How can we revive a plot? Each writer has their own unique solutions, but for the sake of this post, imagine yourself wearing scrubs, holding electric paddles, and shouting, "Clear!"
Using combined advice from many sources, including my critique partner, Leslie Rose, and tips from Revision & Self Editing, I created a plot spreadsheet. I know, I know, I usually read spreadsheet and flee. But stay with me. These were my column headers:
- Chapter number
- Scene summary--just a couple of quick lines about the scene
- Characters--which main players were involved in the scene?
- Conflict--I've learned each scene should have conflict. If there wasn't any, that gave me the green light to add friction or delete the scene.
- Goal of scene--what was my MC's goal? Again, if there wasn't any, that was a red flag.
- Antagonist/Opposition--in each scene, who or what stood in my MC's way of reaching her goal?
- Outcome--after each conflict, what were the consequences? If there were none, more red flags.
- Day/Time--this helped me make sure I wasn't goofing up on time sequence (unless that's your objective!)
- First line of the chapter
- Last line of the chapter--these two columns helped me judge the quality of my beginning and ending lines.
- Notes/Ideas--eventually this column moved next to my scene summary for easy reference. As I evaluated each scene, this is where I wrote my overall thoughts of the scene, how it could improve, or whether or not it could be deleted.
Does this mean I'm finished with revisions? No way. The book is now with trusted beta readers, and I know there will be heavy editing in the future. But spending time evaluating each scene provided me with clarity and focus.
Have you ever done anything like this, or does a spreadsheet make you run for the hills? What's your secret for administering plot CPR?
Oooo, excellent timing. I was invited to revise and resubmit my MS to an editor and have been wondering how best to proceed. Will give this a shot!ReplyDelete
I love spreadsheets, Julie! They let me feel so organized, which I am not. I like the organization of yours here, and the items included. Mine tend to be by hand and very sloppy. Yours reminds me of one of JK Rowling's, but hers is more sloppy like mine! :-)ReplyDelete
You can see hers here: http://harrypotterforwriters.blogspot.com/2011/03/harrys-calls-to-adventure.html
I chopped a story down from 130,000 words to 88,000 words in about five hours. It's pretty easy when you get a full head of steam.ReplyDelete
Wow, this sounds like a great idea for revision. Great timing for me too, as I'm going to start the first round of revisions on my manuscript next week.ReplyDelete
And by "full head of steam" I mean when an agent has requested a full after you lied and said it was only 85,000 words because you thought that would make it more "marketable" than 130,000. Necessity is the mother of invention!ReplyDelete
This is a great spreadsheet description. I've experimented with many different ways to get the "big picture" of my wip, from chapter outlines to spreadsheets to posting sticky notes on my wall so I get a visual of my timeline. My favorite is to create plot cards in MS Word--I use the template for large mailing labels and summarize one chapter per square, breaking each chapter into its component scenes. These are about the right size to stick onto index cards if I need something more substantial, which I use to get a visual of story structure.ReplyDelete
*drops jaw* I guess it isn't "plotting" technically though since it's revision, right? So I'm not allergic to it. :D He he he. It's a great idea!ReplyDelete
CPR to a MS is done many ways.ReplyDelete
This is a great idea. I'm not a fan of spreadsheets either but it is a good foundation.
This is great, thank you!ReplyDelete
Love the image of the scrubs, the electric paddles, and especially us wearing and wielding them as we shout "Clear!" Thank you for my day's laugh-out-loud. Timing excellent for me, too. I'm re-revising a WIP, and discovered how to make it much tighter. But, oh, dear, that means revising a significant part of the plot line from near the end of the first Act on. Sigh. Thanks for the spreadsheet. Definitely helps!ReplyDelete
I used a spreadsheet when I wrote my last manuscript. It was very similar to yours, except I wrote it before I wrote the MS and revised it as things changed. A lot of similar categories, though.ReplyDelete
With my next WIP, I plan to use Scrivener note cards, but organize them the same as the rows on my spreadsheet.
You have a couple of questions/categories I didn't think of that I definitely intend to steal, though!
I'm taking a break to recharge my brain before diving into heavy outlining and rewrites. I love Spreadsheets! (Maybe to an unhealthy point.) I have three different spreadsheets for each aspect of the story, but because of your list (which I love) now I'll use four. You're really tempting me to cut my break short! ;)ReplyDelete
Ooh, I never thought to write out my chapter beginnings and endings. Great tips, though, hopefully I'm through revising until either I finish this first draft of my wip or Evangeline sells.ReplyDelete
I do this with every novel I write, except on big index cards. Hope it helped! Usually helps me see where a chapter is weak or needs more motivation.ReplyDelete
Spreadsheets do make me run for the hills, but this one has words, not numbers, so I kinda like it. This is actually very helpful to me as a novice fiction writer. Thanks, Julie.ReplyDelete
Great list!! I haven't used a spread sheet but I do have a revision list that includes some of your categories above, but now, I'm going to add a few more things. Thanks, Julie!!ReplyDelete
Great post. I do have something similar. You do really need to look at what the purpose of the scene so you know you've accomplished something in it. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
No, I haven't completed a spreadsheet, but I really like the idea.ReplyDelete
Great post! those spreadsheets have helped a tonne in the past and, no doubt, they will again in the future!ReplyDelete
I'm already running!ReplyDelete
Hey Julie, I know it's been a while since I've stopped in but I'm really glad I did. How are revisions going by the way? I recall you saying you have an agent; how is it working out? I'm still on my way there;)ReplyDelete
This is a really great idea! I've been thinking how I can better revise my book, and this is definitely something I want to try. Thanks so much, Julie, and keep me posted on what happens with you. I have faith in you that you're going to make it to the next step! (Hello bookstores(: )
This is awesome! I'm in the middle of revisions and have looked for a way to be more organized, especially when I'm editing paper copy. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Always leading us in the right direction! Thanks again for another great idea.ReplyDelete
No. Spreadsheet. Disaster. Waiting.ReplyDelete
I just don't think that statistically or analytically. I hate it when stories are so 3-act or some other predictable outline, so I try to stay away from spreadsheeting my stories out. Too rigid for me...
