I’m in waiting mode.
Waiting for my story to come back from a beta reader. Waiting to see if my short story made it to the top three in the contest. And it’s a gray Monday morning. Quite bleak and blech looking outside.
So let’s do something fun—spreadsheets!
Although I’m not reworking the chapters of my story, I’m still thinking about it and analyzing it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been studying specific blogs from Jami Gold, Janice Hardy, and KM Wieland to measure how well my story is working.
By measure, I do not mean formulaic. But readers come to story with expectations—there will be two forces tugging against each other because they have goals that conflict with one another, their struggle will be set in a particular time and place, there will be (if the story is lengthy) a series of setbacks and advances until the FINAL big victory and defeat. If there is no tension in the story, why would a reader continue to turn the pages?
When I am writing or revising, it sometimes feels like all I do is fiddle around with words (true!) and I accomplish nothing (not true!). This is where a spreadsheet comes in handy.
Three Act Structure
Stories are divided into three parts: beginning, middle, and end.
How much of a story falls into each category? According to blogs I’ve read, the middle is often the biggest at 50% of the story. The beginning and the end contain 25% each.
But, I’ve also read that some stories shorten their beginnings to twenty percent and add the extra five percent to the middle. This is how I’ve chosen to roll with my story.
Below is just one of my excel spreadsheets. Under Act One, I list:
The figures in both the January and current word count columns are the same as I’m letting my story lie fallow while my beta reader has it. Some chapter titles have the year listed in front of them.
Behind the current word count, you’ll see I’ve bolded the major Plot Points that fall in Act 1; Launch (or Hook) and Inciting Event (or Inciting Incident). The red squares list the antagonist’s actions that I want to make obvious in that chapter.