Cruikshank to my Dickens – the Pantser’s Solution.

I’d like to state, right from the start that the only two things I have in common with Charles Dickens is that we both publish instalments and we both have a stalwart sidekick on whom we can rely.

He had Cruikshank; I have OH.

If I need to visit a location; he’ll come with me. If I need to sort out a plot hole – he’ll listen while I sort it.  He is my Cruikshank.

OH likes the simple things in life… like an Italian meal, a walk down the sea front, a chance to rant at the television – or Radio 4. Other things  that also make him happy are intensely private: his charity work; his amateur radio licence. And then there’s the phrase I uttered this evening.

“Sweetie, I need a spreadsheet.”

Yeah, I know, not what you were expecting.

But I do need a spreadsheet, and my OH is the man for the job!

He bombarded me with questions as we went up to collect the Italian. How many columns? how many rows? Does it need equations?”  There’s real excitement in his voice.

“It’s for for the latest Aldwych Strand tale.This one’s more complex than the original; I’m losing the plot!”

His little face falls. If I notice; I don’t react. “I’m getting confused as to who knows what and when; and I can’t let this go on.”  I tell him

“So it’s more of a set of rows and columns, yes?” He tries to feign enthusiasm, but you can tell the challenge is just not there any more! Oh don’t get me wrong, he’s an avid fan of Lucy and Mark’s adventures. But it doesn’t float his boat the way macros and look up tables do.

” I ‘spose so.” I admit.

He stops; he looks at me.

“Oh, so it is a set of rows and columns.” There’s a little sigh; the shoulders have sagged. He tries to change the subject. “How’s the problem?” He means in the book. “Have you solved it?”

“I think so, but it means altering a piece of information in chapter 3! That’s why I need the sheet.”

“OH!…” There’s a pause. It seems to go on forever. The shoulders square up again. He’s reached a decision. “Suppose I can fit you in. It’s not like it’s complex.”

He means it’s not like my data tracking sheet for work. That took months of loving creation and trawling the excel forums.

“Thanks love,” I say, refusing to rise to the bait!

I have solved my problem of keeping track of my plot; my characters; my locations and my motives and he gets an hour “faffing” with excel. Honour satisfied all round.

Except that… until that little phrase: “Sweetie, I need a spreadsheet,” I had been able to convince myself I was a Pantser writer.

I am not; I’m as OCD as the rest!  Mind you, do you think Cruikshank was good at spreadsheets?