A Story Is Written In First-Person Point Of View When Writing to a Different Beat (Sheet)

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Writing to a Different Beat (Sheet)

If I ask the average person what a bit sheet is they probably have no idea. Even when I ask writers, they may or may not have heard of it, but many don’t know how it applies to them. If I ask what “do, ra, me” means, most people associate it with musical notes. But as Julie Andrews points out, this is only the beginning. Next, you go… “Doe, a deer, a doe, a drop of golden sun ray…” Think of a bit sheet as a starting point.

Even if you don’t like outlines, a beat sheet can be a useful tool for keeping a writer on track. A story beat is a type of plot point that you include to move your story forward. A beat sheet lists the different bits (or plot points) you want to include in your story. Some writers create mystery, fantasy, tragedy, a quest, or rage for wealth. Obviously, they can’t all have the same plot points, can they? Yes and no. All stories have a beginning, middle and end. It can be described as A) introducing a character, B) having a problem and C) having to solve it. In most cases, between items B and C there is a fourth point known as disincentive. After all, it’s hard to go back when everything was perfect in the beginning.

To show how this can be helpful, I’m going to create a new bit sheet and walk you through the process. Note: I only created mine in WORD because I don’t use EXCEL. You can make yours on paper if you want. Start with three categories. Some people call them acts (like a three-act play). Each of those laws will have a beginning, middle, and end. Do this one more time and you’ll have a table with 27 blank lines.

There are various Beats templates available online if you write in standard genres, but I don’t. I write time travel/romance, so some of the things I’m going to share will vary depending on your project. Just like the song, “Do, Re, Me” we all need a starting point. I took mine from a basic beat sheet I found online. For Act One I wrote: introduce the protagonist, hook the reader and set up the conflict. So far, we have only a few notes. Note that each law has three clauses, so we have three purposes for each law.

Key words in Act Two include the protagonist’s reaction, one step forward, and two steps back. If you’re looking at these phrases and thinking they’re kind of vague, you’re right. Remember, we haven’t started writing songs yet. Act three consists of the hero gaining courage, overcoming adversity, and conquering the adversary. So far, this can apply to any story. This is where we start to customize the sheet to work for you. With nine spaces under each law, you now have a 27-chapter book outline. Some concepts may take more than one chapter to grasp, I usually aim for 30 chapters.

Under Act One, in the opening section, I wrote: Action is the real hero, boy meets girl and is bigger than both. What does that mean? When I wrote these words, it was a mental note to me. To draw the reader in, I wanted to start with an action scene and I wanted them to see what he or she was really like. All we have entered so far is just a few words in the first column. You’ll notice column two is empty. This is where you take a few words and turn them into a full sentence. My goal is not to create a twenty-seven page document, but to spread the ideas on one easy-to-read page.

This process won’t write the entire novel for you, but… it will give you a roadmap to follow. Once you have 27 sentences, expand it to 27 paragraphs. If you can make 27 paragraphs, you can make 27 chapters. At this point you have completed 90% of the first draft. In the bit sheet I created I planned for three different side stories (mini time travel adventures) and two plot twists. Do I know what they are yet? No, but I plan to page-turn the story. It’s like highlighting your roadmap, so you can see where to turn next

Many traditional writers refuse to use outlines because they claim it takes away their creative options. If it makes you feel better, you didn’t make an outline, you made a bit sheet You don’t have to admit to being a conspirator if you don’t want to. I won’t tell anyone. Even if you don’t stretch to paragraphs yet, you at least have a roadmap of where you’re going. It’s a tool to use just like your computer or a thesaurus. You can see examples of both a blank beat sheet and my full time travel / romance beat sheet on my website.

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