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  1. #26
    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!

  2. #27
    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.

  3. #28
    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.

  4. #29
    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

  5. #30
    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

  6. #31
    practical experience, FTW 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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  7. #32
    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

  8. #33
    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!

  9. #34
    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.

  10. #35
    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 ---

  11. #36
    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

  12. #37
    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 ---

  13. #38
    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

  14. #39
    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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  15. #40
    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

  16. #41
    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 ---

  17. #42
    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 ---

  18. #43
    figuring it all out
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    This Excel tip is a revelation. I use Scrivener for writing - but since reading this thread a few days ago I've been trying out the excel method for outlining a plot, characters, etc, and I've made more progress in three days than I did in three weeks before that. I guess structure works for me... So - thank you!

  19. #44
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    So there is openoffice.org and there is another spreadsheet program that is escaping my mind presently, that I like. I've heard of libreoffice, which must have a spreadsheet too. hmmmm

    @Gault: I don't see how the spreadsheet allows for changes, like when they got married, and it only refs the present day this way, so I guess, the life span of each nominal character will get their own excel page...

    I use notepad++ because it allows me to have tabs, loads of files loaded at once, and also doesn't mess with the formatting. I can't stand copying and pasting from word or browser only to get added fonts and colours. Think I've given it a good go, and it has still stayed. I can't imagine going back to Notepad or Word. xx

    After editing this a few times I now find the paragraphs with html code.

  20. #45
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by halley View Post
    So there is openoffice.org and there is another spreadsheet program that is escaping my mind presently, that I like. I've heard of libreoffice, which must have a spreadsheet too.
    Libreoffice was forked from OpenOffice; open office is no longer being updated.

    Google Apps also has a spreadsheet.

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  21. #46
    New writer since 07/2012. Cornelius Gault's Avatar
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    [To Haley] Re: Excel Spreadsheets

    Quote Originally Posted by halley View Post
    So there is openoffice.org and there is another spreadsheet program that is escaping my mind presently, that I like. I've heard of libreoffice, which must have a spreadsheet too. hmmmm

    @Gault: I don't see how the spreadsheet allows for changes, like when they got married, and it only refs the present day this way, so I guess, the life span of each nominal character will get their own excel page...

    I use notepad++ because it allows me to have tabs, loads of files loaded at once, and also doesn't mess with the formatting. I can't stand copying and pasting from word or browser only to get added fonts and colours. Think I've given it a good go, and it has still stayed. I can't imagine going back to Notepad or Word.

    After editing this a few times I now find the paragraphs with html code.
    [@Hally]

    See the top of this thread posts 6, 7 and 8, where I included screen shots from the Excel spreadsheets that I have used.

    Each character (or event) has a line, with the birth date, marriage date and death date in different columns.

    There is 1 cell in the spreadsheet that contains the "current date" - from this, you can calculate the person's age as of the current date and also the person's age (if they have died) from DEATHYEAR - BIRTHYEAR.

    You could include a column that calculates how old the person was when they got married, if you felt that was important.

    The great part about a spreadsheet is "what if" - You can easily adjust the birthdates of both man and wife until the man is 20 when he marries the girl that is 18.

    I also have another page that shows all of the same dates where each column is a different year and the character's life is shown from the BIRTHYEAR to the DEATHYEAR (or CURRENTYEAR if still alive). This makes it easy to show the relationships between characters. For instance, The uncle was 70 when the grandson was born. If I move the uncle's birthdate to 5 years later, I can see that I need to adjust the grandson's birthdate by the same amount to keep the story correct. If I change the MC's birthdate and thus he is now married when he is 9 years old, I can adjust various other dates to correct the problem.

    These techniques give you a big picture of the characters in your story. It would be easy to include text like this in your story (which I think adds a little to the realism of the story):

    * John was 19 when he first met Sally. They were married a year later, when John was 20 and Sally was 19.

    * John's mother was 49 years old when he was born. His father died when John was 2. His mother was remarried 2 years later when John was 4.

    * John and his cousin, Mary, were 5 years different in age. There parents were the same age. Their grandparents both died in the same year.

    A lot of these types of things would be more difficult if the writer didn't commit some of these dates to paper (or an Excel grid). If the reader says, "Wait a minute, that would have made the man 3 years old when he was married", that would be a major blunder -- and COULD happen if you change one date without noticing how it impacted other dates or characters in your story.

    I don't use a separate page for each character in Excel, but I do have a separate character biography in Word at the end of the story. This helps me keep track of my different character traits, at least until I get to know them.

    NOTE: I have used NotePad++ (which I love, BTW) while working on parts of my story, but the main thing is in Word so I can use formatting, Table of Contents, word counts, page counts, pictures, footnotes, etc. I can have several files open and size them on the screen to include more than one at a time, then copy/paste between them as needed.

    NOTE: If you are copy/pasting text from Word or websites directly into Excel you can avoid all of the formatting problems if you use EDIT | PASTE SPECIAL | TEXT ONLY.

    An alternate method is to paste it first into NotePad and then copy/paste it from there into Excel.

    I hope this helped.
    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 ---

  22. #47
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin KyleDuncan's Avatar
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    Spreadsheets and notecards

    Starting out I fill notebooks with loads of notes, whatever comes to mind about whatever I'm working on. I find using a spreadsheet to be excellent in organizing all that random stuff into the semblance of a coherent whole.

    Something else I find helpful, after the spreadsheet is all tweaked and the outline is worked out, is to write the high points on note cards. I post them on the wall so they are in view as I sit at my desk and work at the computer. It helps me to have bits of it visible instead of in a file minimized at the bottom of the screen as I'm working.

    Sure, I could put up the spreadsheet as I'm working in the word file, but I don't I like to have the word file maximizing the screen, enlarged as big as possible.

  23. #48
    Rookie Juan Merlot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badducky View Post
    [Moderator's Note: The following posts are the work of badducky, also known as novelist J. M. McDermott.


    Hey guys and dolls of the speculative end of the bookstore, I got a bit of advice for ya:

    Don't brainstorm into the messageboard. It's a bad idea. It won't help you.

    Do it into an excel spreadsheet, a notepad, a word document, an rtf document, a coloring book, or any other form of personal notationalism that you can reference alone, and edit and tweak and all that jibber jabber.

    Brainstorming into a message board is not useful. In fact, it can give you an easy affirmation that can steal your thunder when you're writing.

    So, don't spill it here. Spill it where you can write it and fill it out with characters.

    Thank you, and good night.
    I never thought of using excel like this. Awesome idea!

  24. #49
    New writer since 07/2012. Cornelius Gault's Avatar
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    I included in screen shots in Messages 7 and 8 above, but I had to post it on my Weebly page to be able to link to it directly.

    What are other methods of including/sharing an Excel file so that I can share actual examples with other AW people, instead of just including text descriptions and screen shots?
    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 Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I have found using Excel and One Note together works well for me. I'm very new to writing but years of experience with MS software including programming.
    Excel is great for creating timelines

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