A quick look at my sidebar reveals that one of my most popular posts is my Romance Beat Sheet. Romance authors are well-connected and huge proponents of the “pay it forward” idea I mentioned last time, so when they find something helpful, they share the news.
I’m honored that so many have found my beat sheets useful. That thought makes my pathologically helpful heart fill with warm fuzzies. *smile*
Recently, one of those romance writers contacted me. Evolet Yvaine asked:
“I downloaded your Basic Beat Sheet template for Scrivener, but I would love to have a template for the Romance beat sheet. Do you think you’ll ever create a template for that?”
What a great idea! (I love when my readers give me ideas for posts.) If you’re a romance author and use Scrivener for drafting your stories, today’s post is for you…
Not Sure What Scrivener Is?
Many writers use Scrivener (Windows and Mac) because they sponsor NaNoWriMo and offer a discount to participants. But more importantly, writers like Scrivener for its organizational features. We can lay out our scenes with virtual index cards, capture our research information, and create character sheets, all in one program.
Honestly, I use about 1% of Scrivener’s capabilities. I don’t bother putting my research or notes into the program as I draft (I currently use MS OneNote for most of that). And my pantsing ways means that I don’t do a lot of planning—much less plotting—ahead of time.
(Yet I’m also a source of beat sheets popular with plotters. Go figure.)
However, I still love drafting within Scrivener because its many features and views give me a visual way of tracking the scenes for my point-of-view characters. Here’s a snippet from my current WIP:
Along the left side of the Scrivener program (under Binder), I can see who owns each scene and make sure that my hero (blue) or heroine (pink) aren’t getting too many scenes in a row. (Note: Newsletter readers, click through to the post to see all of today’s images.)
Tracking Word Count: Beat Sheets vs. Scrivener
Many writers don’t like dealing with math. *raises hand* The beat sheets on my site all have “auto-math.” We fill in the estimated word count of our story and all the word counts of the beats—the story events—will automatically populate. Yay! No math.
However, Scrivener doesn’t have a function for calculating how many words each section should contain based on assigned percentages of the total word count. That means any target word counts in Scrivener have to be calculated and entered manually. Ugh, I know.
Even as a pantser who doesn’t fill out beat sheets ahead of time, I still like keeping an eye my word count while I draft so I stay on track. Sometimes when I’ve been stuck on what to write next, I’ve discovered my muse wasn’t giving me any ideas because it was time to do the scene for the next beat. Oops.
As Scrivener users, we have two options for tracking our progress compared to the target word count for each beat:
- If we write linearly (drafting scenes in order of the final story), we can fill in our expected word count in our beat sheet in MS Excel and keep an eye on our overall word count in the Scrivener Project Targets word count window (in the Windows version, this is under the Projects menu).
Every so often, we could simply compare that number under Manuscript Target (where the example above says 81) to the word counts on our beat sheet and call ourselves done.
- If we don’t write linearly (or if we don’t want to bounce between programs), we need a way to keep track of our word count in each section of the story because our overall word count is scattered among scenes and won’t match up with our beats. Within Scrivener, we can track the total word count of scenes assigned to each beat, but fair warning: It requires math. *grin*
The Romance Scrivener Template for the Romance Beat Sheet
Although I don’t fill out beat sheets before drafting, I often have vague ideas in my head for at least some of the basic beats:
- Opening Image/Hook
- Inciting Incident
- End of the Beginning
- Pinch Point #1
- Pinch Point #2
(Click on the image to view larger size.)
If you click on the image, you’ll see those same beats represented by folders on the left side of the screen. I tuck each new scene into the appropriate folder as I draft. That simple step helps me see how many scenes I have leading up to each beat, as well as the total word count for all of those scenes.
(Note #1: The beats of the Romance Beat Sheet strongly pull from Michael Hauge’s teachings about Identity and Essence. If you’re not familiar with those concepts, check out this post about our character’s internal journey.)
(Note #2: I built this template off of the NaNoWriMo template, so it still includes the character and setting sketch templates, even though I don’t use them. Also, this template is already set up to use the Label field to flag for point of view (POV), as shown in my WIP snippet above.)
Now for the math part…
Step One: Customize a Beat Sheet for Our Word Count
For a single-title romance novel, a typical word count is 80-100K words. I set up my beat sheet and my Scrivener template for 85K because I always go over, so I figure it’s best to aim for the low end when I draft.
