The Giant Spreadsheet of Editing

They say there are two kinds of writers: planners and 'pantsers' (who write by the seats of their pants). I'm a planner. And a scientist. Double-whammy!

I've just finished the first (rough!) draft of the book that follows on from "The Call". Yes, the one I've been writing since 2013. The one I've abandoned a couple of times and written "Lies That Poison" and two books of an urban fantasy trilogy instead. Anyway, I finished the rough first draft last Monday and so have moved on to my next stage of editing, which is to produce The Giant Spreadsheet.

I write early drafts of books using Scrivener and one of the features of the program is that you can export the novel outline to Excel. The folder and document titles are exported, along with notes, word counts and a host of other things. I'm mostly interested in the titles, notes and word counts for each document (for me each document equates to a scene), and I add in information about which characters are in each scene (using colour coding).


Well, this is where my inner geek comes out. Actually, my inner geek isn't all that inner, but there we go. I want to check whether the 'beats' are where I think they should be, which is why the word counts are important. I also want to see if any characters feature heavily early on and then are never mentioned again (and aren't dead), hence the colour-coded character notes. When I write, I don't really divide the document up into chapters, so I'm also looking to see where chapter breaks might fall. I use the scene notes to check that a scene is actually necessary and doing what it needs to do.

I mentioned that I was creating The Giant Spreadsheet on Facebook. Various writing friends commented. They were split between those who wondered if I'd lost my marbles and those who thought this spreadsheet malarkey might be useful. I do confess that you might need to be a special kind of crazy to think they will help, never mind actually create them! But for me, even just creating the spreadsheet has made me realise that at least two scenes can be cut and that at least half a dozen more might be needed.

Once I've sorted out the structure, using the spreadsheet to help check for pace and balance etc. I can start on the fine-tuning. It's a long process. I wish I could be one of those writers who pops a book out every three months but I just can't!

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