Sunday, June 25th, 2017

The Series Series, Part 6: Tracking Plot Details

When it comes to maintaining continuity of plot details in a series, it can be helpful to create a scene chart or a storyboard for each story as well as for the overall series itself.

Some novelists use index cards or Post-it notes to build a storyboard, because they allow for manipulation of the sequence of events in quick and immediately visible ways – but for tracking the many elements of a series over several books, a spreadsheet may be a better choice.

Whichever method you choose, the elements to consider keeping track of include:

  • Book Number / Title
  • Chapter Number / Title
  • Scene Number
  • Time / Time Frame
  • Location / Setting
  • Characters
  • Central Problem/ Conflict
  • Action / Events
  • Surprises / New Information
  • Open Questions

The last item is particularly important when it comes to avoiding red herrings and tying up loose ends.  Make note of any questions, puzzles or mysteries that come up in the course of a chapter so that you can track when, where and how they get resolved.

Of course tracking plot details for continuity is different than crafting a plot in the first place – but keeping a record of the myriad details can be helpful when it comes to plot development and the editing/revision process.   On the Children’s Book Hub, we have spreadsheets for both crafting plot and tracking the details, but you can create your own by copying and pasting the above elements into headings on a spreadsheet.

Next up, continuity of voice…

Series NavigationThe Series Series, Part 5: Tracking Settings

Comments

6 Responses to “The Series Series, Part 6: Tracking Plot Details”
  1. Beth says:

    With each post in this Series series, I am realizing more and more clearly just how many balls a series writer needs to juggle to keep a series “in the air.” I foresee a large number of spreadsheets in my future. As a visual person, I find myself wishing I had enough wall space to be able to map these story elements out in larger format than a spreadsheet in a file, although I think you’re right that the spreadsheet captures the elements of the series that need to be kept track of in an overarching way better than post-its or some other method that could easily become unwieldy.

  2. Sean Vogel says:

    Your series series is well timed as I am struggling with some of the consistency and continuity items you mention. The worksheets are a fantastic idea and as an excel geek, I will have a pivot table full of information in short order.

    Although I’m only on book two of a series, I can see the power in maintaining this data. Especially when it comes to character descriptions and avoiding accidental duplication. How many beady-eyed dark haired goons can a hero run into…

  3. Emma says:

    Beth – I’m a visual person, too – but you can always print the spreadsheet for quick visual reference! You’re right about wall space, though. Probably a folder is best…

  4. Emma says:

    Sean –
    Great to hear from you here, and I’m glad this series is helpful! I’m an Excel user but not particularly well-versed in it, so you’ve piqued my curiosity… Now I have to go look up pivot tables! Keep up the good work!

  5. Diane says:

    I am keeping it in a binder and like Sean keeping a spread sheet although started out on Excel I am now penning in details as they emerge for reference later. I have to admit keeping track of the list items you have suggested above had not entered my mind…. gulp! It will make life easier later on.

  6. Lyllie says:

    It’s incredible how little one would think there is to writing, and how that can allow people to become typically flippant about it, but this truly shows that there are actually quite a few factors to consider and decide upon to create a series. I’m currently learning as a student still in high school (with aspirations possibly too big to come true), and I’ve been struggling with loose ends in particular. With little help from my school, I turned to this website, and found that writing them down has proved positively perfect as a form of reference whenever there is less going on in the story to slip in a little more to eventually close the gap and tie the knot.

    This has certainly aided me in seeing how to set out stories, and I’m finally finished the third section of a series for my little sister. I’m sure this will help so many more struggling writers, as literacy and interest in reading/writing has dipped lately.

    Thanks so much Emma!

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