Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spreadsheet Plotting

As I've said before, I am a diehard outliner. It's not that I like outlining, because usually by the time I'm that close to starting a story, I wish I could just forget the outline and start writing already. But I outline anyway, because I'm a compulsive organizer, and I I know that if I tried to wing it I'd get myself so lost on some tangent I'd never find my way back.

But even for all my outlining, there is one organizational tool I've never tried until now: spreadsheet plotting. We learned about this in Darcy Pattison's Novel Metamorphosis workbook that we used during the revision retreat weekend, and yesterday I applied it to my novel and made a spreadsheet to keep track of who, where, when, and what happens in each chapter. What an great way to see at a glance how often I use different settings, which chapters certain characters appear in, how many pages each chapter has, and so much more - whatever you want to keep track of.

I've been working on revising a subplot involving my main character's best friend. With the spreadsheet, I can quickly see which chapters the best friend appears in, so I know which chapters will need major changes. And, as Darcy pointed out, the spreadsheet program allows you to sort columns, making it even easier to see how often a setting appears, a certain POV character is used, etc.

Have you tried spreadsheet plotting? Are there any areas in particular you like to keep track of with a spreadsheet, or that you think a spreadsheet would be helpful for?

29 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm an outliner but I've never tried a spreadsheet.

Laura Marcella said...

I'm an outliner (right now I'm loving The Plo Whisperer Workbook by Martha Alderson) but I've never tried spreadsheet outlining. I'll have to give it a try!

Trisha said...

I have not tried spreadsheet plotting, no, but then I'm not much of a plotter. I do like spreadsheets though. maybe I should give this a shot ;)

Brian said...

Oh I am always plotting it seems!

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm not a plotter or outliner. I do, however, look at these things after the fact. I liked the index card method from Save the Cat.

I think a spreadsheet would be great for high fantasy because there's so much to keep track of, or even a series for the same reason.

Old Kitty said...

I always fail my spreadsheet course tests, so I keep away from them! LOL!!

But if they work for you - yay!!!! Take care
x

Carolyn V said...

I love to outline, but I haven't tried the spreadsheet plotting. That might have to change. ;)

Jai Joshi said...

This sounds like a great resource! I might use this next time I'm plotting. It would be interesting to see how it works and whether it helps.

Jai

Rose Munevar said...

Sounds helpful but I can't even figure out facebook, let alone how to use a spreadsheet. I'm still taking babysteps with tech stuff.

nutschell said...

I can totally relate. I'm big on organizing and outlining as well. I can't start a story until I've done some kind of outline on it :)

Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Romance Book Haven said...

Wow! Thanks Susan! Now I'm going to use Spreadsheet in my structural editing.

Nas

Jemi Fraser said...

I don't outline in advance, but I could do that afterwards! I love spreadsheets & could totally see how it would help! :)

Kelly Polark said...

I've never used spreadsheet plotting, but I can see how useful it could be!!

Gina Gao said...

This is actually the first time that I have heard of spreadsheet plotting, but it sounds great!

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I think I've attempted it in one form or another. This version sounds great. I might have to give it a try.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I'm thinking that if you are a plotter doing this after you write each chapter will help you keep everything organized.

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Anita said...

I think a spreadsheet would be helpful, but I'm just not that organized...maybe some day. I do outline, though, and can't understand why some people don't do it. :)

Marcia said...

I've used a spreadsheet for keeping track of multiple beta readers' comments. My favorite organizing tool, right now, anyway, is the story structure section of STORY ENGINEERING.

Al said...

I plot only erratically. I have used spreadsheets but not a great deal.
I use Scrivener for my writing now and my plotting is done as blank chapters and scenes in that which I "fill in" later.

Lynda R Young said...

Now that's something I haven't tried. It sounds great. I'll definitely give it a go. At the moment I use a whiteboard, but I like the idea of the sortable columns in spreadsheets.

Medeia Sharif said...

I use a spreadsheet for my outlines. I like looking at everything on one document, rather than looking through pages of a notebook or sifting through index cards.

Lydia Kang said...

I haven't tried, but the idea makes so much sense!

Robyn Campbell said...

Plotting?? Say huh? I just jump in, pal! Ha. I can see how a spreadsheet idea would be a great way to do it. I usually write a short synopsis. Then I start writing. :-) *waving*

Madeleine Sara said...

I'm a panster trying to be a plotter and have adopted that spreadsheet idea myself which is also great to show word count, POV changes and plot points etc. I recommend it too.

Deniz Bevan said...

I love the idea of this. But I can only do these sorts of organizational things after I've written the first draft. It's hard being a combination pantster and list-lover!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I've never tried spreadsheet plotting, but I've been tempted to give it a go. It would probably give a whole new perspective to the work in progress.

Jackee said...

Ooh! I would love to see your spreadsheet template. :o) I keep finding places where I forget to let characters in the room speak or weapons that were forgotten about and things like that. A spreadsheet would probably help that.

Have a lovely day! <3

Lynn said...

I haven't tried spreadsheet plotting but am sure I would love it. I use spreadsheets for just about anything else, but never for writing. I can see how it would be very valuable. Thanks!