#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

I started out as a pure pantser with my only guide being yWriter. That rough draft still sits in a folder of one of my clouds waiting patiently for me to return to it.

The poor thing needs so much revision, when and if I get back to it, it will be a total rewrite. One of the major problems is I did not to any preparatory work on the project except for a short worksheet on the main character. Even with that, I changed so many things about my protagonist, the worksheet became worthless.

At a snail’s pace, I have been learning to accept the fact I need to be a plotter–of sorts anyway. My short-term memory loss issue is getting in the way of me ever having a book published, that and those rare days when my motivation cannot be thrust into motion no matter what I try. If I am ever going to get any manuscript finished, I need outlines and summaries already done. The incidental days are not of great concern to me; that is as long as they are not frequent. As they are so far, I will call them mental health days meant to be used to take care of myself instead of the project I am working on.

Trying to find the right approach to this preliminary work has been vexing. Googling for worksheets generated page upon page of sites offering guides of all kinds promising to make the task of writing easier. I find myself being reluctant to use the templates that have more than three pages worth of questions for me to answer about the characters, plot, and/or scenes. Bits and pieces of the plot are already in my head so that all that is needed is a brief summary. The fine details will come to light as I need them. The same goes for the characters and scenes, although, with the former, I like having “complete” worksheets on the main characters so if I forget the color of the hair, how tall or short they are, or any of those pesky details, I can just click on the worksheet to get the prompt.

In the end, I went with the worksheets from Creative Writing Now. The site also offers courses but, as you have probably guessed, I cannot afford them. One thing I noticed right away about one of the guides was there was not the word, plot, or any form of it on the page. They call it a novel outline. Even at that, it is more of a summary with prompts. It should not make any difference but, psychologically, I felt as if the authors of the site, Nancy Strauss and Linda Leopold Strauss knew what type of writer I am and had addressed their offers in such a way that I was sure to accept them.

My worksheets include:

  • Novel Outline Summary
  • Character Outline
  • Scene Outline

I do not need a world building outline because my project is in the historical genre. Still, as I write each scene, I am doing research on the era of my story, hoping I am putting the reader into the thick of the tale I am writing.

Some authors use what is called beat sheets. They kind of combine the three outlines using a spreadsheet mode. Jami Gold has several templates of this kind at her blog. If I feel I am getting stuck on this journey, I will pop over to her domain and pick one of the forms to download and use.

Have you found the worksheets that do the job for you? I am interested in knowing which ones and why you picked them.

“I’ve always said, ‘I have nothing to say, only to add.’ And it’s with each addition that the writing gets done. The first draft of anything is really just a track.” ― Gore Vidal


8 thoughts on “#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

  1. That was interesting, Glynis. I’m going to look at Easy Novel’s worksheets. I like using those to organize my writing. I use the Marshall Plan. Then, I set up a spreadsheet that starts as just a few lines and then I keep adding to it until I have as many details as I can. For many, that’s far too structured but for me, it’s just what I need.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I use the 3-act method. Even with that, I’m just summarizing what I want in the story. The Novel Outline helps me with this for the book. I do the scenes similar only with a hook at the end of each one in hopes of making the reader turn the page instead of closing the book.


  2. This is so interesting to me, Glynis, because you are swimming in waters I’ve never entered. I’ve never tried to write a novel, so I’ve never used a worksheet. In fact, I didn’t know they existed. I’m toying with the idea of writing fiction, and if I do give it a go, I’ll have a look at the worksheets you mention. It seems that they would be a good way to organize my random thoughts and at least get me started. I admire your grit and determination. My money’s on you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the support, Janet. The ones I mentioned are not the only ones out there. If you Google the term, novel worksheets, you will get more than enough sites to consider.


  3. I have a bunch of worksheets from C.S. Lakin. It took me a long time to realize I am by no means a pantser. Lakin’s worksheets go beyond outlining and really help a reader figure out character motivation, etc. A ton of stuff needs to be written and processed that will never make it to the page. I’ve also found Larry Brooks’s StoryFix website and his related books quite helpful. Personally, I think there’s a lot to be said for mapping out a three-act story structure with appropriate turning points before getting started. That structure is so ingrained to us as human beings. Readers don’t necessarily tell themselves that was a great turning point or subplot as they read, but they know it in their bones. When such elements are present in a story, that’s when a reader comes away with that often vague sense of not being able to pinpoint what necessarily went wrong with the story

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am comfortable with the scene summaries/outlines. Eventually, I hope I can get to where I do not feel the need to write my stories necessarily in chronological order and just use the scene sheets. Then, just move them around the way I want the story to be read. Not really the snowflake method but be more flexible than I am now.


  4. I disliked worksheets as a kid, I avoided using them when I taught, and I won’t rely on them now. I do lots of background writing for my novels but they’re not worksheets.

    However, my style works for me and would plunge many others into quicksand.

    Liked by 1 person

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