Paragraph styles cont.


Now, not all paragraphs start with an indentation. The first paragraph in every section typically starts flush with the margins and has a blank line above it, so we need to create another new style. Call this one “Novel-Paragraph-Section” and click AutoUpdate again. As the first paragraph of each section is followed by normal paragraphs, select Novel-Paragraph for the “Next Style” and, importantly, set it to inherit from it too. Now that our style is linked to Novel-Paragraph, any changes we make to Novel-Paragraph are copied over automatically to Novel-Paragraph-Section. So, say, for example, you decide to change the font size you only need to do it in the base style, Novel-Paragraph, and it’ll propagate here. Ok, so we need to get rid of the first line indentation, so go and remove it from the Indents & Spacing tab, and add some spacing above the paragraph.

LibreOffice's style organiser only shows how this style differs from the base style, Novel-Paragraph.

Annoyingly, LibreOffice doesn’t allow you to use relative sizes (so you can’t tell it to add space equivalent to the font size you’ve used i.e add an empty line or two) you have to use absolute sizes (cm in the UK). Luckily, Register-True will snap the text to nearest baseline so you don’t have to worry about getting the size exact. That’s it. Save it, and that’s your second style done.


Now you’ve got the idea, go and create a “Novel-Paragraph-Section-First” style. This is the style for the very first paragraph in each chapter, which typically starts roughly halfway down the page. It’ll inherit from Novel-Paragraph-Section, and it’ll have its ‘“Above paragraph’ spacing on the “Indents & Spacing” tab set to an appropriate value. You can also experiment with using drop caps for this style if you like on the “Drop Caps” tab.

The first page of Tommy Lightbreaker by Robert A Wood, showing drop caps.
The first page of Tommy Lightbreaker by Robert A Wood, showing drop caps.


We also need a style for the chapter titles (if you’re not using chapter titles, you can skip this). This time we don’t want to inherit from Novel-Paragraph, so start a new style for it. Font and size are down to your good judgement(!) though I would go for a sans font to differentiate it from the main text of your novel and give it some visual interest, Liberation Sans (based on Ariel) is a good starting point. You will probably want register true on, as in most cases, it’ll make your book look neater. If you want your chapters to start on a new page, turn on “”Break” in the “Text Flow” tab and set it to “Page” and “Before”. If not, set a suitable amount of space before the paragraph instead.


You will also need a special style for the first chapter in your book (if you aren’t using chapters, you’ll need to create a first paragraph style). This serves two purposes. Firstly, it is common to start the first chapter on a right hand page, this style will enable this. Secondly, it is usual to start numbering the books contents from the first page of the actual novel, that is to say that any front matter, prologue etc. aren’t included, again this style will enable that. However, it achieves these feats in combination with a page style, so we’ll come back to it when we look at page styles later.

Headers and Footers

We are going to want different headers for the odd and even pages so the text can be right and left aligned respectively. Create your odd header style first and set its Inheritance to none. The second header style and the footer style can then inherit from it and just have their text alignment changed, left for the even header and centre for the footer. I like to use the same font I’ve used on my cover for the headers and footer, but feel free to use any you think appropriate. If your cover font isn’t appropriate, I’d go for a mono spaced one. Yep you guessed, Liberation Mono.

Left page header is left aligned and right is right aligned. The font used is the same as on the cover
Equilateral by Robert A Wood showing that the left page header is left aligned and right is right aligned. The font used is the same as on the cover.

Parts and Front Matter

If you book is divided into parts, then create styles for the part names in same way you have for the chapter titles and, when we get to to page styles in a minute, add a suitable page style, and that should be all 99% of you need for the main body of your novel. If you do need some extra styles e.g if you have a chapter summary under the chapter title etc. Go and create them, remembering what we have discussed so far and not forgetting to add them when we come to write the export plugin.

That should just leave us needing a few paragraph styles for the front matter. These don’t need to have Register-true enabled. Try it with and without and see what you prefer. By now you should be able to create them on your own so go and do it. My suggestions for the styles can be found at the end if you are a bit stuck.

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