The scaffolding

[Également disponible en français]

Write your novel without losing your head in the process

There are many ways to write a novel, and every writer must find his or her own.

What all novelists share, though, is the need to keep their ideas organized. As a novel grows more complex, there is an increasing risk to introduce errors in continuity or get lost in a sea of notes. The scaffolding was designed to make your life easier. In fact, it was first designed to make my life easier: I created and refined this tool in the course of writing my own novels. When I saw it had reached a promising stage, I locked myself in the lab, hammered it into shape, repainted it, and documented everything so you could benefit from what I’ve learned so far. (It was first known as “l’échafaudage” — thanks to Traduction DJP for translating the files and manual into English.)

The scaffolding - a novel-writing framework

A complete system

The scaffolding is a simple framework: not a piece of software, but rather a working process laid out in a clear and complete manual. You will quickly learn to takes notes using a variety of files, each with its own well-defined purpose. These files form a coherent whole, a complete reference system, with tables of chapters and scenes, character sheets, timelines… You can use it throughout the novel-writing process:

  • jot down your first embryonic ideas
  • map out a plan of attack (deadlines to meet, research needed, etc.)
  • document your characters along the way, as you get to know them
  • organize your research and keep a record of what you find
  • while writing, quickly take note of which passages will require special attention later
  • coordinate the timing of your various characters’ actions
  • while rewriting, refer to the scaffolding to get a clear picture of the overall structure of your novel
  • list your ideas for promoting the novel

Every detail has its own place somewhere in the scaffolding. You can use it to hold all the necessary data, thus freeing your mind for writing. You can refer to it at any time (while writing, or after leaving your project dormant for years) and you’ll easily find what you need.

A few good reasons to use the scaffolding:

  • you need your note-taking to be better structured
  • you’re new to novel-writing and hesitant as to how you’ll manage a story of such scope
  • you tend to write long or complex novels (or you’re about to try your hand at one)
  • you juggle many projects at once and can’t keep all the data in your head at the same time

Why use a set of files instead of specialized software?

  • Because it spares you from having to learn a new software interface and from getting distracted by that interface. (The more complex the tool, the more time you waste in studying it instead of using it.)
  • Because you can use it however you want; you don’t have to fight against every little quirk and defect of a piece of software. If there’s an aspect of the scaffolding you dislike, you can alter the files as you wish.
  • Because specialized software often creates documents in a specialized file format. If you no longer have access to this software later on, it could be difficult for you to retrieve your data. This is the reason why I work with text files as much as possible: they can be read in any editing environment. (Additionally, you don’t waste time on the layout and, since they’re lightweight, you can open a large number of files without having much of an effect on your computer’s performance.)

Who am I to be offering such a framework?

I’m a full-time writer and storyteller… with a computer science background. I’ve acquired a habit of creating efficient structures and documenting my process. Using the techniques associated with the scaffolding, I’ve written:

The scaffolding fulfills my needs even though I tend to choose complicated projects. I’m sure it will prove helpful for simpler projects as well: you can use the same files and work with the level of detail that suits you.

What makes up the scaffolding?

You will receive:

  • 14 files you can edit in your preferred applications (for Windows and for Mac)
    • plain text files, readable in any editor (also available in Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Writer format)
    • word processing files in two formats: Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Writer
    • spreadsheet files in two formats: Microsoft Excel and OpenOffice Calc
  • an in-depth manual (PDF format) explaining the role of each file and offering suggestions as to how you can integrate the scaffolding into your work process. Table of contents:
    • How to use the scaffolding
      • Basic principles
      • Software requirements
      • Components of the scaffolding
      • Creative steps
      • A little warning
    • List of files
      • Directories and alternate file versions
      • Main files
      • Character sheets
      • Reference files
      • Project organization files
    • Suggested methods
      • The gradual approach
      • How to manage your note-taking
      • Operations involving more than one file
      • How to manage versions
      • Research
      • Advanced techniques
      • Off the scaffolding
      • Altering and expanding the scaffolding
    • A few resources
      • Books
      • On the web
    • By way of conclusion

For each new novel, make a copy of the empty files and fill them as needed. There you go: you have everything you need to create a monster without getting swallowed by it.

There’s nothing more to it. I’m not prescribing anything. The scaffolding doesn’t come with a formula to follow: you won’t be expected to do exercises or complete a specific step before moving to another one.

The scaffolding won’t make you a great writer. The scaffolding will not put a tiger in your tank. The scaffolding will not be televised. However, yes, the scaffolding can help you to better organize your ideas and develop your novel.


The whole package (the files and the related know-how) is offered for $29 (CAD). The scaffolding is a finished product, but may still evolve as I find yet better ways to handle certain aspects of novel-writing. You will receive a free update if I produce a new version.

Guarantee: if, after your purchase, you realize the scaffolding is not the right system for you, simply write to the address below within 55 days of your date of payment. You will receive a full refund.

How to order

The button below will take you to a transaction page where you will be able to pay via credit card or through a PayPal account. You will then receive a download link at the email address you used for the transaction.

To offer the scaffolding as a gift: visit this page instead.

Please note that PayPal can be picky when accepting credit cards; if it doesn’t work for you, email me and we’ll come to another arrangement.

If you encounter any problems — or if you want to ask questions before you buy — write to me at:

scaffolding [arobas]