Posted in Digital, Method of Planning, Writing

How to Digitally Organise the Planning of Your Novel

I’ll openly admit to being the first to rush out and buy a new notebook when an idea for a novel bites, but where paper is precious it’s always good to consider the alternatives available to writers when planning that best seller.

Before you begin planning out your novel, it helps to know the system by which you can organise it. Novel planning is another skill to learn as a writer, and since I find the ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t work for writing, then it helps to put out a few ideas on how you can begin to world build, wrangle your characters, and note down those scenes or snippets of dialogue.

There are no doubt more ways you can do this, but I’ve used both of the ways I’m about to describe which I hope help you to digitally organise your novel planning.

Microsoft Excel

Yes, I’m a Microsoft user (no affiliate), but if you’re a Mac type, then these ideas can be used in Numbers, or any other type of spreadsheet creating program you have.

Excel is a way of organising your novel plan into a streamlined dataset which can make it a lot easier to find and locate and refer to particular areas of your novel.

For example, rows can easily be divided up into separate chapters, and columns can be divvied up into scenes, events, plot lines and even timelines of when what has to happen.

Novel structure in Excel
Use Excel to organise your novel by chapter

Excel is also a great way to revise your novel. You can highlight cells to refer to different aspects, for example, when your protagonist is at a turning point, about to make a decision, or meets up with another significant character. Or, you can use this method to track your Hero’s Journey, allocating a different colour for each of the characters they will meet and when.

Novel structure highlighted in Excel
Highlight cells to show events or character arcs

Then there’s the ability to use separate worksheets. I like the idea of whittling down my novel to each chapter. So using a separate worksheet for each chapter, then setting up each scene in the columns and rows so I have a much closer view, and greater detail of what is happening.

Again, highlighting is helpful and keeping a Key at the start to keep track of everything helps too.

Key in Excel
Use a key to define the highlight colours

You can make this as simple or elaborate as you like, it’s entirely up to you.

Microsoft Visio

Not everyone has access to Visio since it’s a Microsoft platform for flowcharts and process maps etc. And I believe Edraw Max is the Visio equivalent for Mac users (happy to be corrected here). I like to use it as another digital means of planning a novel because I can move squares of information around the page.

I set up my file into separate chapters – similar to Excel, then I use a series of rectangles to note down each point that has to happen (or in the early stages of planning, what might happen) within that chapter.

Novel Structure in Visio
Use Visio to plan out your novel

Visio is also great because I can then move the rectangles around if a scene’s structure changes, and I can add further shapes to write notes.

Notes in Novel Visio
Add notes to the Visio plan for any revising

I also add images to my file, because sometimes it helps when writing the description of a setting, or a character if I have a visual representation of what it looks like.

Pictures for Novel Visio
Add pictures for reference to help with descriptions and setting

You can add pictures for reference in Excel too.

That’s just 2 ways you can organise the planning of your novel. I’m aware they’re both Microsoft platforms, but they’re what I have and what I know. Either of these methods can be adapted to any other platform. Don’t forget there are online options for these two types of platforms which will do the same job for organising the planning of your novel.

Next time I’ll be looking at more analog methods, ways you can organise your novel planning without the need of a digital device.

I hope this in some way helps you with your novel planning. Please let me know in the comments below!