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Thread: Using A Spreadsheet for Outlining and Brainstorming

  1. #26
    No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe. badducky's Avatar
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    Any form of pre-writing that cannot be backed up easily on GMail's servers is something I would never, ever risk.

    This is why I use no notepads.
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  2. #27
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    Does anybody use BasKet notes? Thanks.

  3. #28
    practical experience, FTW Invincibility's Avatar
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    I've been using TiddlyWiki. It's like having my own personal Wikipedia to organize my thoughts on. It's super useful.

  4. #29
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I've worked with Excel for nearly 20 years and never used to outline stories. This is very interesting. I put my story notes in a Word file now.

    Does anybody have any experience with YWriter5? Is it good?

  5. #30
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin thoroughgreg's Avatar
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    Hey all - Check out Evernote too, you can create as many notebooks as you want with any number of notes per notebook. You can also record ideas via webcam/audio, clip files, important pictures, etc...I use it for organizing outlines, fleshing out characters, etc.

  6. #31
    Banned Margarita Skies's Avatar
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    I just use Microsoft One Note or Notepad for my brainstorms. I've been using them both lately. I use One Note for short brainstorms, short ideas, and when the idea is a little too long, I use Notepad.

  7. #32
    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    I've been using an iPad/iPhone app called iCard Sort recently. It works like a 3x5 card file for outlining, scene layout, organizing, etc.

    I think it works better than OneNote and I'm a OneNote fan.

    Find my books on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/fotsgreg
    Find my books on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/G.W.-Ellis/e/B...805&sr=1-2-ent
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  8. #33
    Disgruntled Scientist dgiharris's Avatar
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    Someone sent me a PM asking if this file is still available. Yes, it is.

    Just log on as "me"

    I put all of my account info on post #23, log on and just download that excel file,

    easy

  9. #34
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Great post. I have also been using excel to track the agents that I query to. On the go I use voice memos and/or a notepad (physical or electronic) to jot down brilliant flashes of inspiration!

  10. #35
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin spiros's Avatar
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    On the Mac, I used Scrivener.

    Now that I'm on Windows, I'm using...Scrivener again!

    http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivenerforwindows/

    It's in beta right now, but very stable. You can outline and write in the same program.

    It's not as "free-form" as Onenote (I really love how you can just whip out your text anywhere on a Onenote page, using "text containers") but on the other hand, I often find that while outlining, flashes come to me and I have to write out a scene immediately and then "place" the scene in the outline, for context. This process works flawlessly in scrivener.

  11. #36
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin backspace's Avatar
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    I'm on a Mac, and I also use Scrivener. If I wasn't on a Mac, I'd probably buy a Mac just so that I could use Scrivener.

    It's that good.

    Down the left I have my Binder, which is a glorified file system with places for my current WIP, my research notes (and links to websites, pdf documents, the whole shebang), my character notes, my location notes, and a special bucket I made for out-takes and darlings I've had to kill. It is completely customisable, so I can create a new folder for any new category that occurs to my while I'm brainstorming. I can collect notes and jottings together, or split them up as I see fit. And if I see a website that looks really useful, I can slurp the whole thing into Scrivener for later perusal.

    In the centre of the page is the main work area, which can be used in three modes. I can see a corkboard, where I can add virtual 3x5 index cards for each scene I dream up. I jot down a few lines on the card describing what I think the scene will be about, and if I have any specific reminders for myself I might pop them in the notes field over to the right. (This might include a link to the reference document, or a website, or whatever.)

    When I've finished playing with the corkboard, I can switch to outline mode, and my scenes all stack up in order. I skim my way down the craftily constructed outline, and if anything looks out of place I simply drag it into a better spot. The underlying text (if there is any) will rearrange itself behind the scenes without any need to copy and paste.

    When it comes to writing a scene I can either work in text mode, with the binder and notes visible on either side of the centre pane, or switch to full screen mode and have nothing but the blank page in front of me.

    I've become 100 times more productive since I started using it, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Previously I'd tried other writing software and always ended up back with Word. Now I can't imagine going back to Word. Ever.

    One thing Scrivener doesn't do is timelines. I've played around with spreadsheets and calendars (both on Google and iCal), but the thing that ended up working the best for me was a bit old-fashioned. I made a spreadsheet with the different timezones in my manuscript laid out in rows along the top of the page. Then I printed twenty or thirty copies of the page. At the top of the page I write the day and date, and I use sticky notes to write the scenes and place them on the page in the appropriate column for the time the event takes place. That way I can see what time it is in other locations, and it makes it easier to move the scenes around if I find that one thing needs to happen in Melbourne before something else can happen in London (for instance). I've actually had to change the time a few scenes were set (from evening to morning, for example) when I saw them laid out in this way.

