How to organize your work in Google Docs

Put each story in its own folder

This will help keep your stories separate.  I recommend making a folder for story ideas, where you keep notes for future stories.

Here is an example where the writer is working on three stories:

Make sub-folders for drafts, reference material, etc.

As you write stories, you may want to save spreadsheets, reference material, older drafts etc. and you may want to make sub-folders for these items.

I recommend dividing longer works (novels) into chapters to make it easy to find things.

Use spreadsheets to keep information organized

Spreadsheets may seem intimidating, but they are just boxes that hold text or numbers.  We’re not doing anything fancy; we just need to stay organized.

If you like to keep your notes on characters and scenes in a Document, that’s fine too, but you may find spreadsheets much quicker to work with.

Creating a character sheet

If you’re working on a novel, you most likely have many characters.  Even if you only have a few, a spreadsheet can help you keep track of descriptions, motivations, backstories, etc. so that you don’t slip up and confuse the reader.

All the data on one page can also help you compare characters and avoid too many similar characters.

I recommend running the character names across the top, and putting a list of information that you want to track on the left (in Column A).

Create a scene sheet

A list of scenes, usually in chronological order, can help you immensely in organizing your work.  You can keep track of timelines, locations, points-of-view (what character is narrating the scene), and which characters are present.

You can also keep track of scenes to see how long they are, or if they have the requisite story structure of Goal>Conflict>Result or Dilemma>Decision>New Goal.  This can be useful for identifying weak scenes that lack important components of good scene structure.

I recommend one line per scene, with the information you want to track running horizontally.

Example spreadsheet

Check out our Snowflake Method Spreadsheet which contains both of these spreadsheets, and other helpful ways to outline your novel.

List of items to potentially include in a character sheet

You can copy and paste this list into Column A of your spreadsheet.

Name:
One sentence desc:
Motivation (abstract):
Goal(s) (specific):
What’s at stake?
External conflicts:
Internal conflicts:
Epiphany/Evolution:
Backstory prior to this story:
Storyline within this story:
Epilogue after this story:
Loves:
Hates:
Secrets/Shames:
Prides/Abilities:
Flaws/Challenges:
Values/Alignment:
Birthday / age:
Place of birth:
Parents:
Siblings:
Ethnic background:
Places lived:
Education:
Special training:
Jobs:
Wealth:
Travel:
Friends:
Enemies:
Dating, marriage:
Children:
Physical appearance:
Physical build:
Posture:
Head shape:
Eyes:
Nose:
Mouth:
Hair
Skin:
Tattoos / piercings / scars / etc.:
Voice:
Right- or left-handed:
Handicap:
What you notice first:
Clothing:
Health/disabilities:
Characteristics:
How would character describe self:
Interests and favorites:
Collections, talents:
Political leaning:
Food, drink:
Music:
Books:
Movies:
Sports, recreation:
Color:
Hobbies:
Religious beliefs:
A great gift for this person:
Favorite subject in school:
Pets:
Vehicle:
Emotions
Fears:
Idiosyncrasies:
Typical expressions:
When happy:
When angry:
When sad:
Laughs or jeers at:
Ways to cheer up this person:
Ways to annoy this person:
Hopes and dreams:
Overall outlook on life:
Does this character like him/herself:
Wants to change anything about his/her life?
Is s/he lying to himself about something?
S/he is the kind of person who:
How much self-control and self-discipline does he have:
History
Worst thing ever done and why:
Greatest success:
Biggest trauma:
Cares about most in the world:
Does he have a secret:
Most embarrassing thing that ever happened:
Strongest/weakest character traits:
Other people
People the character admires most:
How is the character viewed by others:
What people like best about him/her:
What people dislike about him/her:
What does this character like best about the other main character(s):
What does this character dislike about the other main character(s):
If s/he could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be:
Why will the reader sympathize with this character:

List of items to potentially include in a scene sheet

These are the column headers for each scene, some of which are shown in the example image above.

Scene Name (for example, a chapter title or your scene’s title)

Scene Summary (one sentence description of what happens)

Time/Day

Location

Point of View (whose point of view is this scene written in?)

Scene or Sequel? (is this a scene, or is this a sequel to a scene)

Goal / Dilemma (what is the goal for the scene, or if this is a sequel, what is the dilemma)

Conflict / Decision (what is the conflict in the scene, or if this is a sequel, what is the decision they reach)

Result / New Goal (what is the result of the conflict, or if this is a sequel, what is the new goal that is a result of the decision)

Characters Present (which characters are here? are they all being involved in the scene)

Significant point in a character arc? (If this scene is a significant moment in a character arc, why?  Which character?  You may want to create a character arc column for each character, to track their development through the scenes)