Friday, February 17, 2012

Using Excel for Your Scene Summaries

I use an Excel spreadsheet while writing for a simple scene summary worksheet. The fields included are:

·         Chapter number
·         Scene number (computed after scene 1)
·         Number of pages in chapter
·         Number of words in scene
·         Total number of words (computed)
·         Day
·         Date (computed after scene 1)
·         Day of week (computed)
·         POV
·         Location
·         Scene Goal
·         Conflict

To simplify change, I only enter the date of scene 1. The rest are computed. That way, I can modify the starting date until all the scenes fall into place. So, I've added a new field before Date called Days. It is the number of days from scene 1 to the current scene. With this information I can easily compute the date and day of week of the scene.

While writing The Vengeance Squad, I wanted Chris and Tex to go to Massachusetts while it was snowing, so all I had to do was play with the starting date until the date for the scene in Massachusetts was at the right time of year for snow.

At the beginning a new book, I often want to insert additional scenes and sometimes delete scenes. Using the spreadsheet makes it easier. With Excel, you can use conditional formatting if needed. I use it to highlight chapters that are too long or too short.

It's not easy to explain worksheets in text, so if you're interested, I'll be glad to send you a copy of what I ended up which includes the formulas and conditional formatting.


  1. this is very smart. I have tried various options including a good ol' pen and notepad to try to keep things straight. When you've got multiple POVs or story lines this is especially important. I'd love to have a peek at your finished product. :)

  2. Thanks, Tracy. I emailed it to you. Let me know if you get it or not.