Anyone Else Love Excel for Writing?

Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by DriedPen, Oct 21, 2020.

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  1. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    i use it to keep track of ad spend vs income - and to list out series and where each one is in the process. don't use it in the actual writing
     
  2. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Personally I consider writing as engineering. It requires both creative and technical skills. So in that way it is both an art and a science. Neither in isolation creates the best work. The science is often so well understood though it might feel like intuition or instinct. There's nothing wrong with engineering a plot and constructing the elements in a more technical way, in order to create a framework for the art. Personally, I think it's essential to plan and understand how the pieces work together. But we're all different in our process. I think this suggestion has a lot of merit to help create an effective structure, see how the plot is working, shape the story, and better organize a writer's thoughts, if this is how their brain works, as long as it's not too clinical.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
  3. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    All you need to write is a pen and paper, sure. Anyone can write. But I don't think that's the point. This is a very interesting suggestion on how to better keep track of how the story is working. I love car racing. Mediocre drivers rely on talent alone. The great drivers understand the car and the engineering.
     
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  4. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    I use Excel for brain storming and note taking, but apparently I'm using it differently than some of you are. I just like having easily manipulated blocks where I can type all sorts of things and move them around very easily. The best feature is the ability to start a new sheet with a click and jump between characters, locations timeline and notes without opening and switching between several documents, or worse, scrolling through pages and pages of notes up and down, over and over on one huge doc. That's just maddening.

    When I get ready to do a real outline, it's back to Word.
     
  5. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    I've used Xcel for timeline tracking. In some scripts with multiple parallel action lines, especially those that eventually intersect or you cut between, it's important to keep track of who is doing what off screen so when you see them again where they are now makes sense. For my super ambitious ultra big nightmarish clusterfuck of chaos action film climax, involving mutated monsters, two opposing military forces, and an independent hero all fighting each other on multiple locations inside and outside a freighter sinking in a storm while a rescue mission tries to get to them, there were many intersecting action sequences that would impact on each other in various ways. That needs some tracking!
     
  6. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I respectfully disagree.
     
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  7. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Ok.

    On a side note, it's interesting how often very famous, respected and well established writers refer to writing as a craft, not an art...
     
  8. DriedPen

    DriedPen Member

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    To me writing a novel is just like building a house: it takes time, and many refinements to get the house/novel right. BUT there are two ways to do it.

    A person can put up a wall lets say, and cut the stud to length, nail it in, and then cut the next one, etc, and do it piece by piece. And that works, and the house is built or the novel created.

    Or they can cut all the studs at once. Then the next day lay out all the walls. And then on the third day put up all the walls. In the end it is much faster to do all the figuring beforehand, because it takes 3 days to put up the walls instead of six. That however takes planning up front. It is important to get that planning right because if you don't, you got a heap of lumber that is cut wrong, or a novel that needs lots of rework. BUT if the carpenter/writer does get the planning right, it goes much, much faster and is a better building/book overall because the structure of it is sound because the details were figured out beforehand.

    For me, Excel allows that planning to take place.
     
  9. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    That's right. I think it's an excellent approach. It may not work for everyone as some people struggle to be creative in more refined ways and need freedom of exploration in their work, but these kinds of processes shouldn't be dismissed. It's a very interesting way to build an effective narrative.
     
  10. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Craft or art - it’s a fine line anyway. I’m still of the opinion writing a novel based on a series of tables and equations is over-thinking to the extreme and something I would never consider for a second.
     
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  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Supporter Contributor

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    As I understand @DriedPen's process, there are no equations involved. He/she is assigning each scene a rating based on the emotion level of the main character, then using Excel to plot a graph of those ratings. This shows the emotional highs and lows of the novel as a sort of timeline, and shows where more work might be needed.
     
  12. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Yeah. It's not equations. It's mapping.
     
  13. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    A lot of my opinion on this is based on the fact I’m a panster not a planner, so I’m maybe not the best to comment.
     
  14. DriedPen

    DriedPen Member

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    Yeah, depending on how simple you want to make it.

    If you "map" just one character at at time it would be. But if you want to chart the emotion of all the characters in the book, and compare them in one chart, then there is some math involved. That is because you weight the emotions of the main character at 100%, their love interest at 90%, then the antagonist at 80%, and then the minor characters at 50% and the incidental characters at 25%.

    You still might grade them from -10 to +1o, because if they head over heels in love, it would be a +10, and crushed if that love abandoned them at -10.

    So lets say you scored a minor character at +8 in column B on line 34. So in that case you just write an equation: sum=(b34/4) which will cut the weight for that incidental character to 25%. Doing that for every emotion mapped, would make the minor character have 25% the weight of the main character. The minor character is still experiencing the RANGE of emotions, its just that you care a whole lot less about those emotion swings then the main character.
     
  15. DriedPen

    DriedPen Member

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    The beauty is, once you spend the half hour or so needed to make the Excel spreadsheet, you can use it for every novel or story you make after that. You got a spreadsheet template now.
     
  16. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    I think it's perfectly reasonable to suggest these methods don't work for you, or your style, and that you can't see any value in such tools for your process. Personally, where my objections lie are suggestions on various threads from various people that a particular style or method is not valid because of prejudiced beliefs about hard definitions on how writing is achieved. Any creative endeavor is a mixture of various techniques, ranging from purely clinical and scientific to completely liberal artistic. Some painters are very, very technical, while others are adventurous and creative, going with the flow. Both have merit. Your artistic, 'pantster' style has many benefits and that's often how I write, but I don't think it's fair for anyone to dismiss a process by claiming that creative writing is defined in a certain way, and that it can't be achieved with a scientific or methodical approach.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
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  17. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    That's 'discussions' for you. Everyone, no matter what they claim - and I very much include myself here - will see other's opinions as a challenge to their own, at least to a degree. If they didn't, discussions wouldn't happen. They would all boil down to a succession of boring threads where members constantly tell each other 'they're entitled to their opinion'. The truth is, in our heart of hearts, we usually see other's opinions as not just differing from our own, but wrong/silly/stupid.
     
  18. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Drama is conflict. Without conflict, discussions, and stories, are a bore. So with that in mind: you are wrong. (Actually, I completely 100% agree with you but I don't want to be boring. :p)
     
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  19. Malum

    Malum Clanging Supporter

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    When I’m planning I tend write by hand. Thoughts come easier when I'm not staring at a screen during that initial stage. I type a second, amended draft afterwards though.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
  20. Vince Higgins

    Vince Higgins Active Member

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    I have only used it once for a novel, and that was to set up a timeline, since it covers the lives of two characters from youth to old age.
     

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