    Once I'm happy with the way the scenes are distributed on my piece of paper, I enter the time and date - both in GMT and local time - in custom metadata fields for each scene as I write it. Then when I go back to revise the scene I can tell what time it is supposed to be, and what time it might be for one of the other characters.
    Last edited by backspace; 02-04-2011 at 03:30 AM.

  12. #37
    New kid, be gentle! Ronald Rellinger's Avatar
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    I often work on the road, so the ability to remain very portable with my writing is critical. By using spreadsheets to document my work, I can keep everything neatly sorted and filed away. When I used notebooks, even the beautiful Moleskin ones, I never seemed to have the information with me that I needed. By using Microsoft 2007, the Excell spreadsheet makes my life easy. It also provides me with a little security, as I can keep constant backups of my work on jump drives that I carry with me.

    I just finished writing volume four of a six volume science fiction series and without the use of spreadsheets and One Note, I would never have been able to keep track of my characters ages, deaths, births, marriages, jobs, spouses, etc. I often use One Note to keep a journal of changes I want to make, or deadlines I impose upon myself to finish work. I keep my laptop on standby most of the time, so I can quickly make entries at two or three in the morning when a stubborn character wakes me from my sleep and keeps me awake until I write down a chapter or two.

    Without the use of Microsoft Word, Excell, and One Note, I would have to pay airline luggage fees for another case to carry around all my writing documents.

    I hope everyone tries using a good spreadsheet for their writing. You will love it once you have spent the time for the original learning curve.

    Ronald Dean Rellinger
    Reading to a child will warm two hearts

    https://ronniecoleinger.com
    Current WIP: The Intergalactic Peddler-Volume VI

  13. #38
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin MissZ's Avatar
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    Great googaly moogaly!! I love excel but I have never thought to use it as an outliner. So I gave this a shot last night for the first time and what do you know I was able to zip through three chapter outlines that I have had a hard time with. It's amazing what a little cooperative brainstorming can do :-) thanks.
    "Well behaved women rarely make history"
    MissZ

  14. #39
    nurturing tomorrows criminals today PorterStarrByrd's Avatar
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    One little trick I didn't see mentioned here will make it easy to view your basic outline without a lot of clutter AND put a lot information into the cell

    with pointer over the cell right click and select insert comment

    You will get a box that you can make any size you want and enter all of your notes about the cell item here. You can also cut/copy and paste from your book or anything else you want.

    Once you close your editing (just clicking anywhere else on the sheet is the easiest) all you will see is a small red upper right hand corner in the cell. That indicates that there is a comment

    put your pointer on the cell, without clicking it and the comment pops up. The comment will only stay up as long as you hold the pointer on the cell.

    This does not get in the way of any of the excel operations you might want to do with the cell/

    There is also a edit comment selection if you right click on that cell so you change what you have in it.

    This is a great place for detailed explanation and for reminders to yourself to do something with the segment.

    Another nice thing excel lets you do it color code your types of info.
    http://porterstarrbyrd.blogspot.com/

    http://absolutelyunofficialpac12spor....blogspot.com/



    We have met the enemy and he is us - Pogo
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  15. #40
    New kid, be gentle! Ronald Rellinger's Avatar
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by PorterStarrByrd View Post
    One little trick I didn't see mentioned here will make it easy to view your basic outline without a lot of clutter AND put a lot information into the cell

    with pointer over the cell right click and select insert comment
    Thanks for that information. I just tried your suggestion and it really works well. I did not know this function existed.

    Ronald Dean Rellinger
    Reading to a child will warm two hearts

    https://ronniecoleinger.com
    Current WIP: The Intergalactic Peddler-Volume VI

  16. #41
    New Fish already has Rhino Hide exnihilo's Avatar
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    Holy cowpies.

    I can't believe I have never thought about using excel for this purpose. I have the notebooks and recipe cards and reams of paper tacked all over the living room (my poor hubby)... I think I need to try this now.

    Also feeling decidedly inspired all of a sudden!

  17. #42
    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    I'm using Excel as an outlining tool currently myself. I previously used it to create an in-depth and complicated spreadsheet that determines weights, volumes, tensile strengths, O2/CO2 exchange rates, and a few other odds & ends for giant insects, a mapping, surveying, and movement plotting tool for a 4X wargame, and a mapping/location tool for my stories set in that wargame universe.

    I've been using it to outline acts, chapter word targets, chapter actual words, chapters, key events, characters, secondary events, words-to-date, etc., etc.

    It's a great tool.

  18. #43
    New writer since 07/2012. Cornelius Gault'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 charater, but I don't have a wall/room big enough to lay it all out.
    I use Excel to put all my events on a timeline as follows:
    (1) Put the events (character birth/date/marriage/events) in each row.
    (2) Put the date/time or year in columns.
    (3) Change the format of the columns to use vertical fonts to use less space, resize columns as small as possible.
    (4) For a given event, chart it on the graph, changing the background color to red or whatever. For instance, block off a character's lifespan by changing all cells from 1800-1840 to red.
    _ _ _ _ NOTE: It is not necessary to create columns for all years, only those applicable to your history.
    (5) Repeat for all characters and events.
    (6) Use this information to determine ages, relationships of events, etc.

