Writing is a creative process but it’s hard to let your muse roam freely when you can’t remember if your main character’s husband’s name is Fred or Frank. That’s one reason I use a spreadsheet.
I open the spreadsheet every time I work on a novel, using it for every detail of organization, from plot and character development to tracking word counts. Here’s an overview of how I mind those devilish details:
I have separate tabs (pages) in the spreadsheet for:
- Scenes: This is how I outline. It has major plot points, location, characters involved, status and a word count tally. I don’t outline in advance but do add ideas here as I think of them, so I know what to write next when I’m done with a scene.
- Major Characters: I note strengths, weaknesses and basic information about my main characters.
- Minor Characters: a list of names and identifying detail – so I don’t get it mixed up if the character shows up multiple times.
- Other Details: for all the minutia, like the name of that restaurant they go to twice.
- Timeline: To keep track of seasons and important dates. I had to do a little rewriting when I realized a scene took place during Decemeber, with no mention of the holidays.
- ToDo: If I need to fact check or look something up, I note it here, so it doesn’t slow down my writing. If my writer’s group notices I overuse a word or phrase, I note it here, so I can search for it during the editing process.
- Progress Report: This is where I update my ending word count tally for the week so I can track my progress. At a glance I can see percentage, totals, and how much more I need to do.