I am writing a novel with two stories simulatenously running alongside each other. That is, on each page there is a main story, taking the body of the page, and there is a 'side story' which runs alongside it which contributes to the main story but from one other perspective.

One is fiction the other non fiction.

I need to create a sidebar, on each page that does not overlap in the word processor, but runs separately from page to page. As each story is different, also in character color and one is italic and the other standard.

I have been struggling with word and libreoffice and cannot yet find the format settings to allow me to do this seamlessly.

If you need me to be more precise in the question please let me know and I will provide examples.

Thanks again,


  • First, do they have to be written side by side? Why can't you just write them separately? (I suppose, if you need to keep them in sync, making sure that things happen on the same shared page number.) Second, why can't you just use a two-column layout? It's not clear what you mean by sidebar if it's not that. If it's something lesser, with just notes, then write that in a comment that's anchored to each page. Nov 25, 2018 at 20:59
  • Do the columns need to be of varying size? ("Sidebar" to me means something smaller; is that what you meant?) Nov 26, 2018 at 0:22
  • For word: Layout -> Columns. Doesn't it solve the problem? If I recall their widths can be adjusted.
    – rus9384
    Nov 26, 2018 at 1:51
  • The answer may depend on the desired output format. I note that "ebook" has been tagged in this question. Are you going for a self-publishing solution? Nov 26, 2018 at 8:15

2 Answers 2


While I haven't done exactly what you're doing, I've often needed to format two side-by-side sections that are in precise vertical positions. Formatting for two columns does not work well. It's okay if you're making a brochure, because you don't change it often. But if you're writing and editing a story, you'll constantly have to futz with it.

The solution? USE TABLES

Set it up as 3 columns (2 might work if you need to). The left column is your novel and the right column is your sidebar (or the other way around). The middle column is has spaces to set the width so you have a nice white space between the two columns with text.

Make each section a different row. Now the sidebar will be perfectly aligned with the story text.

You can change font and etc however you like. It's pretty easy to set each column with separate formatting too.

You can make the borders of the table invisible or you can make some of them visible. I would keep the row borders invisible and then only show the column borders, if any. Maybe only the line dividing the sidebar from the rest of the page. But that's up to you.


You're working in the wrong programs.

I haven't used LibreOffice, but Word is a word processing program. It's not a layout program.

Write your stories in Word or whatever. Write them in two separate documents and use whatever manual note system you prefer to indicate where content has to align. (Word has a Review tab for this, so adding comments throughout will probably be simplest; you can toggle them to be visible or not.)

If you are self-publishing, you then need to lay everything out in a page layout program like InDesign. That's what that kind of program is meant for.

If you are going the traditional publishing route, you just have to explain to the agent(s) you're querying what you intend in terms of layout, and if you get a book deal, it's up to the publisher to lay it out properly.

On a separate note: I have seen that kind of simultaneous story at least once, maybe twice, and honestly I don't recommend it. It's difficult for the reader. You have to read one column and then stop the flow of reading to read the other column. It's not a great experience. Alternating chapters or sections gets the job done in a more efficient fashion, and then people can flip back and forth if they need to compare events.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.