Using a Spreadsheet for Revision

Small update for anyone who’s interested: My April Limited Internet Challenge was amazing! I felt more energetic and had a lot more time to make good use of all that energy. I even finished a draft of a manuscript that I’m going to spend the foreseeable future revising. I highly recommend cutting back on the internet!

Remember that completed draft I mentioned a sentence ago? Well, it’s the third book in the YA fantasy series I’ve been working on, which means that I am now faced with the daunting task of revising three books at once.

I honestly don’t know how authors write one then revise and then move on to the next book in the series without being able to revise previous ones. Maybe they’re better planners than I am. I had an idea of how it would end, but I didn’t know how it was going to happen until a couple thousand words before I got there.

So now I need to make sure that 1 and 2 are in line with 3 and that there are no dropped subplots, etc. Rather than facing three giant blocks of text, I’ve decided to try something new (for me): a spreadsheet of all the scenes. It’s like a reverse outline—creating an outline from a completed text—but extremely detailed, with each scene being broken down into inciting incident, turning point, climax, resolution. The spreadsheet also includes who is in each scene and where and when it is and what is mentioned/foreshadowed.

All of the categories are metadata categories in my Scrivener projects that I have exported into spreadsheets before combining all 3 into a single file. (Have I mentioned before how much I love Scrivener? Every time I think I’m using it to its full capacity, I discover new features.)

At a glance, I’ll be able to see simple things, like whether each important character makes an appearance regularly and if the timeline works out (e.g., not every day is Friday). But what I’m most concerned about right now is that each arc/subplot is resolved and every scene follows logically from the last with no extraneous scenes added and no crucial ones left out.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes and if I discover any tips and tricks for using a spreadsheet to plan revisions as I go through it.

If any writer friends out there have undertaken the revision of a series, I’d love to hear how you handled it. What did you do/use to make sure nothing was dropped or appeared out of nowhere?




2 thoughts on “Using a Spreadsheet for Revision

  1. This is a great idea! I have Scrivener but definitely don’t use it to its full abilities. Do you have a tutorial you’ve found and used? Best of luck with revising 3 books! That’s a huge undertaking but I believe you can do it!


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