Resources, writing

Using a Spreadsheet for Novel Diagnostics

In this post I’m going to talk about a way to use a spreadsheet as a diagnostic tool for finding problems with your draft. I mentioned it online earlier this week, and there seemed to be a bit of interest there, so I thought I’d do a proper blog entry about it.

First, I went to emphasize that this is not my idea! I found it via a post on this blog; however, the post in which he talks about it seems to be gone (it was back in 2011). I am under the impression that JK Rowling does something similar, but I’ve never looked into her method and how it might differ from this one.

Materials: You will need a novel and some kind of spreadsheet software. I use Google Sheets these days. If you don’t feel like messing with spreadsheets, you can do it with note cards (and I have). In that case, you will need a mess of 3×5 or 4×6 cards (one per scene), several different colors of pen, tape, enough space to spread the cards out on a wall or a floor, and of course a novel.

I say “a” novel and not “your” novel because even though what I mostly talk about here is how to use this with your own writing, you can also use it with other people’s; see the note at the end of this post.

If it’s your own book you’re working on, I feel that this tool works best when you have a complete but unpolished story to work with; it’s okay if you have some holes, but if you’re still in a very early/exploratory stage, it might not help much.

I’m going to step through the spreadsheet layout I use first, and then dive into why.

Continue reading “Using a Spreadsheet for Novel Diagnostics”

Resources, Uncategorized

Resources: The Camelot Project

This is going to be a short one, I’m afraid, but who says a blog entry has to be long to be useful? The Camelot Project is available thanks to the University of Rochester, and it is amazing. I first ran across it while I was writing The Prometheus Tapestry; I was looking for source material on Gawaine other than the Green Knight poem. The collection is not exhaustive, of course, but it has a lot of useful texts and artwork online (the reference sections are not thorough built out at this point).

The quality varies widely, but there’s plenty of good stuff, and a lot of writers who were unfamiliar to me. Other than the wealth of poetry and stories from centuries past (some of which are usefully footnoted), of particular delight is Raymond Thompson’s series of interviews with late-20th-century authors who have written in the Arthurian world. There sure are a lot of us. 🙂