I’m not really an inventor. But I recently needed to do some plot editing, and I had to find a way to get a high-level view of it. After writing the book, I felt too close to the story to actually be able to see what was going on. Not to be too cliché, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. So I skimmed through my manuscript and wrote a one or two sentence summary for each chapter. (I pretended I was writing the episode teasers for an HBO series based on my book while I was doing this. It made it more fun). Then – get ready for even more fun – I put the chapter summaries into a spreadsheet. I know, wild, right? So unwriterly. You must think I’m completely out of control.
Once I had a spreadsheet of chapter summaries, I added columns for ‘Action’, ‘Romance’, and ‘Character Development’. I figured these were the three most important general elements I wanted to track throughout the whole novel. Based on the summaries, I colour coded each of those columns. The darker the colour, the more intense that element was per chapter.
You know what? It was magical. The weak spots literally appeared. Amid dark crimsons and fathomless azures and other poetic colours, I found chapters that feebly blushed with pale pastel colours. Because the harsh reality was that nothing much happened in those chapters. Now I know exactly where to focus when strengthening my book. I didn’t know I could ever love a spreadsheet so much.
Feel free to steal this idea if you are revising a manuscript. And if everyone has already been doing this for years, please don’t tell me. I’m blissfully ignorant.