Saturday, November 3, 2012

New Story Tracking Idea

Hi, fellow writers. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month, so I imagine I’ll not be as prolific on the blogging front. However, I had to share this new system I tripped over while I was getting started on the novel for NaNo (my own abbreviation).

The whole idea of NaNo is to write 50,000 words of a novel without stopping to edit - just dump it on the page. Well, that’s a great idea and very close to my own method anyway, but this time I’m writing a thriller, which takes a lot more research and, frankly, getting it right, than my previous works. So, as I’m writing there are lots of questions that need answering arising.

What to do without breaking the flow? Well, for about ten years I’ve kept an Excel spreadsheet with plot points that need to be inserted or questions that need to be answered with a page number next to the question. Then when editing I’d work off that spreadsheet, making sure to edit or add where needed. One of the problems I’d experienced with this is that the page numbers often changed and then finding the right spot was a bummer.

This time, I’m inserting an asterisk followed by a number that corresponds with the line on Excel. So I match the line number on the spreadsheet where I’ve entered the comment about what I need to do with the number I’ve inserted into the body of my story. Easy peasy. I’ve made the appropriate note. I can take care of it later by simply doing a search of the document for the number (*7 for example) and off I go with writing without getting stuck on some plot point or detail that will take some time to figure out. I’m saving all that for the first edit of the first draft.

I personally love Excel anyway, but it’s one of the most useful things I’ve ever come across for managing my writing…and my life.

I hope this helps someone else out there keep the words flowing.


  1. Hi Kathy, I LOVE the idea of referencing problems or questions that need clarifying/answering. I'm doing the NaNoWriMo this year, too. Last year was my first and I made it to 50,000. Yay! My book this time is a bit more deep and Stephen King weird so I need to make sure I'm consistent. I think I'll use your idea of using an asterick and a number to reference where I still need to go back to later and fix or clarify. Thanks and good luck to you!! Happy writing!

    1. I cannot believe I missed this comment. So sorry! I'm glad you like this idea. I couldn't track my story without Excel anyway, but this particular method is working very well.

      I also jot notes on the bottom of plotlines I thought of and need to add somewhere, then I use it while editing as well.

      Good luck, Linda! Today I'm at 33,116 - feeling good!!