Don't think we ever stop trying to find THE WAY of editing, think we grow from book to book.ReplyDelete
I think this is a great way to organize the revision phase of the writing process. It might even help to have this kind of spreadsheet for a first draft. Thanks, Julie.ReplyDelete
I'm a hill-runner for sure, but this kind of appeals to me. I think I'll try it for a couple of chapters and see if it helps knock me out of my hopelessly right-brained ways. Maybe this is just what I need.ReplyDelete
Oh wow that sounds so complicatedReplyDelete
I hate spreadsheets, but the 3rd or 4th revision is a perfect place (for me) to focus on plot, character motivation, goals and forward momentum.ReplyDelete
I agree with everything you said: the closer we get to a solid manuscript, the more we realize those issue matter.
Your spreadsheet provides key questions, and we as writers need to make sure we give adequate answers.
I haven't done this before. Hmmm, may have to give it a try! Thanks!ReplyDelete
I'm the kind of person who adores spreadsheets. Love your idea about beginning/ending lines!ReplyDelete
Hey, Julie. I'm so honored to be mentioned in this awesome post. I will be hounding you for the spreadsheet. Those are awesome headings to address, especially in revision. You have inspired me to be more succinct on the revision of my WIP. Thank you, friend.ReplyDelete
I wrote out chapter summaries in a spread sheet as I wrote my first draft, just to help me keep track of what I'd written, but this is a good idea for revisions. I'm going to test it out.ReplyDelete
I nearly ran away when you mentioned spreadsheets, but your Plot CPR technique is thorough and will capture all the problems. I think I must give it a try. Thanks for sharing this awesome idea, Julie.ReplyDelete
Great post, Julie. Spreadsheets make me run the other way, LOL.ReplyDelete
i'm super organized in nearly every facet of my life....but with writing, it's a free-for-all.ReplyDelete
I sure do, Julie! I create it before I write the first draft! It's such a help during the revising stages too. Great post!!ReplyDelete
This is great! I usually use this sort of spread sheet as part of my outline, which helps me in a huge way.ReplyDelete
Congratulations on finishing the latest round of revising! I hope you rewarded yourself with some sort of treat. : )
Thanks for a great post. It's such a helpful post.
All the best with your revisions!
Love your spreadsheet list. Thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
Oooh...I've never wondered what the goal of a scene is (just the big picture goal). Going to revisit now and set some goals. Thanks for the list, chica!ReplyDelete
Ah, more great advice! You've become my go-to-teacher recently. My file folder is filling up with nuggets of your wisdom. Thanks!ReplyDelete
Ohh I love this. I actually really like using spreadsheets (I guess it's the type A, organization-loving part of me) so this sounds really helpful. I have that book on my list to read so I'm excited to see what else Bell has to say about revision.ReplyDelete
I've never tried a spreadsheet, but your approach seems very thorough. I especially like putting the first and last lines for each chapter. I'm in the middle of a revision now, and already can see that I'll be revising again. On the next round, I'm going to use example. Thanks for the share.ReplyDelete
Oops. Left out a word. I'm going to use YOUR example and have nbookmarked it.ReplyDelete
Good luck Julie! Revisions can be so tricky, but so rewarding. My fingers and toes are crossed that you get the done and are super happy with them:)ReplyDelete
I love how you break it down in such a scientific way. It's probably really helpful. I would maybe add some notes on what you hoped to accomplish with the scene/chapter, so that if you give it to a beta or someone else for further revision they can understand where you are coming from, and then tell you if you got there. Great post, and good luck with the revisions.ReplyDelete
I found you through Cheryl's blog this morning, and I'm glad I did. I must be one of the few authors not allergic to spreadsheets--I love 'em. The idea of laying out the key elements of my story like this absolutely thrills me. (I might have to be careful I don't use it as a procrastination technique...)ReplyDelete
What are your thoughts on doing something similar earlier in the revision process, say before you start your first edits? I usually just take notes as I read through my draft for the first time, but this might be a more precise way of finding problem areas.
Bookmarked. I'm going to be back in revisions as soon as I get this draft done, and I'm going to do exactly this. In fact, I think I've just relaxed a little, to have such a great plan on my hands. THANK YOU.ReplyDelete
Siiiigh, okay, I need this. Yep, I read "spreadsheet" and want to run. ;o) But this is a super list of stuff to go over for each scene, and I'm going to use it! Thanks.ReplyDelete
Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)
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