Beat Sheet

I’m in Wisconsin right now with our friends the Brandons. And having a lot of fun. This morning I got up at 5:30, because we had decided to go on a walk together at 6. Well, no one would was getting up and I didn’t know why until us girls discovered that the clock in our room was a whole hour fast, so I actually got up at 4:30. haha. So then us girls went on a walk, and then the whole gang of kids went on a walk. And then people started complaining because I walked too fast, haha, so I showed them right, I walked the whole way back backwards! Yes I did. I bumped into a parked car, got weird looks, had to jog backwards across the streets, and everybody wanted me to stop, not to mention my calves were aching. But I kept on going and it was worth it, not that I’m going to do it again, just that I did, I walked backwards on the way back.

So! I promised to help out as much as I could in the rewriting, revising, editing part of this whole novel thing. During NaNoWriMo you only got your first draft, and chances are, there’s going to be a lot of changing. But don’t worry about changing yet! Think about what you have, and what you want, not about how to change it to get what you want. What I mean, is make a beat sheet. I learned from the book Nail Your Novel how to use a beat sheet, so here’ how.

Solemnly swear that during the beat sheet you will not edit or revise, nor will you despair. Good

Now read through your first draft and write a brief, preferably one sentence, description of each scene, and perhaps a one word exclamation or such. Like so, “Westby sees Adofo accused–disturbing” “Hurlee and Hanson talk–sad” “Westby alone at night–very sad”

Your beat sheet could also be called, “At a Glance.” Once you have your whole story on hopefully one piece of paper, maybe two, you can review. Your first draft will have things like

Scenes that are too long or too short
The characterization is rough and varies wildly from start to finish
The pace is inconsistent, either relentlessly fast or monotonously slow
The timeline is random and one week has several Thursdays
The themes don’t come through
The writing doesn’t sparkle
The dramatic scenes lack impact
The dialogue is obvious
Irrelevant nonsense has crept in
Characters have run away with certain scenes or threads
The tone is uneven and seems to belong to several separate books, and then there are the unexplained madrigals
(List from Nail Your Novel.)

With your beat sheet you can check things like

Has my novel got enough highs and lows?
Do I have too many scenes on the same emotional note?
Should I slip in a quieter scene to give the reader a breather from the tension, or perhaps a bit of humor?
Do I need more tension or suspense?
Is the opening gripping and true to the story? (Don’t write a thriller-type opening if the rest of the novel is going to proceed at a much quieter pace)
Is the ending satisfying? Is it surprising yet inevitable?
Does it properly answer the question set by the story? Do I need to plant more seeds to make it work?
If it’s a thriller, is it pacy enough?
If it’s a comedy, have I got enough laughs?
Have I given the prominence I want to the characters who are most interesting?
Does one character monopolize the story, and do I want it that way?
Has a subplot taken over or dried away completely?
Are there any other loose ends?
Does my subplot relate to the main plot or has it drifted away?
Are my themes coming through?
(List also derived from Nail Your Novel.)

Also, write down each scene’s intended purpose, whether to intensify the story, explain a character change, or whatever. Every scene should have a purpose, and if there isn’t one, italicize that scene for later when you rewrite.

Then write a mission statement for your story, and you are ready to being the rewriting process. But frankly, the beat sheet was hard enough, we’ll do the rewriting tomorrow.


-Electric Bubbles

15 thoughts on “Beat Sheet

  1. OOOOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhh! ^_^ Fun….I didn’t know that you were going to Wisconsin….I hope you have a great time…*MY* silly awesome pen-pal…. 😉

  2. Electric Bubbles (great name!) thanks so much for mentioning my book and I’m delighted it’s helping you. Another Nail Your Novel is in the works right now, so if there’s anything else you’d like me to cover I’m taking requests! Good luck with the rewrite.

    • Wow, I’m flattered to have you comment on my blog. I loved your book, thank you so much! I can’t think of anything at the moment, but I will be sure to let you know, should I think of something. Thanks!

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