in the "Home" menu, click on "Change Style" to the right of the Style menu, go to "Style Set," and choose "Simple." You'll notice the styles of your headings and body text change as your mouse hovers over each style option.

I've found Simple to be most customizable. With other styles, I've had difficulty changing the fonts from the default fonts for that style to fonts of my own choosing. 

3. If your book has distinct divisions (parts, chapters, units, sections), set these up with page breaks and headers. 

Your book may have the following pages:

  • Title page
  • Copyright page
  • Dedication (optional)
  • Table of contents (which you'll create in step 5, if you have one)
  • Chapter or section pages
  • Author's / creator's note at the end (or the beginning)
  • More from <author's name> page
  • Resources page / Appendices

An important note on page-numbering. If you're wanting your book to have page numbers, you'll also need some section breaks, which will allow you to use Roman numerals for your numbered front matter pages and Arabic numerals for your main numbered pages.

To create a section break in Word, you'll go to the Page Layout menu again and click on "Breaks" in the Page Setup section. From there, you'll go down below "Section Breaks" and select "Next Page." Make sure your cursor is positioned at the end of the page you want to separate from the following section.

*Up next are much improved instructions on page numbering in Word. I owe you this, especially if you've read Writer on a Budget or Create Stunning Journals & Workbooks Using Canva & CreateSpace. My page numbering instructions in those books aren't as helpful as what follows, and I aim to fix that. 

Here's how to get those page numbers right, with minimal headache (thanks to Word's own help pages):

  • Go to the page where you want page numbering to start, and make sure it's separated from the previous page with a section break and not just a page break. 
  • Click on the top of the page. Go to "Page Number" in the "Header & Footer" section of the main menu, click on it, and choose the style and location you want for your page numbers. 
  • Now that you're in the "Design" menu for "Header & Footer Tools," you should see the words "Link to Previous" in the "Navigation" section of the menu, which is to the left of "Options". De-select "Link to Previous" (click on it to switch it off) to unlink your current section from the previous one. This is a crucial step.
  • Now, go to your page number, highlight it, right-click on it, and select "Format Page Numbers." 
  • Make sure they start at number one, and change the format to "Roman numerals," if you want your book to have these. Otherwise, if you're only using Arabic numerals -- beginning the first page of the main part of your journal, planner, or workbook -- you don't have to change the style. 
  • If you are starting with Roman numerals, and you want to switch to Arabic once you get to the first main content page, go to the page where you want your Arabic numerals to start, and make sure you separate it from the previous page with a section break.
  • If you're no longer in the design menu (in Header & Footer Tools), double-click on the header or footer of your page to reopen it.  De-select "Link to Previous" again to unlink this new section from the previous one with the Roman numerals.
  • Then format your page numbers, resetting them to number one and changing the style to Arabic. 

4. Choose your fonts and font sizes -- for body text, title, and headings -- and set the styles accordingly. 

Select your title (if you have one), choose a font and font size for it, and then, while it's still selected, go to "Title" in the style menu, right-click on it, and select "Update Title to Match Selection."

If your book has a subtitle, you can highlight that, change the font and font size, and update the "Subtitle" style by right-clicking on it and selecting "Update Subtitle to Match Selection."

Then select one your main headings -- chapter titles, page titles, section titles -- change the font and font size (if you want to), right-click on the "Heading 1" style in the style menu, and select "Update Heading 1 to Match Selection."

Then select a subheader if you have any -- level 2 headings -- and do the same for it, updating the "Heading 2" style.

Finally, select some normal body text, and do the same as above for the "Normal" style. 

5. Create a table of contents, if you want one.

Get your cursor to the spot on your contents page where you want your table of contents to appear, and go to the "References" menu tab, and from there to the far-left end of the menu, where you should see, "Table of Contents." Click on that, and either select one of the "Automatic" tables, or select "Insert Table of Contents" from the bottom of the drop-down menu. 

From the dialogue box that opens, choose the number of levels you want to show in your table of contents. Level one will show anything in "Heading 1" format. Level two will also show items in "Heading 2" format -- and so on. 

Choose the format, checking out the different styles available and picking the one that appeals to you most. 

Since this is a print book, you'll want to uncheck the box that says "Use hyperlinks instead of page numbers."

If your dedication page and table of contents page begin with a heading in "Heading 1" style, they'll be on the table of contents, too, but you can easily select and delete them. 

Making it yours - or someone else's (or both)

Now, you're ready to add lines, quotes, writing prompts, questions, and whatever else you want in your journal / planner / workbook (see lists above or a list of your own making). 

Once you've got your styles set, and the basic template created, you can even try previewing your book -- just to check out the formatting -- on either Calibre or KDP's free downloadable Previewer. If you use the latter, you'll want to save your Word doc as a "Web page, filtered [*.htm, *.html] and open that HTML with the Previewer. 

Be sure the HTML file isn't still open on your desktop when you're trying to open it on the Previewer. Bad things happen (especially with images).  

So, what's next?

Once you've got the interior of your journal, workbook, or planner looking the way you want it to, you'll no doubt want an attractive cover to go with it -- something that will make you (and others) want to reach for it. 

If you're making this for yourself, for a specific group of people, or to give as gifts to friends and family, you might be tempted to just throw something together, but it's worth taking the time to learn a few things about what makes a cover appealing to the eye. 

And if you're hoping to sell some copies, you'll definitely want to make sure the cover will draw the eyes of those who would most likely enjoy using your journal, workbook, or planner. 

It doesn't have to be fancy, and you don't have to use bold colors, though you're free to do so. Your cover shouldn't scream, "Look at me! I'm louder than the others!" It should command attention but with the confidence of someone who knows he's easy on the eyes and worth a closer look. 

Stay tuned for a post on designing covers that will help you sell copies of your journal, workbook, or planner. 

Thank you for being here, and I hope to read something from you, too!

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5 steps to creating a formatted interior template for your print journal, planner, or workbook.

By Sarah Lentz

Writing and designing book covers are two of Sarah Lentz's favorite things. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, their four kids, and two messy but adorable guinea pigs.

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