I am going to share with you my greatest writing tool, the thing that keeps me sane in the crazy made-up world in my head. Behold, the Scene Tracker. (Please note: This is an excel file. It was virus free when it left my computer, but because I don’t want any mean emails, etc., you are downloading at your own risk, I make no guarantees as to how it will affect your computer).
Now that I’ve scared the crap out of you and you probably wouldn’t download it if I paid you, we’ll discuss it’s merits. Here is an actual image of mine from my finished novel.
You can just click it to get a nice full size view.
In the first column, you’ll see that I divided my scenes into chapters. I didn’t do this at first, I did it later, as I looked them over. I think that in the future, I’ll be writing with the chapter endings in mind, so I can be sure they end with page turning material. But, whatever works for you.
In the second column, I’ve done two things. First, I’ve divided the book up into Acts (I guess that was actually done on different rows as opposed to columns, but let’s keep going.) I’ve also numbered each scene as they occur in the act. You’ll notice that scene 9 is greyed out. I did that because I was considering (and did) taking the scene out. By being able to see my story as a whole on this spreadsheet, it became clear that the scene served no purpose and this character didn’t really need a POV. Ever. So, if my scene tracker did nothing else for me, that alone would’ve made it worth it.
Okay, next column: the timeline. I didn’t think, at first, this would matter. And then I realized that in the beginning of this story, Act I takes place over a week. And my week? Had 8 days. That’s why I created this spreadsheet, to help me keep track of what happened, when. Later on, when I needed my character to make reference, I could easily go back and see that event had happened two weeks prior. You may think you will remember this… but you won’t. Because it’s been a month or six for you, or maybe just two days, but it probably wasn’t two weeks.
The next column gives a brief description of what action takes place in the scene. Generally, when I’m writing, I make four folders and name them for each of the acts. Each scene is it’s own file in the respective folder, so the third scene was named: scene 3 justine tells mom.doc. It keeps them in order in the folder and lets me know at a glance what the scene is about. Sure, it’s cryptic to you, but I know exactly what she’s telling her. I just need a little jab to the memory.
Skip two columns over where the page count for the scene is listed. If you look all the way down to Row 22 of that column, you’ll see that Excel did my math for me. I know how long my first act is now. It’s a bit over my target (at least 15 pages, yikes), in fact, so I know with just a look, I’m going to have to cut.
After that: Chapter length. This formula isn’t built in because it depends on how many scenes are in your first chapter, or second. But it’s still fairly simple, even if you want to do the math yourself. For me, a chapter goal is about 20 to 30 pages. Your mileage may vary, but the point is, when I go to cut, I can look at this and see where I got a little wordy or if maybe I need to reorganize how I divided my chapters.
The next is self-explanatory: whose POV is the scene in. Next to that, the number of pages each character is getting, as a whole. I’m not a head hopper, but I do know who my hero and heroine are and who my secondary characters that are getting page time are, and I know a secondary character shouldn’t be getting more and I’d like my hero/heroine to be close to even. Again, it’s right there, at my fingertips. I’ve compiled the information as I wrote. This formula is also not included in the above file for similar reasons–it’ll be different for every story.
The next column isn’t on this picture, I added it to my blank template, the one you’re getting. Emotional Arc. The fourth column tells the action. This column tells the emotional outcome/events of the scene.
Finally, my notes for editing. I highlighted in column K each day so I’d know what I’d done in my first round of editing and the notes tell me what is yet to be done. I can also make a note, like, “Did the necklace come up again anywhere?” (if not, I take it out), or “Mention the number of suitcases,” because I know later, it’s going to be noticed by someone else.
At the very bottom, not pictured here, is the total page count for my novel. Another perk is that I want my acts to get shorter, so Act 1 should have more scenes than Act 2. And I can see that it does.
That is the Scene Tracker I’ve created, which you are more than free to use if you believe it would help you. I hate to pull a Dawn–inside joke, sorry–but don’t redistribute this or repost it anywhere else. Link back to the post, please. (Just click the title, then copy and paste from the address bar).