I’m supposed to be writing my 90,000 words on my current project, not playing on my soon to be NaNo project, but my brain is toast and needs a change of direction, so I’m going to have a look at One Stop For Writers resources so I can feel like I am actually doing something constructive and useful! Writing, it’s all about tricking your brain in to doing something it doesn’t want to at times.
I’m going to be featuring the Templates and Worksheets in this post (it’s the ex-teacher in me, I can’t help but make a beeline for worksheets!) and exploring how helpful they are in terms of preparing me for NaNo madness.
The first thing you notice about the One Stop website, completely unrelated to worksheets, is that it has a very clean look and feel. The creators say they’ve worked hard to give it an intuitive design, and you can really tell. Navigation is easy, and the page is nice to look at. That sounds dumb, but really, there are so many web pages that are not nice to look at or easy to navigate. Big name websites too – Amazon, for instance, I find a nightmare. When your head is in the bin anyway because you’ve got plot ideas coming out of your ears and you’ve already had eight coffees and written 1200 words, you really don’t want any confusion or clutter. On this front, One Stop delivers from the very first page.
Templates and worksheets then! There are seven worksheets to assist with your story writing: Character’s Fears, Emotional Progression, Settings At-A-Glance, Body Basics, Character At-A-Glance, Physical Description and Symbols and Motifs. Each deals with a different aspect of your story – most, as you can tell, to do with characters. Some worksheets can be done online in the One Stop workspace (those with the ‘My Worksheets’ option) while others have to be downloaded. They can all be downloaded in either PDF or Word template version, PDF ideal for printing for those of you that prefer long hand for this sort of thing, Word ideal for those who might want to modify the worksheets, or just simply prefer to work in the virtual workspace. All have a preview option – just hover over the eye symbol to the right of the box – and some have detailed examples for you to look at.
I’m going for Character At-A-Glance today, mostly because it’s what I know best about this project. It’s not one of the ones you can complete online, so I’ve downloaded the Word format.
The worksheet starts with a brief explanation of what it’s trying to help you achieve, along with a little bit of advice about creating varied and interesting characters. The worksheet itself is just a cross-tab of character traits against character name. Simple and brief – a perfect starting point for character development. And if you have a few key characters, this would be ideal for conducting some Comparative Analysis… Which is a posh way of saying ‘read down one of the columns and check the boxes don’t all say the same thing’. If all your characters are amazing archers with great singing voices, you know you have a lack of diversity in your cast. A bit of colour coding could help to visualise character traits that are complementary or oppositional. And as I’m about to explain, colour coding and more is possible thanks to the Word template.
What I really like about these Word templates, is that you have the capacity to edit them. If, like me, you’re a stickler for layout stuff, you can set it to your own preferences. Above, I’ve centrally aligned all the table cells. Because that, to my brain, is the best way of doing something. It’s all personal preference, of course, but it allows you to make the worksheets work for you.
You can also use tab in the last cell to drop another line on the next page. And another and another if you so desire or have a lot of characters.
The table doesn’t automatically put the header at the top of every page, but you can easily modify that by highlighting the header row of the table and right clicking, then going to Table Properties. Under ‘Row’ you have the option to tick ‘Repeat as header’. I always then go and highlight everything that isn’t a header, repeat the process but untick ‘Allow row to break across pages’ to stop one row splitting across two sheets, making it difficult to follow. The only thing I can’t seem to make work is automatic resizing of the cells to fit your text, but you can easily move the lines up and down until everything you’ve written shows.
You can do loads more stuff, just like on any word document. For instance, the protagonist in my project suffers from memory loss, so she has two facets to her personality – the person she was before she forgot who she was, and the person she is now. To make this work with the worksheet, I’ve simply added another line to divide the cells in to two. It’s basic layout stuff, but the fact that you have the option to do this sort of thing is a huge plus for me. I hate prescriptive forms that have those awful ‘fill in here’ grey boxes. For one, they never work properly, and they are so limiting. Writing is about creativity, and the One Stop team have generously allowed for you to use their products creatively.
I’m not going to post the finished worksheet, because you really don’t need to see a load of teeny tiny notes that won’t make any sense to you, but I will complete it, and report back in later posts if I use it and find it useful (or not).
Next up, I’ll take a look at a few more of the worksheets and explore the option to complete them online.