Writing Advice: Beat Sheet

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When it comes to story planning, some of us are big picture people and others are more focused on the minute details of what is going to happen in the plot. Luckily, there are planning and plotting techniques for both kinds of writers. As I said last week, I will be talking about different plotting/planning techniques each Monday in October. Next month is National Novel Writing Month, which means that this month is all about plotting out your story. Even if you’re not participating, though, I hope you find these posts helpful for planning your story.

This week I’m focusing on the “beat sheet” approach to plotting. In this blog post, 25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story, Chuck Wendig talked about the writer’s beat sheet. I had not heard of this approach before I read Wendig’s blog post, but it sounds like an interesting way to go. As Wendig describes it, the beat sheet is “for you real granular-types, the ones who want to count each grain of sand on your story’s beach… Chart each beat of the story in every scene. This is you writing the entire story’s plot out, but you’re writing it without much dialogue or narrative flair. It’s you laying out all the pieces. The order-of-operations made plain.”

This sounds really, super in-depth. And that might be overwhelming for a lot of writers, but this also might be right up your alley. If it’s something that you’re interested in, I think there are a lot of advantages to the “beat sheet” plan. Knowing these granular details of what will happen in your story will allow you to sit down each day and know what you’re writing that day. If you don’t have to stop and think about what you’re writing each day, that will give you more time to actually write.

It may sound strange, but knowing those itty bitty details of your plot will also give you more room to change things. If you know everything your characters will experience, from top to bottom, then you know where things can change and where they can’t. Having this kind of up close and personal relationship with your story means that you can alter it if you need to and make adjustments easily.

I hope this helps you out! Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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