How to Keep Up With the Details in Your Manuscript

As I’ve said before, writing  “The End” on the first draft is only the beginning of your work on the road to publication. One of the things I discovered, immediately after completing a 77,000 + word draft, is keeping up with the details, even with Scrivener, seems like a monumental task.

When did that character show up? Are the descriptions consistent? Does the timeline make sense? Do I need to name that character? Is the character necessary? And, so on. There are more details to keep track of than one imagine when you begin writing your story. 

So here are a few spreadsheets I’ve come up with to help me. Feel free to copy the format, should you find these helpful.

  • Character Appearance Spreadsheet –  Scene by scene. At a glance I can see where every character, including minor ones, appear in the novel. An * designates an active character and an ‘M‘ a walk-on or character mentioned in a conversation. This allows me to see the flow of the story, spot minor characters that I may not need to name, need at all, or POV inconsistencies.

  • Character Map – includes every character (named or unnamed) and where they first appear in the novel;  their role, descriptions (from anywhere in the manuscript), occupation, relationships, meaningful repetitions, and notes. Again, this had provern helpful in spotting holes, inconsistencies, or help with character attributes and descriptions.

  • A setting and Timeline Spreadsheet – a list of the settings and timeline the story is taking place. It also includes descriptions of the setting (used anywhere in the manuscript), and the relationship the setting has to the character.  At a glance, I can tell whether I’m being redundant, inconsistent, or lack descriptions in my settings. It is also, a great way to see the holes in the timeline.


  • The Threads Map – Scene by scene, I  list the relationships revealed, useful repetitions, unusual phrases/words/references with meanings, threads I need to carry throughout the story, and any  notes on holes or things I need to follow up on during edits and rewrites. Helps me spot holes or unanswered questions, immediately.

Hope you will find these helpful and should you have suggestions for how you keep up with the details, please share it with us.


I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story. I’m all ears and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

26 thoughts on “How to Keep Up With the Details in Your Manuscript

  1. Great tips, Sheila. I like your spreadsheets and the level of detail you captured. When I wrote “One Village Short of an Idiot,” I kept of list of all the characters at the bottom of the manuscript so that I could quickly scroll down and check the name spelling and other particulars before inserting them in a new scene. With my lastest WIP, “Criminal Mimes,” there are fewer reoccurring characters (although the list is growning as I approach 10K words) and tools such as these can help prevent a lot of rework on down the line.


    • Glad you found them helpful. It can be a bit tedious, but I’ve found it very helpful in finding hanging ‘threads’ or plot holes. Now, the real work has begun.Thanks for reading and I always appreciate your feedback.


  2. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links | Staci Troilo

  3. Your words are so helpful and encouraging. I’ve never found it hard to get rid of unnecessary dialogue or characters. If they don’t work for you, chances are they won’t work for your readers. Even when you’ve created some of the best stuff, you. We need to let go of it if it isn’t advancing the story
    Or has no bearing on it. Save those flowery words and phrases for your poetry or prose writing. Thanks for sharing your knowledge❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The beauty of the first draft is the foundation it sets. From there layers can be added and this is a prime example of that. So many people are afraid of first drafts that they talk themselves out of writing. It’s a shame. There are so many great ideas out there.

    I’m copying this as a reminder. Thanks!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great blog! I could’ve done with doing these tables in my current WIP. I ended up tracking it slightly different, but in a way that is nowhere near as clearly laid out as this. As I hope move into novel 2 I will definitely take up these tips. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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