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Excel for Authors – Plotting & Editing

by Laurie Ryan 4 November 2010 4 Comments

For this installment of Excel for Authors, I’m going to talk a bit about both plotting and editing. Both subjects have a variety of ways to be done and I believe that every writer should experiment with multiple methods to find which one, or which combination of bits and pieces from each, works best.

Guidelines for plotting can be as in depth as Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey (Mythic Structure For Writers), simpler, like the “W” plot. Or somewhere in between, like Michael Hauge’s 6-stage plot structure. It would take a lot of discussion to dissect each of these, so I’m not going to do it here. I will say, though, that I’ve learned a lot by studying these processes. I suggest instead that you check these out further if you haven’t heard of them and are searching for a plotting technique that works for you. If you’re a pantser, you can skip right ahead to editing. :)

I use the “W” plot. I’m not sure where it originates from but, in a nutshell, it’s a visual guide to your plot. The letters stand for:

  •  A = Goal recognition
  • B = Initial barrier
  • C = Low point
  • D = Progress
  • E = High point
  • F = Rug pull
  • G = Black moment
  • H = Final struggle
  • I = Happily Ever After

I don’t use a plotting worksheet, per se. Rather, I use my chapter worksheet as a way to plot these points out. If you fill out the Who, What, and Where in advance, you’ve plotted your story out. And, for you pantsers, fill it out as you go. I have included an explanation of the “W” plot at the back of the workbook, though, for anyone who might want more information.

I’ve also added an editing worksheet, which is really more of a checklist. Now, just to forewarn you, I have it set up so I go through my story 5-6 times for different editing purposes.  I have found it too hard to edit for everything all at once. Plus, someone recently suggested going through a manuscript one pov at a time and I’ve found it to be a very good continuity check.  Here’s what I read for when editing:

  • Primary pov
  • Secondary pov
  • Any other pov’s
  • Emotion
  • Description
  • Mechanics

I explain each of these in depth in the workbook, so feel free to download the updated version under “Author Resources” on my website:  http://www.laurieryanauthor.com/.  Also, remember – this worksheet is a simple checklist. Feel free to re-vamp your copy to meet your editing needs.

I hope you find this information useful. Next month, we’ll move away from the story itself and start talking about agent and editor searches and submission trackers.

by Laurie Ryan


  • Robin Covington said:

    Laurie – fantastic post and tool! I am curently taking a workshop on the “W” plot. My method is super simple so far – I create a bulletized word document that lists each chaper and each scene in order. Under the bullet, I note each character introduced in the scene, what the end goal is, dialogue or info that I need to put in that scene to move the story forward. My “master” dcument is Jeannie’s WIP notebook – so it all makes it way to that as well.

    Don’t really have a method for editing yet . . . .

  • Laurie Ryan (author) said:

    That’s great, Robin. The “W” plot is a nice way to work out the story. And you’ve hit on all the same things I list in my chapter worksheet.

    I love to organize. :) I make a lot of notes on post its, but I can only let them stack up so far before it drives me crazy. This way, at least my story is all organized. It’s the “do this, do that” in the rest of my life that looks more like chaos. lol Hmmm. Maybe I should do a spreadsheet for that!

  • Lavada Dee said:

    Laurie as you know I’m pretty much a pantster but I’ve found something I can use in each of these worksheets. My favorite is the tracking one and I use it a LOT!

  • Aurelia Rowl on Story Craft | Nina Harrington said:

    […] (Source: Jeannie Ruesch) […]

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