While I was working on my NaNoWriMo project, I became frustrated with editing. I knew things were missing, scenes to add, but I had no clue how to figure out what those scenes were and where they went. I made a plotline so I could see my whole story laid out, but that wasn’t as useful as I thought it would be. The plot was ever-changing and the plotline soon became moot. I needed something more flexible, something my lazy butt could use to reorder my plot. That is when I came upon the brilliancy of a simple but darn useful tool, Google Slides/Microsoft PowerPoint.
That’s right. Simple but effective. Below I’ll explain the basic process for how I use slides to reorder plot during editing and then (under Read More) I’ll write in more detail exactly how I’ve been using Google Slides/Microsoft PowerPoint, which is a very flexible tool and works perfectly for me.
Alternatively, you can write note cards by hand and adjust this method to entirely handwritten.
1. I skim through my first draft and type out the basics of what happens in each scene, and using Google Slides/Microsoft PowerPoint, I put each scene on a separate slide.
- Sometimes a slide houses an entire scene, sometimes more than one. The goal is to put what goes together on the same slide. Normally, I divide my slides by day. So everything that happens in one day fits on one.
- I try to be as concise as possible, keeping it between 4-8 bullet points per slide.
2. I print out all of the slides (9 to a page) and cut them out to make my note cards.
- Additionally, I also cut up an extra sheet or two of paper into 9 segments.
3. I arrange all the slides on a table or on my floor, usually 8 columns going from left to right.
- You can arrange them by row or by column. I use rows, 8 across, then go down to the next row and another 8, and so on.
4. Now that I have my slides set up, I go through with colored markers and mark the corners of the slides for specific things (like romantic subplots)
- This part is totally optional, but I find it incredibly useful. I usually mark scenes that contribute to the romantic subplots and scenes that show the enemy’s progression towards their goal.
- You can mark your cards for whatever you want. The purpose of this is to see how your subplots stretch across the span of your book. Once marked you can see when there’s a long segment where no progress in the romantic subplot happens or where there are no hints about the villain’s plans, etc.
5. I take a look at the markings I’ve made and add blank cards where I think I might need a new scene. If I have an idea of what the scene will be, I write it on the card.
- Sometimes I take out whole scenes or scratch out parts of scenes. Also if you have a scene you want to completely rewrite, go ahead and put ‘rewrite’ at the top of it, then add it to step 9.
6. After you’ve added your new scenes, you’re ready to evaluate the order of the plot. Take special care to note the progression of the villain and the love interest (or whatever else is important to your story). Move the cards around. Imagine it out. Think about what order would be more natural.
- This part does take skill and practice, but usually you can get a feel for it when something is off. So try moving the card somewhere else and think about if that works. Spreading it out visually like this helps the ideas form in your head. I’ve found it’s a lot easier than staring at the word document, trying to figure out what it needs.
7. Now going back to step 5, I re-evaluate the story to see if there are any new scenes it needs. Then I go into any cards that are still blank and start brainstorming, writing the ideas on the blank card.
- Usually, the first thing I write on a blank card is “Between X scene and Y scene.” Then I look at the plot progression and see what’s missing. Has it been a while since we’ve heard from the villain? Is there a character with a subplot I haven’t followed through with yet? Does there need to be a scene to strengthen the friendship between two characters? Etc.
- Sometimes I just jot down a general idea like “Character X and Character Y hang out” or “villain drops a clue.”
- Sometimes it’s super specific.
- If you’re stuck, look for ways to add conflict. Should two friends get into a fight? Should an estranged parent reappear? Should the love interest be worried about his grades? Also think about internal conflict. Maybe a character makes a mistake and has to face up to that. Or something from the past comes back to haunt them.
- There’s lots of possibilities. Play around with it. Nothing you write on your note card is set in stone.
8. Now I pull up Google Slides/Microsoft PowerPoint again and drag the slides into the order to match the ones laid out. I also add in the new slides, both blank ones and ones that I’ve worked out. When I have close to 9 new slides worked out, I print them out (ONLY the new slides) and swap them out for the handwritten.
