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(and no, it’s not with sticky notes)

Let me start by saying, I really do love sticky notes.  I use them all the time for notes, plotting, and random doodles.  At this very moment, my office space is covered with colorful reminders courtesy of sticky notes.  

But as I edited book 2 (A Slice of Christmas Magic, coming out later this year, eeek) I discovered a new helpful tool – spreadsheets.  

I originally wrote the first two book in the Magic Pie Shop series in quick succession.  The details of the characters and the setting stayed (mostly) clear in my mind. Then there was a gap between the time they went off to my editor and the time I was editing them, and some of those details I thought I’d never forget had faded.  

I started making notes.  Notes on my outline, notes on my characters.  What color were Lena’s eyes again? How many tables did the pie shop have?  

These notes got lost in pages of a notebook and sticky notes that fell off the wall, and I still struggled to find the information I was looking for.  Then even when I did find it, I sometimes struggled to read my own handwriting. Does anyone else have handwriting that’s really neat when you’re focused, but looks like a full on toddler’s scribble fest when you get excited and write quickly?  I knew I had to try something different.

I started keeping track on a spreadsheet.  

Not only were my notes legible, but I could also cut and paste lines directly from the manuscript.  I kept separate tabs for the main characters, supporting characters, and settings.

The plot tab was really helpful – especially when editing.  I put each chapter in its own column and filled each cell in the column with scene notes.  I was able to see where additional scenes would work. Then I highlighted the added scenes so I would know that I still had to write them.  

If I were to do it again, I would start a spreadsheet as soon as I began writing book 1.  It would have definitely saved me some time. I’m always exploring different writing techniques so I can figure out what process works best for me (check out my post 5 Ways to Get Unstuck in Your Writing), and keeping notes on a spreadsheet is something I highly recommend – especially if you’re writing a series.  

Do you keep notes when you write?  Where do you keep them – notebooks, sticky notes, chalkboards, spreadsheets, somewhere else?  Share in the comments below!

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