|Coming Sept. 6th|
I'm currently finishing up a rewrite for my next book and it has dawned on me that, while I never called them beat sheets, I already use them, or my version of them. In fact, I make several to help me keep track of the arcs in the plot and subplot(s) and the arcs of the characters' growth. If you've written a novel or are trying to, you know it's hard to keep all that stuff in your head. It's easy to drop a thread. A spreadsheet helps me make like Michael Jackson.
Once I have a draft that isn't necessarily the shitty first draft, but is still sorta open, I make an Excel spreadsheet for each plot/character arc in the story and write down everything pertinent to that plot/character arc and when in the story it happens (what page number or chapter number).
For example, my main character is engaged and there are complications about whether or not the wedding is going to happen. I want to know a few things as I read through this draft to rewrite it: how often do I tell the reader about a complication? Do the complications get progressively harder? Does the reader understand how my character is feeling about things and why? Did I drop something? (i.e. do I bring up something on page 17 and then never mention it again?)
So I have a spreadsheet called "marriage progression" and I write down what my MC says, thinks or does related to getting married and in what scene it happens.
I also have Excel spreadsheets for each major character to track how they change (or not).
Using a spread sheet helps me see the bones of the story, without all the pretty skin (imagery, symbolism, metaphor) to distract me. It helps me know where it's weak, so I can make those parts stronger or get rid of them altogether.
However, I may also use a spread sheet to keep track of images and symbols to make sure I'm consistent and haven't lost one of those threads either. For example, In Chapter 1 I describe one of my characters as looking like a stork. I like that description, and the beat sheet helps me see that after the opening chapters I didn't reinforce it. So later, I'm referring to her nose as a beak.
My spread sheet system is sort of reverse outlining--outlining after you've written the story.
I'm curious, how do you make sure you don't miss a beat in plot, characters and images in your story? What do you think of beat sheets?
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