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What's a Chapter Matrix--and how it helps your revision

So you’ve written your first draft—now what?

After I finished my draft, I had some things to consider. Is each chapter moving the story forward? Am I giving enough attention to my plot/sub-plots? More to the point—have I written too much/too little? (I came in at 140K, which for a YA/NA novel is wayyy too much). I needed a birds-eye view to check all these things. What resulted was a chapter matrix adopted from Tauri Cox’s terrific blog.

How do you do a Chapter Matrix?

- First, I opened good-old Microsoft Excel

- Next, I took my character goals (goals = plots and sub-plots) and listed them into columns. I focused on my protagonist only for this exercise as all of my characters and their goals are fairly intertwined, however you can do this for all your characters if you want. Don’t forget to include your main plot as one. In the end, you will probably have 4-5+ columns.

- With every goal referenced in the chapter, I highlighted a square. The main plot should ALWAYS feature in every chapter. By the end of your read-through, you should (hopefully) have a relatively even/consistent distribution of coloured cells.

- I added two columns next to these goals, one titled ‘Character Development’ and the other ‘Mood’. In the character development column, I noted key changes in my protagonist’s character journey (helpful when writing a synopsis). In the mood column I wrote one or two key words to describe the overall ‘feel’ for the chapter (for example, if you’re writing a romance and you have six chapters of the characters in loved-up harmony, you’re in dire need of conflict).

- Down the left side I listed the chapter numbers. This area is where you can note key events for your chapter (again, helpful in a synopsis).

Final tip: Beware any chapters with minimal highlighting. If your manuscript is too long, this could indicate where you could trim. Too short and you may need to beef up your plots.

Hopefully this is a helpful tool for anyone on their editing journey! Do you have any tips for editing? Let me know in the comments!

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