At the West Houston RWA meeting this morning,

we had a workshop on charting a novel by chapters or scenes.  This is something I’ve done, in one form or another, since I started writing fiction, but I could see light bulbs flickering on over the heads of some of our newer members.  Our guest speaker, Julia Justiss, uses a Word document formatted as a table, with the first column for chapter, pages, and POV character, the second for events by chapter or scene, and the third for the characters’ emotions or situations.  When she needs to make changes or find some specific event, she can locate it quickly on the chart, and the recorded page numbers will send her to the right spot in her manuscript.

When I first began writing fiction I used a month at a glance calendar page and wrote the chapter numbers on the appropriate day.  Since most of the action in my first romance novel (a time travel tale) took place in the spring of 1873, I couldn’t use one of the stack of current calendars that come in my mail every year.  I had a perpetual calendar program back then that would print out any month for hundreds of years in either direction, but would not accept editing– I had to print out the page and write on it.  Then I discovered the calendar function in some simple spreadsheet program.  Although it required the user to fill in the dates (from the trusty perpetual calendar), it could be annotated and saved.  (If that method appeals to you, you can find links to practically any sort of calendar at or

My current work in progress takes place in a contemporary but unspecified October, and the chart lives on an Excel spreadsheet rather than a calendar page.  The date doesn’t matter, but the day of the week does.  The columns on my chart are CHAPTER, with page numbers and page count, giving me a quick comparison of chapter lengths; SCENE, with the scene number, currently running from 1 to 48, about half the projected book; DAY, currently covering Saturday through Wednesday; POV, for the point of view character, something that might be worth color coding for a quick view in a project with more than two POV characters; PLACE, for the setting; ADD’L CHARACTERS, for names; and ACTION, for a one sentence summary of the scene.  A chart like this can be customized, expanded, color-coded, or tweaked to reflect whatever is important.  This project includes a running joke involving tee shirt mottoes, and the first appearance of each shirt rates a line of its own, in purple, in the action column.  If I find myself hunting for anything else, I’ll just add a line where needed.

The Mystery of the Kitchen Sink:  When I walked out of my garage at 6:45 this morning, to pick up the newspaper and take a quick walk, I was startled to see a large object blocking the end of my driveway, something that hadn’t been there when I got home at 7:45 last evening.  On closer inspection, it proved to be a very large, extremely heavy old-fashioned porcelain kitchen sink.  Sitting on its edge on the curb at the end of my driveway.  I shook my head and went for my five-minute walk.

When I got back I gave it a tentative tug, not at all sure I could get my little Toyota out of the driveway on either side of the mysterious invader, but it was too heavy to move by myself.  Just then a woman came jogging along and offered to help, and between the two of us we managed to slide it along the curb to one edge of the driveway.  As she jogged off, one of my neighbors pulled in across the street, mystified to see me standing there staring at a stray sink.  He came over with a what-the-hell look on his face and moved the sink out of the street and onto the grass, but neither of us knew what to make of it.

When I got home from my day of RWA meeting, lunch, and shopping about 5 PM, the sink was gone.  My only theory is that it fell off the truck of some remodelling contractor working in the neighborhood yesterday, and that the same truck picked it up today.  But I’ll probably never know the whole story of the mysterious kitchen sink.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jo Eberhardt
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 13:27:47

    That kitchen sink story is hilarious. I love random events like that – they just remind me that the world is often a stranger and more unpredictable place than any we could make up and write about.



  2. Trackback: Books, Books, and More Books « Kay Hudson

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