Things are going well on the outline for book 5. I’d say I’m about 85-ish percent done with it. Lots of thinking, research, more thinking, and staring blindly at things to let thoughts bubble and churn into interesting ideas has gotten me to this point.
Anyway, that’s it for the quick and dirty update. For book writers interested in a tip I learned (or fans who like this kind of thing), keep reading.
As part of writing the outline this time around, I’ve tweaked the way I use my outline spreadsheet. As I’ve mentioned in a past post, when outlining, I set up a spreadsheet with three tabs, Outline, Timeline, and Brainstorm (I now just make a copy of the last outline spreadsheet, clear out what is unneeded, update the calendars to appropriate Letheran months, and start there). The Outline tab has the outline, Timeline has a calendar with several months on it (not in list form but in actual calendar format using square cells for days in the month with day numbers and chapter numbers in them, so I can see when things are happening and plan accordingly), and Brainstorm has lists of brainstorm ideas and details of promising ideas.
So, what changed? Well, I now use 5 columns labeled Plot (plot line number), Chap (chapter), Scene (within the chapter), Scene Description, and Notes, in that order. Plot is still where I put the plot line number, and I still use different numbers for each plot line. So for instance, the main plot might be numbered 1. But now, I use that same number on every row having to do with that plot. I used to use thousands to represent various plots, so the main plot might have been 1000, and the Plot column would have 1000, 1010, 1020, etc, to organize its scenes in order, and I had overall timeline numbers to organize scenes into their book order. Well, that got to be entirely too cumbersome to maintain with the amount of switching around of scenes I’ve been doing to keep things interesting. Instead, I now use Chap and Scene to do that. So, let’s say that I decide a certain scene should appear two chapters later (or earlier) than where it currently is. The old way would have required me to renumber the Plot column numbers for that plot line (and the Timeline numbers of ALL scenes between) from the current location down (or up) to the new location. Now, I just change the Chap number of that scene, and I only have to redo the Scene numbers of that one destination chapter based on the order I want its scenes. But the biggest time saver is when I decide to add or remove a scene. The old way required a renumbering of the Plot or Timeline columns for every single scene from its added (or deleted) point to the end of the book. And let me tell you, I am adding lots and lots of scenes right now as I outline, so it was just horrible. The new way is much faster and easier. Plus, Sort can still be used to arrange plot lines the ways I want. If I want each plot separated into their own groups so I can just focus on outlining a particular plot, I sort by Plot, Chapter, Scene. If I want to see all plots mixed together as they will appear in finished form, I sort by Chapter, Chapter, Scene. Why do I do Chapter, Chapter, Scene? Because OpenOffice Writer usually remembers Sort settings used, and this way, I only have to change the first sort field between Plot and Chapter, instead of selecting all three fields every time.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT use the scroll wheel of the mouse to change sort fields! Always click-and-choose. If you accidentally over-scroll up, the instant you hit the ‘-undefined-‘ selection, ALL field selections below that one will be cleared. I did this a few times before I learned my lesson. Note number two: When you bring up the Sort dialog, you may have to click the Options tab and select ‘Range contains column labels’ so you see Plot, Chap, Scene, etc, instead of Column A, Column B, etc. Note number three: Always select the entire spreadsheet before sorting. A fast way to do that is to click the grey square at top left, the one next to A and 1. Oh, and Note number four: I use Chap 0 for the prologue scenes.
EDIT: Ignore Note number three! Do NOT select the entire spreadsheet before sorting! Calc auto-selects pertinent cells for you if your click (or are already in) a cell in the data and just go to Data->Sort from the menu. And in fact, if you DO select the entire spreadsheet first, Calc sometimes forgets the ‘Range includes column headers’ option. It has done that to me a few times and my best guess as to why is because the number of rows with data changed from the last time I sorted. For some reason, letting Calc auto-select the data block seems to keep that option, at least so far. Note that for its auto-select to work, the data you want to sort must be all together in a block of cells with no empty rows or columns within, and anything you don’t want sorted (like results cells, etc) must be separated from the data block by at least one empty row or column.