Writer Uses Charts, Is Peculiar

Varying Points of View (Why Would You Make a Chart?!)

Hello to all of you potential readers, similarly foolish writers, and implausibly curious people of the internet.

I have been using Excel to help write my book. (Just with revisions. Sadly, there is no =SYMPATHETICCHARACTER formula).


This year, I’ve had the opportunity to spend my time working on a new book (while helping my wife and daughter work from home down the hall).

My work in progress is a novel written from multiple points of view. For reasons to be described elsewhere, I wrote a couple of these sections out of sequence (after finishing the rest of the book). When all was said and done, I was curious about how it all looked.

This is where spreadsheets came in.

There is a reason for this. Honestly.

Do Not Do This

I suspect that most writers are wise enough not to tangle with spreadsheets. Me? I jumped right in.

I’ve written the book in MS Word and a pile of notebooks. In MS Word, you can insert page count fields wherever you like in the manuscript, flagging each chapter (or each scene if you like). If you’ve called your chapters “Headings” in Word, they’ll show up in a table of contents with the page number tagging along.

I tagged every chapter heading and # in the manuscript on a Sunday afternoon.

~Foolish Author

The stack of notebooks lacked this feature.

It turns out you can dump your table of contents into Excel where you can start to poke at details. Have I left anyone out? Do the wrong characters monopolize the book? Just how long are some of these chapters anyway?

And then, once you’ve done the math, you can turn several months work into a pie chart!

Conclusions (Possibly Spurious)

Having written the book in two separate manuscripts (with only the most general sense of whether everything would balance), I really wanted an overview to work the forest-for-the-trees trick. I’ll probably use the outline dump to help decide where I might want to promote a group of scenes into something more like its very own chapter. (I tend to write without really thinking about chapters, just stopping places. It’s often handy for me to hunt the #s to see whether they need to be promoted).

Off With Their Headings (Spoilers in Fine Print)

Next on my agenda?

With the book all stitched together into one long manuscript, it’s time to hop down from the satellites and peer at the trees again. (I’m fairly certain, for example, that the weather will be hilariously inconsistent from section to section).


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