If a word count of 85K works for you and your stories, my template will work as-is and you can skip to Step Four. No math! *grin*
If you need to adjust the word count, however, keep reading. I set the word count by following these instructions, so you can adjust the template the same way.
If I open the Romance Beat Sheet and change the Word Count in the header section to 85,000, the results would look like this:
Step Two: Calculate the # of Words for each Beat’s Section
Notice the numbers for each beat on the far right under Word Count above. The Opening Image/Hook is easy, 2125 words. After that, we have to figure out the difference in word count between each beat and the one before it. For example, the Inciting Incident would be 16788 minus 2125, or 14663 words, End of the Beginning would be 21250 minus 16788, or 4462 words, and so on.
Step Three: Enter the Target # of Words for each Section
Once we have the numbers for how our total word count breaks down into each beat’s “section,” we can input that information into Scrivener.
(Note: If you’re not familiar with this view in Scrivener, you click on “Manuscript” on the top left (under Binder) and then on Outliner view (the right-most middle button at the top, yellow in this image).)
Under View—>Outliner Columns, we can select what information we want to see here. In this template, I have Title (the beat/folder name), Synopsis (what’s supposed to happen in that beat), Total Word Count (this is the actual word count for all scenes added to that folder), and Target (these are the numbers we calculated in Step Two), as well as POV and Status, all displaying as columns.
Double click on the numbers under Target to update for your Step Two word counts.
Step Four: Do Not Freak Out while Drafting!
Now while we’re drafting, we can keep on eye on our progress. However, this does not mean we should panic if our actual word counts under Total Word Count don’t match. *smile*
- We already have enough other things to worry about while we’re drafting. We don’t need to add tracking every single over or under word count to that list.
- We’ll change those word counts a lot during revision. Trust me. We’ll delete tangents, tighten sentences, add deeper emotional responses, flesh out settings and descriptions, and bring out our themes.
- The word counts of beat sheets are guidelines. Story flow is more important than sticking to these numbers. The main purpose behind beat sheets is to ensure a story arc unfolds with good pacing. The specific numbers don’t matter if the pace is strong.
- We might discover better beats while we’re drafting. This happens to me all the time. I think plot event A is going to be the Pinch Point, but it happens too early. Instead, when I look at what’s going on around the target word count, I discover another event that works just fine as a Pinch Point. Problem solved.
- We might end up with a manuscript word count nowhere near our expected word count. As I mentioned, I plan for 85K words, but I often end up with a first draft closer to 105K.
For example, here’s how those actual vs. target numbers might look during my first draft:
Once I’ve completed my first draft, I’ll update the Romance Beat Sheet for that real total Word Count number. Then I can look at the scenes near those updated word count numbers for each beat and decide if I have a pacing problem or not.
Rather than worrying about specific word counts while drafting, think of these folders and numbers simply as organizational tools. They remind me to avoid tangents, and they keep me from trying to brainstorm another scene when I really should be working on the next beat. The word counts are just an overview for me.
Interested in this Romance Scrivener Template?
(Note: I have Scrivener for Windows. From what I’ve heard, this template might work on the Mac version. If anyone can confirm Mac compatibility in the comments, I’d appreciate it. Or if a Mac conversion can be done, I can link it here.)
- Click here to download a zip file of the Scrivener template.
- After downloading is complete, select the zip file and extract the template file (Jami Golds Romance Template.scrivtemplate) to someplace accessible, like your Desktop. (Try right-clicking the zip file and selecting Extract.)
- Open Scrivener.
- If the Project Templates window doesn’t open automatically, select
- Click on Options in the bottom-left of the New Project window.
- Select “Import Templates…”
- Browse to where you moved the Jami Golds Romance Template.scrivtemplate file and select/open the file.
- Jami Golds Romance Template will now be available as an option in the “Fiction” section of the template chooser every time you start a new project.
Let me know if you have any questions. Gwen Hernandez has a great collection of Scrivener tips on her site and offers several classes. And please share your resources and tips in the comments. *smile*
Do you use Scrivener? If so, do you track word count beat-sheet style? Do you use a Scrivener template? If so, which one and why? If you write romance, will this new template be helpful for you?Pin It