The JKR Plot Spreadsheet: A Method For Your Madness

Tips, Writing

There are many posts about JKR being the “Writing Goddess,” or “How to Write Like JKR.”

This is not one of them.

Blog title

I do think, however, that J. K. Rowling did some things right. Okay, everything a lot of things right. So when I stumbled across the plot spreadsheet that she did for Order of the Phoenix, I was intrigued.

You’ve probably seen it, the blue ink scrawl on a piece of notebook paper. Authors have been making spreadsheets like this, perhaps even better than this, for years. But this one is a little different. I wanted to post about this because it’s a familiar story to a lot of us. The way she organized her plot points helped me to see how I could organize my own. 

Before I started my WIP for NaNo2014, I did some kind outline. Honestly, I don’t know what to call it. I’d done for my last novel, so why not this one?

It was basically a story arc that I slapped little points onto and summarized so I could follow along as I wrote. A road map, per say.  Though messy, it served its purpose and really kept me on track. But this was my idea of the story before I’d written it.


After it was written? This thing became (generally) useless, except for nostalgia’s sake. (And this blog post. Ha.)

I tried several different ways to outline my plot on a single page, or at least in the same area. What I needed was a good overview of everything that was happening, and how each sub-plot moved about and interacted with the rest of it’s subplot friends. But I hadn’t found the right way, not until I’d see this plot spreadsheet. 

It’s set up so that at-a-glance you can get the ‘stats’ for each chapter. Chapter number, time, title, plot, it’s all right there. You can also see how the different subplots work with one another, and how each one grows during each chapter. It’s a really a great way grasp all of your story and see it on the page… even if it takes several sheets of paper and is covered in arrows, scratch marks and circles.

So, what did I do with all of this? I just pulled out a piece of note book paper and started in on making it my own.  You probably could find a template somewhere online, or build one of your own in Word or Excel, but I liked doing on paper.

Besides, the typical “Chapter Number,” slots and different subplot slots, I put in slots so I can see which grade, or “Phase,” as it’s called in my world, that my characters are all in at the time. Then I added in my different subplots such as “Idella and Lyric,” or “The Book Room.” Also, since my character slowly comes to terms with something over the course of the novel, (it’s basically one of the main plots) I added a “doubt/belief” column, so I can keep track of how she feels about her doubts and beliefs during each chapter.

So now, I dare you to go and plot out your story, or even utilize this method in brainstorming for say, NaNoWriMo.

Have you ever used this plotting/outlining method before? What’s your favorite way to outline your story?


6 thoughts on “The JKR Plot Spreadsheet: A Method For Your Madness

  1. I have seen the image of JK Rowling’s plotting before, but this post has lots of good advice in terms of plotting. I’ve done reverse-outline things like this in English. (for example, we looked at each Hamlet act, what was happening with Fortinbras, with Hamlet’s revenge, Hamlet and Ophelia, etc.) Interesting! If I ever write a novel, I’ll have to plot or it’ll never get finished, so this is useful 🙂


  2. Eeek. I don’t know if I could outline like this. I treasure my freedom in writing first drafts, and I feel like this would restrain me too much. It might work for me in a later draft, maybe. But it’s a beautiful outline that I’m sure lots of people benefit from! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! ❤


    1. I enjoy freedom in first drafts as well. I used this method for my secondish draft, just to lay it out for my scattered brain. XD
      Thank you for your comment!


  3. Thanks for the advice. Just wonering if you can fix the picture or link to the spreadsheet you are referring to om mentalfloss. I only see half of a link and no picture…


  4. Thanks for the advice. Just wondering if you can fix the picture or link to the spreadsheet you are referring to on I only see half of a link and no picture…


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