    I used this technique to create a 200-year genealogy of my MC. Now, I may never need some of the information, but I can certainly tweak the family tree as the story progresses. If I moved events around and it shows that my father was 8 when he was married, I can adjust all relevant dates by 11 years to show he was 19, with all subsequent dates falling into line.
    Last edited by Cornelius Gault; 06-02-2013 at 06:35 AM.
    Cornelius Gault
    WIPs:
    * Columbo Fan Fiction (new)
    * Murder-Mystery Elements (ongoing)
    * Detective 12 Parallel Novel (ongoing)
    * The Gault Legacy (shelved)
    * Story Elements (shelved)

    --- as of 01/21/2015 ---

  19. #44
    Miss Conceived Liralen's Avatar
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    Oh, JAYZUSSS . . . I loathe, despise, have avoided any sort of spreadsheets since the days of Lotus123.

    After scanning this thread I may need to rethink that.

    Or, since I'm a Mac user (once you go Mac you'll never go back ) I may have to give Scrivener a try.

    I've been in the habit of keeping separate files for different sorts of notes in Pages.
    The creative writing process is a lot like emotional binge and purge cycles.

    Can you find the Pitbull?

    WIP ~ The Black Dog Dialogues: At the raw, dark fringes of exhaustion, there is The Black Dog

  20. #45
    New writer since 07/2012. Cornelius Gault's Avatar
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    An inexpensive method of backing up your stories is to email them to yourself using Yahoo or similar service. You can access them from anywhere without having your home computer, make changes, send the results back to yourself when done. In most cases, the email system has a built-in word processor for basic formatting, boldface, italics, indent, etc.

    I also send myself notes from work when I think of something that would fit into my story and then add them in the appropriate spot at home.
    Last edited by Cornelius Gault; 01-23-2013 at 10:14 AM.
    Cornelius Gault
    WIPs:
    * Columbo Fan Fiction (new)
    * Murder-Mystery Elements (ongoing)
    * Detective 12 Parallel Novel (ongoing)
    * The Gault Legacy (shelved)
    * Story Elements (shelved)

    --- as of 01/21/2015 ---

  21. #46
    Miss Conceived Liralen's Avatar
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    I do that too, Cornelius

    I've found the Zoho mail to be really handy and I don't get near the spam I got with Yahoo and even Gmail, plus I've found I like Zoho Docs better than Google docs.
    The creative writing process is a lot like emotional binge and purge cycles.

    Can you find the Pitbull?

    WIP ~ The Black Dog Dialogues: At the raw, dark fringes of exhaustion, there is The Black Dog

  22. #47
    Imagined half of it. Bookewyrme's Avatar
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    I prefer Dropbox. It's free (though you can buy more space if you need it I think), you can access any sort of file from any computer with internet, interact with it, and save it directly back to Dropbox. It acts just like an extra folder on your home computer. As an added perk, you can also use it to host images for linking to on blogs/forums etc (and then you don't give Mac and Medi a heart-attack by hotlinking here on AW! ).
    Lia Wolff
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  23. #48
    Couth barbarian calieber's Avatar
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    This is useful, 2012 was easily my most productive year (for some values of "productive") and on the evening of the 12th I finally thought to back everything up, and determined to do it first thing in the morning.

    Fortunately, the repair shop says all the data survived, and I should have my computer back around Christmas.
    "Everybody must get stoned" --Medusa

  24. #49
    New writer since 07/2012. Cornelius Gault's Avatar
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    I haven't seen any examples of using Excel, so I included two styles that I use. Note that some of the lines are calculated to show ages or elapsed time.

    Timeline Example 1

    Last edited by Cornelius Gault; 01-28-2013 at 06:12 AM.
    Cornelius Gault
    WIPs:
    * Columbo Fan Fiction (new)
    * Murder-Mystery Elements (ongoing)
    * Detective 12 Parallel Novel (ongoing)
    * The Gault Legacy (shelved)
    * Story Elements (shelved)

    --- as of 01/21/2015 ---

  25. #50
    New writer since 07/2012. Cornelius Gault's Avatar
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    I haven't seen any examples of how people use Excel, so I included two styles that I use. Note that some of the lines are calculated to show ages or elapsed time.

    Timeline Example 2

    Last edited by Cornelius Gault; 01-28-2013 at 06:12 AM.
    Cornelius Gault
    WIPs:
    * Columbo Fan Fiction (new)
    * Murder-Mystery Elements (ongoing)
    * Detective 12 Parallel Novel (ongoing)
    * The Gault Legacy (shelved)
    * Story Elements (shelved)

    --- as of 01/21/2015 ---

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