How to Create a Text Dummy for a Picture Book in Microsoft Word

A few weeks ago, I began writing a new picture book, This is how I began visualizing that new story:

You can probably see that I am passionate about this book idea. You see, this is a true story. When I was a little girl, a desk was situated beneath my bedroom window. At night, I would crawl up on that desk and spend hours watching the moon and the night outside. But while I have a good start for a picture book, I don’t have an adequate variety of scenes to fill a 32-page picture book. I had not done what I normally do. I had not created a text dummy to test that out. Here is my post that explains how to create a picture book dummy in Microsoft Word. I recommend Adobe InDesign for illustrators who need a more professional dummy, but this one works to check your pacing and your potential usage of a variety of scenes. It will also help you understand where the pages need to turn.

In my opinion, creating a text dummy in Microsoft Word is crucial for the writing stage of creating a picture book, and the great news is that the process is quick and simple.  I’ll show you how to create a text dummy for the standard, 32-page picture book.

Keep in mind that for this dummy, the actual story part of your picture book will begin on page 6. O the pages prior to page 6, your title page, your copyright page, etc., will appear.

  1. Open Microsoft word and select the option to create a new document.

2.  Click on New – Blank Document

3.  On the top bar, click on the tab that says “Layout.”

4. From the Layout Options, select Margins.

5. Select the option to have 0.5″ margins. This will allow you more room for your dummy.

6. On the top bar, select “Layout” again. This time,  choose the option for changing the document’s orientation and click on the tab that says “Landscape.”

The landscape view is a horizontal layout, and it will seem more like the open spread of 2 facing pages of a picture book.

6. Click on the tab that says “Insert.”

7. From the Insert menu, click on the option to create a Table.

8. Click on Table and create a table with a maximum number of rows and 2 columns. [you can add more rows later]

9. Begin to add page numbers to the cells of your table. When you get to the final cell that you initially loaded, click on that cell, and from the drop-down menu, select the word “insert: and then, on the right side, click to add to the rows to the bottom. Continue until you have enough cells to add enough numbers to enter page 32.

10. Because there are 32 pages in most picture books, you want to end with 32 cells. If your picture book has more pages, add more cells. [I’ll leave it to the experts to tell you that your book might be too long and that you might want to consider the standard number of pages: 32]

11. Type the text of your document.  The words that belong on a page should be typed into the cell with that number. This can be a tentative text. After I insert the text in my dummy, I ALWAYS change it. In fact, one of my purposes for creating a text dummy is to help me understand where and how I need to change my manuscript. I use my Text Dummy as an editing tool, and I begin with my first text dummy as soon as I write my first draft.

12. Although Word is not ideal for creating a picture book dummy for illustrations, you can elect to add images to the cells, too. The cells expand, according to how much data you add to them. Go to the cell where you want an image, and click on “Insert” again, and from the insert menu, elect to insert a Picture. You will be allowed to select a picture that you have saved on your computer.

Note: the above text and images are from Randolph Caldecott’s picture book Hey Diddle Diddle, which was published in about 1908. Caldecott was one of the earliest creators of picture books. The prized Caldecott Medal for Picture Books was titled in honor of Randolph Caldecott. His text and images are in the public domain, and you can see a larger representation of the images for that book in my following blog post:

If you are an illustrator and if you want to create a professional picture book dummy, I suggest that you use Adobe InDesign. if you don’t have the Adobe Suite, which includes both Photoshop and InDesign, I suggest that you subscribe to that today. Even if you are not an illustrator, I suggest that you subscribe to Adobe Photoshop. Here is the link to get Photoshop.

I literally use Photoshop every day. Photoshop is how I create the images for my Twitter posts and how I create the images for my blog. I would be visually mute without Photoshop, and that would be bad. A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words.