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Thread: FAQ: Using A Spreadsheet for Outlining and Brainstorming

  1. #51
    Dreamer Elorenalory's Avatar
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    Outlining in Scrivener

    I use Scrivener http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

    I think it's the best software out there specifically tailored for writers. You can do everything in it - outlining, character and location worksheets, drafts. And then you can export the whole manuscript with one easy click.
    I am Sher-locked.
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  2. #52
    figuring it all out
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    Great ideas

  3. #53
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin KimikoDreams's Avatar
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    hopefully i'm not saying anything that's been said a hundred times before but you can use excel to jot down what you want each chapter to be about and then you end up with a sort of outline that you can write from.

  4. #54
    Just have fun. Dancre's Avatar
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    I use a spreadsheet and separate pages for all my major good guy/bad guy and some minor characters as it helps me to understand them better.
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  5. #55
    exploring life - one word at a time s.cummings's Avatar
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    Thank you for the advice.
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  6. #56
    Have pen, will travel Cindyt's Avatar
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    I use a WORKS table to track each scene in my book. I noodle ideas on stickies or lined paper.
    The only thing you can't fix is a blank page.--Bonnie Hearn Hill

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  7. #57
    practical experience, FTW
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    I am currently using WORD tables for what i think of as 'digital index cards' for outilining, as a crutch to keep scenes straight and to shuffle their sequence.

    Column TWO gets a short descriptive label identifying the scene, column three has the POV character, column four for scene location, and other columns for scene details. Column ONE is the important one--it starts out with just a sequence of numbers, from one up to fifty (or however many scenes i end up with in the book).

    Now, whenever i want to play with different possible scene sequences, and test POV or location implications, i alter the numbers in column ONE. For example, if i want to see how the 'scene outline' looks with scene 17 moved a couple of scenes earlier, i change the number 17 in column ONE to a number 14.5, say. Then i so a 'SORT' on the table, using the numerical value in column ONE. Now i have my modified scene sequence.

    i don't actually care what the numbers in column ONE really are--i just trust that they're in sequence. Of course, when i end up with scene 'numbers' like 12.347, i know that i should repopulate the numbers in column ONE with simple values, and maybe get to writing the book itself.

    Note that this approach isn't necessarily confined to WORD. All you need are tables and a SORT function.

    Techs

  8. #58
    practical experience, FTW Tsu Dho Nimh's Avatar
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    This could be what I need to manage a bio I'm working on.

    The subject has bits of info scattered all over the place in her books and articles about her, and it's driving me nuts tracking what she said and when she said it, because much is contradictory.

    Just make a spreadsheet with sources across the top and events down the side.

  9. #59
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    I simply use word docs. One being for chapter by chapter plot line as an ordered list. Another for characters, and relationships between them.

  10. #60
    At one with The Force Keithy's Avatar
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    Never thought of using excel for this. I always used them for accounts and numbers etc

  11. #61
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keithy View Post
    Never thought of using excel for this. I always used them for accounts and numbers etc
    Spreadsheets, whether Excel or Google or Numbers or whatever, are really great for sorting data, and for presenting data, of any sort, that you want to be in columns, rows, or columns and rows.

    Also keep in mind that spreadsheet understand, kind of, calendar data/time data, and that can be helpful in terms of tracking narrative, or who is where when.

  12. #62
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    For years, I used Excel as my main outline/plotting tool, but have since moved on to Scapple from the makers of Scrivener.

    When I used to use Excel, the spreadsheet data cells only contained the scene topic in much the same way as one uses the binder column in Scrivener. However, all my scene text was written in Word documents. I used the insert link tool in Excel to link each data cell to its corresponding Word document. In this way, I could zoom out and see the bigger picture of my manuscript's flow and then zoom back in all the way to an individual scene by clicking the data cell in Excel and having Word open the text.

    I spent years using this method until I moved to the Scrivener/Scapple pair.

    Scapple is now my preferred outlining/plotting tool.

    Scrivener is my go-to composition tool, but it lacks when it comes to formatting for print. For that, I still use InDesign.

  13. #63
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Tod Moran's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sassandgroove View Post
    Hey Badducky...
    how do you handle time lines. I need to have events that happen to different characters entertwine. I went crazy trying to make time lines for each character then weave them together. I tried 3x5 cards with events, diff color for each character, but I don't have a wall/room big enough to lay it all out.
    My way is to start with the earliest event. Put it near the top on the left side of SS. Next moving left on the same line add the character(s) who are involved in this event. I put each character in a separate cell, moving down as many cells as needed. In each character cell add as much info about that character as you know.

    Repeat the process for each event you need to track.

    You can now search for any event or character. If you add as much detail as possible you avoid logical errors like Tom was 50 and married in one scene and 35 and single the next day.

    My novel covers 1,000 years and has many characters but most appear and disappear quickly. The story centers around just 6. I find this system very useful in keeping the time line and events in logical order
    Tod Moran
    (retired) On Deer Springs Lake, Clay County, FL

  14. #64
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Tod Moran's Avatar
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    I have tried that software 3 times. I never got passed the 1st few parts of the tutorial. I even downloaded a book by an expert designed for new users. Never understood it. Had much the same reaction to yWriter. The advantage it had was being free.
    Tod Moran
    (retired) On Deer Springs Lake, Clay County, FL

  15. #65
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I think Excel is a great tool for organizing ideas (I work in banking so I LIVE with Excel) but... it's really annoying to write longer texts in Excel. It's simply not created for that purpose. I use a mix of Excel and Scrivener for the outline. In excel its just more of scene by scene view - but with very little details. More like a code language with tags such as "conflict", "mystery", "romance". I arrange the scenes in a way to mix things up a bit... Excel is great to give you this big picture.

    Call me old fashion, but my favorite tool is a simple small notepad (like flashcards, a bit of a thicker paper). Each page of the notepad is a "Main scene" where I describe what is happening and what is at stakes in a bit more details. I am still working on the first draft so I don't reference all the scenes, I let me characters decide what to do and decide if I should keep it or not

    And btw - I am in Love with Scrivener. It is a life changing tool! <3

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