30 Days of PreWriting, Day 17   Leave a comment

Today’s Link: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/writing-software/

Okay. I tried really really hard to find a good article about how to use Excel for keeping track of writing notes. The best I could find was a short article on how to use it for taking notes if you’re running a roleplaying game. Since half of the article wouldn’t really apply in the case of a novel, I decided that I would just have to talk about using Excel and give a completely different link. So, instead, we have a link to a site that lists different writing software (including Microsoft Office).

I have currently been using OpenOffice, instead of Microsoft Office. First, because it’s free. Second, because I have an EeePC with no CD drive and it was downloadable. But I have used Microsoft Office (and when I can’t figure out how to do something in OpenOffice, I save it as an Office doc and stick it on our desktop computer to do whatever in Microsoft Office). And I have to admit, I came late to a love of Excel, even as geeky as I am. I always preferred to play around in Access. But at some time in the last few years, I realized that Excel had one amazing feature that I’d never utilized that changed the entire program in my mind. Multiple sheets. That you can name whatever you want. And while I always knew they were there, somehow, it didn’t penetrate into the part of my brain that needed to know.

And here is why it’s a beautiful thing. I can open a new Excel spreadsheet. I can name it whatever, maybe the title of my book. Then in the first sheet, maybe I set up a little character sheet. Name, age, hometown, physical description, whatever I think I might need. I can name the sheet after one of the characters. Or name it Character Sheet and use it as a template to make other sheets from. I can have one sheet per character or use one sheet and give each character a column instead. However feels best to me (or you). I could create a new sheet and label each row and column for a character. Then I can make a neat little matrix for character relationships. Like so:

I can create a new sheet and name it for a location, then use it to make a map or just keep track of a description. Then, when I’m writing, since I already have things set up in Excel, I can just open it, pop into the right sheet, type in a quick note, and then go right back to writing. Or, I can just keep it open in the background, so it’s right there in case I need to double-check something.

And so much stuff can be put into it. I could have a sheet for my outline. If I’m writing a book with magic, I can keep track of spells and other information on how magic works in my world. If there are strange animals or if there’s a different calendar, I can keep track of those things in my spreadsheet. Basically, Excel (or any spreadsheet utility, really) can be a major tool for Novel Note Awesomeness.

Before I finish up this one, I just wanted to put in a quick update for anyone that’s interested or concerned after my surgery. I’m doing well. Crunches are not in my near future, but I am hoping that very soon, sitting and standing will no longer take extra time. I get tired easily, but since I don’t have a job right now, I’ve just been focusing on these posts while I’m awake. I go to see the surgeon for followup on Tuesday but I seem to be doing just fine.


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