- There’s just a great feeling to this step. I feel like my story is really taking shape when I actually go into the program to rearrange slides and add slides. There’s also an amazing feeling to swapping out handwritten for the printed slides.
9. Go into your word document. Skim through and rearrange scenes to make your slide order. Write your new scenes (either separate document or in the same). Play around and brainstorm for the blank scenes.
- Here is where I apply the chances I’ve been working on.
- For writing new scenes, I always pick up the note card for it and have it with me while I’m writing. I recommend taking a picture of your slides laid out, so you remember where to put them back (without having to scroll through PowerPoint)
- During this stage, I write some possible scenes just to see if they work. Sometimes I scrap them. Sometimes I keep them. You won’t know if you don’t try it out.
10. Read through your whole book once all your new scenes have been added. Take notes on the progression, pace, and things like that that stand out. You’ll probably need to do some more rearranging and scene adding. Whenever you’re done with that, you’re free to go on to line editing or whatever step you wish.
Did you find this guide useful? Any other tips to share? Please comment below.
Printing Guide for Slides
Here is the detailed technical side of this if you wish to use Google Slides or Microsoft PowerPoint. Note: You can even make a word document (landscape format, one page=one slide, print 6 or 8 slides per page).
Step 1. Either open up Google Slides (available for free online with your Google account) or Microsoft PowerPoint. Both work equally well.
Step 2. Create a title slide if you so desire. I like to do this so I can easily see which project it is.
Step 3. Create your first new slide (Ctrl+M on computer; Little Square with plus sign on iPad). Format this slide. A simple black and white design works best. If you like to have a title for your scene, then put a title. If not, delete that box. Drag your text box out as big as it’ll go (leaving some space at the bottom to avoid clipping) and pick your font size. I usually go with 24-32.
Step 4. Copy your blank slide one and paste it over and over. (Who needs themes when you can copy+paste everything. Note: this guide is definitely designed for lazy people)
Step 5. Start typing up basic lists (bulleted if you like) of your scenes. Personally, I divide them by day, but if you want to divide them by scene or location change, go for it. The key here is to keep your lists simple.
Step 6. Here’s where it gets a little tricky. For Microsoft PowerPoint…
- Open the Printing Box and select your printer. (Note: I’ve had a much better experience printing through ‘Adobe Reader.’ You can save your PowerPoint as a PDF file and open it in ‘Adobe Reader’ then go to step 4 under Google Slides below.)
- Either leave it on ‘print all slides’ or select ‘print custom range,’ set range
- In the next box, you’re going to want to select ‘Handouts 9 Slides’ or ‘Handouts 6 slides’
- If you want your slides bordered with black, make sure ‘Frame Slides’ is selected. If not, make sure it’s not selected.
- You probably will want to select ‘Scale to Fit Paper’ also; both this and ‘frame slides’ are in the same dialog as #3.
- Change ‘Portrait Orientation’ to ‘Landscape Orientation’
- Select ‘Black and White’ or ‘Grayscale,’ depending on your preferences
For Google Slides…
- Unfortunately, you’re going to have to do the printing from a computer, so boot up your computer and open http://www.google.com/slides
- Click ‘file’ and then ‘download as…’ then ‘PDF Document’ (Alternatively, if you have Microsoft PowerPoint on your computer, you can just ‘download as’ then ‘PowerPoint’ and follow the steps for PowerPoint printing. Though I highly recommend printing through ‘Adobe Reader’ instead.)
- Open the PDF document in ‘Adobe Reader’ (NOTE: Not in the online PDF viewer!)
- Click file>print
- Make sure to select your printer under ‘Name’
- Under ‘Page Scaling,’ select ‘Multiple pages per sheet,’ which you can set to 6 or 9 based on your preference.
- And you can set it to ‘Black and White’ or Grayscale’
Then you’re free to go back to the first list (Step 2) and cut out your slides!
Did you find this guide useful? Any other tips to share? Please comment below.