Using Spreadsheets

Tonight, I’ve actually started to use the spreadsheet-method I’ve read about a while ago. The basic idea is to outline your scene numbers, setting, its position and function within the overall plot etc.

For the first 20 chapters of Deviant, I used the following structure:

Scene Number: (numbering the scenes helps you in your overall structure as well as in your notes. For example, I’d just note: edit scene 28 in my notes, saving myself an explanation of what happens in the scene)

Time: (I have several scenes that aren’t set in the present, this helps me to keep track)

Place: (self explanatory 😉

Plot Category: (I basically define this, writing down to which subplot this scene belongs to, for example ‘Ares’ past’, ‘The Shadows’, ‘The Gift’ etc.)

Scene Description: (write down what happens in this scene in 1-2 sentences)

Purpose: (what does the scene accomplish? Does it introduce a new plotline/new characters? Does it create foreshadowing or suspense?)

Plot Step: (Unlike the original post I’ve read about this method, I like to stick to the old Aristotelian Drama Pyramid here: Exposition->raising tension->climax->falling tension->disaster/chaos)

So far this method has been great as an overview of my plot as an entity. It helps to isolate individual scenes and I already marked some scenes that I want or need to edit to fit into the new setting or add some character background to. It takes a little time to write all this down and sometimes scenes aren’t easily categorized, but in the end the work pays off and lets you keep track of your plot development.

For example: Is there enough exposition? Is there a scene that doesn’t have any other purpose than serving as filling material? Is there enough raising tension leading to the climax, etc?

I wanted to use excel for this first, but after running into some problems with the 2007 version trying to sort my booklist that I also made today alphabetically (how the heck do you tell the title and author column that they are very much dependent on each other? blah!) I decided to abstain from excel for a while and use word instead. Later on I’ll probably put a copy into my notebook, for coherence’s sake 😉

All in all this weekend’s word count is at 3.4 k and counting and I also got some structuring work done. Yay me defying the distraction of relatives with kids coming over as well as my mother in law buying a Wii and brother playing Zelda all day. Did I mention that I want to play this game really badly? Damn. Must…resist…

Apart from that, did I mention that I started “Heroes Die” by Matthew Woodring Stover just yesterday and that it already rocks? Definitely a recommendation 😀

Anyway, I’m drifting off into rants. Must be the energy drink I just had. May I just add that those things are NASTY? 8)

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4 Responses to “Using Spreadsheets”

  1. sirayn Says:

    Here comes a tip from the (long-ago) days when I wrote simple programs in Qbasic: Number your scenes 10, 20, 30 etc instead of 1, 2, 3. This lets you add or delete scenes without having to renumber (which would orphan your hypothetical note about changing scene 28).

    Man, that takes me back to when I was 8 or 9. 😉

  2. sirayn Says:

    And, uh, could you send me the password to your chapters to my gmail address? I stupidly forgot to write it down and now I can’t remember enough of it to get access. Sweet, sweet gmail would love and remember it forever. 😀

  3. nymeria87 Says:

    Thanks for the tip and the password’s sent. Let me know what you think 🙂

  4. What’s next? « In the Shadows Says:

    […] 1: Analysis/Scene Cards – This is basically the spreadsheet idea I mentioned here . Basically it’ll help me to structure things better as I can see which scenes are linked to […]


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