Writing Novels With A Spreadheet

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I love to write with a spreadsheet. I’m still amazed by how helpful  I find the tool and that I still find new ways to use it.

One of the columns in my spreadsheet lists objects. Originally I put this column in to make sure my scenes weren’t empty sets. I also list smell, sights, and sounds for this purpose.

Sometimes with the objects, I’ll use the object in a later scene. Like an innocent little baseball bat. The list reminds me to check what I’ve placed in an earlier scene and see if I can use it in an inventive and unusual way in a following scene. Like an innocent little baseball bat that’s not so innocent.

I knew all this. What I discovered this week is the object column can also help me find errors.

In one scene I have two characters eating lunch together. I list a fork. Later in the scene, I list a spoon as an object. But wait! I’m writing about the same character eating the same meal, so why has her utensil changed?

I went back in the scene and discovered I’d changed the utensil. Silly, but unnoticed when I read the scene without listing objects.

I love discovering new ways my spreadsheet can help.

Let me know if you use a spreadsheet and how it helps you write.

Thanks for reading . . .

Related articles:

Writing a Series: Spreadsheet

Keeping Track of Scenes

How to Use a Spreadsheet for Your Synopsis

Tips For Ordering Scenes In A Novel

How To Avoid Errors In E-Books

Have you ever noticed typos in an e-book?

Maybe it’s not a big deal, but I’ve been reading reviews on Amazon lately and have found reviews where readers enjoyed the story but won’t buy another book by the author because of typos, grammatical errors, or bad formatting. That can’t be good.

If you’ve published electronically, you don’t want this to happen to you. But how do you avoid it?

After you’ve proofread, and proofread and proofread again, then had your novel proofread by someone other than yourself, there is another task you can perform to ensure high quality work.

I use Scrivener to write and recently found the feature that exports a manuscript into e-book formatting. I tried this and then sent my novel to my Kindle. I used to just send a word document to my Kindle and read my novel that way, but how could I know if the formatting was off?

Now with this feature, my novel is formatted as a reader would see it on their electronic device. Scrivener will export to epub (.epub), Kindle ebook (.mobi) or iBooks Author Chapters (.docx). I’m sure there are other writing programs that have the same function.

It’s interesting reading my novel for the first time in this format. I caught several errors in formatting; such as, no space after one scene and before the next. This might seem like an inconsequential error, but what if I’d confused a reader by not indicating when one scene ended and a new scene started?

As an added bonus, reading on the kindle makes my novel seem real.

Do you have ways to check your novel for formatting errors or typos?

See Proofreading/Copyediting  if you’re interested in my in-depth process.

Thanks for reading . . .

Can You Proofread to Perfection?

And should you try?

If you’re  submitting your manuscript to your agent, publisher, editor, or beta readers, absolutely. If you’re interested in the process  I use for this, click here.

But what if you’re proofreading your blog before posting?

Maybe you could give yourself a break. I think the occasional typo is okay. Usually a kind reader will point out an error, sometimes even via a private email. The beauty of the blog versus a novel: it’s easy to update after publication.

I usually thank the person who pointed out my error, update the blog immediately, and move on.

Four steps to get close to perfection:

  1. Read once before posting draft.
  2. Read a preview version. Somehow seeing the blog in the format it will be posted helps me see it differently, and I usually pick up a typo or two.
  3. Read the blog out loud or have the computer read it to me. Then I can hear the error if my eye refused to see it.
  4. If I have the time, I let some time pass and read the blog again before I hit the publish button.

Just remember, we all makes mistakes and a typo isn’t one to lose sleep over.

Do you have any tricks for quickly eliminating typos?

Thanks for reading . . .

Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Three)

We are finally getting to the end of the second reading of a manuscript. Thank you to everyone who commented on the previous two blogs. It’s great to add new ideas to my process.

In Proofreading Process (Part One) and Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Two) I covered my process for the first and second reading of a manuscript. In the comments section of the blogs you can find lots of interesting ideas on the subject.

Today, I’m going to cover a few more technical areas and finish off the second reading. In the next blog, I’ll cover areas that involve making suggestions to an author but aren’t hard rules.

What about Mom and Dad?

Search for mom, dad, aunt, uncle, etc. and check if they are capitalized correctly. The capitalization of the first letter is easy to type wrong and difficult for the eye to see. A global search will force you to look at each case.

Mom is capitalized for direct address.

“Hey, Mom. I got a tattoo.”

Mom is not capitalized when referring to her.

“My mom doesn’t like my tattoo. Can you believe that?”


Acronyms should be added to your “list” as you read the manuscript. Then it’s easy to check if they are written in a consistent manner. For example:

PH.D or PhD or P.H.D.

AM or am or a.m.

It’s a good idea to check the style manual the author uses and pick the format from there.

Dialogue Format

When editing dialogue pay attention to punctuation and capitalization.

  • Is the punctuation inside the end quote correct?
  • Is the first word after the end quote capitalized when it shouldn’t be?

Correct: “I love my new car,” she said.

Incorrect: “I love my new car.” She said. (Did you notice the 2 errors?)

Correct: “Why did you steal my car?” he asked.

Incorrect: “Why did you steal my car?” He asked.

Possessive or Plural?

Look for words ending in ‘s’ and check if they were meant to be possessive or plural. Remember, it’s the dog’s tail, not the dogs tail – unless there are multiple dogs that share one tail, but then it would be the dogs’ tail. Now that I think about it, I guess that creature could exist in a fantasy or sci-fi novel.

The Dreaded Comma

I used to think I knew how to use a comma. Ha ha. The joke was on me. During my mentorship program with Joan Barfoot through the HSW Correspondence Program, Joan kindly pointed out I needed to learn how to use a comma.  I literally spent two months studying the comma. I guess the saying– you don’t know what you don’t know – is true. I can’t thank Joan enough for pointing this out to me.

I won’t go into the comma rules as there are enough books on the topic, but I wanted to mention how important the pesky little punctuation mark is. To create a professional looking manuscript, it’s worth the effort to learn how to use the comma.

What’s next?

Phew. I feel sweat dripping down my forehead. We are finally at the end of the second reading. The next blog, you guessed it, will start with the third reading.

I’m keeping track of suggestions and comments, and in the final blog in this series, I will post all the great ideas people have been generous enough to send me. I used some of the ideas to proofread this blog. I hope you don’t find a typo 🙂

Thanks for reading . . .