Yes, I said ‘spreadsheet’ and I’m not drunk. Yes, I’m a writer and I use software to generate loads of text, and still I said spreadsheet.
So what do writing and spreadsheets have in common? Amazingly little, to be honest, but there is a way that, for me, a spreadsheet has, once again, proven its value.
The Naked Truth
When I was writing The Naked Truth, I resorted to a spreadsheet to keep all the facts and the sequence of things happening in order.
Contrary to writing the Naked Crow stories or the Mirror Earth books, The Naked Truth is a detective kind of mystery thing. In such books everything needs to be addressed, all the open ends need to be nailed shut (or stapled, whatever your preference is). For that reason I had come up with, indeed, a spreadsheet. In there I had all the events and consequences lined up, numbered them, sorted them and made sure they made sense.
Apparently that worked.
Emma Nelson 3
Guess what. Emma Nelson 3 is a detective kind of mystery thing too, as are the first two Emma Nelson books. (Because, watch out, spoiler alert, there will be a third Emma Nelson book.)
I’ve been fighting the flow of the story for a while, until it dawned on me that there was this crazy little thing called Google Sheets. Spreadsheet stuff. That was a bazinga-moment, because I set up a new sheet, threw all my thoughts and notes into it and started putting numbers in front of the actions, moments, things and other bits.
From that moment on, the story started flowing as by itself. (This is not true. Writing mystery is hard work and it’s also accompanied by many curse words when I discover another plot hole. But I shan’t bore you with that.)
The good thing is that this has made writing Emma Nelson 3 a lot easier, and I can still kick myself for not thinking of that spreadsheet bit before. It would have made life a lot easier.
Now before all you spreadsheet addicts jump me and demand to know why I don’t use Excel, like any other decent human being: I run Linux and that doesn’t do Excel. Also I’m not into Microsoft (hence Linux). Google Sheets works perfectly for what I need.