Whether you’re a plotter or panster, keeping track of the whom, what, why, and where in your novel can be problematic. RU Contributor Laura Drake shows us how she streamlines the process.
Learning your writing process is finding your way in a pitch black room full of furniture. You can learn by banging your shins, but there are less painful ways.
I’m an organized person, and it would make me crazy trying to locate details in my WIP. Which chapter did the dog first show up? Or the first kiss? Or harder yet, the smaller details – what kind of shoes did the old man wear the second time the heroine met him?
I’d end up scrolling through two hundred pages. And get distracted…
Oh, now there’s a clunky sentence.
Wait, did I really use the word ‘jerk’ twenty-three times in this book?
I did NOT just compare his private parts to a DEER ANTLER! (yes, I did, and my crit group will NEVER let me forget it.)
Before you know it, I’d be hopelessly mired in the text, and forgot what I came for.
I’m an CFO by trade (well, I used to be – let me tell you, retirement does not suck.) so if I need something organized, of course, the first place I go is Excel.
I know, all you math-adverse have now broken into a sweat. Follow me here – no formulas are involved. If you can open the program, you can do this. Promise.
First, I thought about what information I wanted to capture. Here’s my list (yours may differ)
• The length of each chapter
• What happened in each chapter – by scene
• Track POV – so I could check the balance in my novel
• Track the romance, and where it happened, for balance
• Word count
So I made up what I call my Chapter Cheat Sheet. Here’s what it looks like for my novel, Her Road Home:
• I now know how many pages each chapter is, and the word counts (if you total the word count column, you’ll have the total word count of the book)
• The pink highlight = chapters that advance the romance. I can see quickly where it is, if it’s clumped together and if I have enough or too much
• The column in the middle shows what happens in the scenes, using only a few words, separated by ‘/’
• The POV is shown by the color coding in the scenes; Green for the Heroine, Purple for the Hero
• Blue I used to denote scenes that could be cut, if I ran over my allowed word count
• Red was problem scenes I knew I’d have to come back to later
• The far right column is a timeline – because I stink at them
Note that I have more than one sheet to this workbook. You can use them for a more detailed timeline, or anything else you’d like to track. Revisions usually means cutting and pasting scenes in different places, so I’ll create a new sheet for my newly revised version.
I’m not a plotter. If you are, you may start a cheat sheet before you even begin the book! Since the thought of outlining gives me hives, I complete my cheat sheet as I go.
Honestly, this tool has been invaluable for me. It gives me a bird’s eye view of the entire novel on one screen. I can’t imagine writing a book without one. Please let me know in the comments if you’d like a copy.
Hope it helps save your shins!
What do you use to organize your WIP? Any suggestions for us?
Leave your email address in comments if you’d like a copy of Laura’s cheat sheet.
Shared blood defines a family, but spilled blood can too.
Harlie Cooper raised her sister, Angel, even before their mother died. When their guardian is killed in a fire, rather than be separated by Social Services, they run. Life in off the grid in L.A. isn’t easy, but worse, there’s something wrong with Angel.
Harlie walks in to find their apartment scattered with shattered and glass and Angel, a bloody rag doll in a corner. The doctor orders institutionalization in a state facility. Harlie’s not leaving her sister in that human warehouse. But something better takes money. Lots of it.
When a rep from the Pro Bull Riding Circuit suggests she train as a bullfighter, rescuing downed cowboys from their rampaging charges, she can’t let the fact that she’d be the first woman to attempt this stop her. Angel is depending on her.
It’s not just the danger and taking on a man’s career that challenges Harlie. She must learn to trust—her partner and herself, and learn to let go of what’s not hers to save.
A story of family and friendship, trust and truth.
She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central. The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award in the Best First Book category.
Her ‘biker-chick’ novel, Her Road Home, sold to Harlequin’s Superromance line, and has expanded to three more stories set in the same small town.
Laura’s first women’s fiction, Days Made of Glass, released January, 2016.
In 2014, Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.
- Motifs and Symbols and Themes – with Laura Drake
- Laura Drake presents: Advanced Craft Tips
- BE The Dude by Laura Drake
- Laura Drake presents: Your First Chapter – Reader Glue
- Writing with Emotion by Laura Drake