J.K. Rowling’s Hand-written Plot Spreadsheet for THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX

Need some inspiration? J.K. Rowling’s speadsheet for The Order of the Phoenix:

Q: Do you plot this extensively? Do you hand-write your plot notes?

Via @JohnathanGunson and @TheStoryMuseum

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

10 thoughts on “J.K. Rowling’s Hand-written Plot Spreadsheet for THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX

  1. Wow. That’s both extremely detailed and extremely organised. I must look a mess by comparison; I collect of ideas in a notebook and the plot is whatever was good enough to stick in my memory!


  2. Great to see this! I hate to say it, but it looks exactly like what I have posted directly on the wall in front of my desk. I’m so visually oriented that I I need this “picture” of where everything is headed, and where I have been. I’ll show this post to my friends so they can stop making fun of me for not keeping everything in some stupid computer file, “like normal adults do”. :)


  3. I definitely do something very similar to this, but it begins in chaos and slowly refines to something resembling structured. My ideas start out as little slips of paper and jotted notes that go in a basket on my desk, and are input into my moleskine in various categories and lists, then I take them back out of the moleskine by placing them on sticky notes, which stay posted on the wall above my desk. I like being able to look at the compartmentalized version in my moleskine, as well as the fluid organic version on my wall, to make sure everything is consistent.

    Thanks for posting this, it’s always fascinating to be able to peek into the mind of a successful (and absolutely brilliant) writer.


    1. Fascinating! That’s a very prescriptive method. I like that you cross reference with them. Consistency is key and these tools keep you organized and never mixing up your facts/character traits. Thanks, Lauren :)


  4. Plotters of the world unite! I really enjoyed taking a look at the creation of such a great book. JK Rowling is amazing! I have always admired her ability to mention something once in book 2 and tie it back in in book 5. Notes this in depth show how she never “looses” a character or thread of any sort.

    This must have been the day to discuss plots because I was tweeting about it just this morning. I must admit, I’m far more OCD than this example as my plot notes are typed, glued to index cards and color coded for POV, plot threads and plot turning points. Yeah, I have a whole system. I love it because I can spread it across the living room floor and see the story. It really helps with complex plots. Thanks for the great post.


    1. Wow! Across your living room? I hope your roommates/spouse/children don’t mind ;)

      Colour coding has come up in the comments a couple times. I think this is great, especially for visual people.

      Systems are good, but do you ever go off track with a brilliant idea? How to you find the butterfly effect of that with the pre-planned cards?


      1. There’s always room for brilliance within the system. It just creates a little more editing at the end to tie ideas back into the beginning. I try to spend enough time–2 weeks to a month–laying out a plot. By the time I start writing, I’ve already had most of my crazy game changing ideas and implemented them into the story board. Of course, that being said, my critique group always has some change for me to make in the end. I’m a huge fan of plotting though, even if I do have to keep my 3 year-old out of the note cards. ;) I posted pictures of my cards on twitter today if anyone is curious. http://www.twitter.com/southerntart


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