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Idea to Novel Superstructure: Emacs for Writing

Bala Ramadurai

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You want to write a novel, but you don't know how to create an outline. You have a seed idea for a novel, and you intend to expand it into a complete story. You have many ideas for a novel, and you are wondering how to proceed. You started writing your heart out, and you now feel the need to create a framework for a novel.

Worry not, Emacs is here to the rescue.

Listen to this talk to find out how to develop your story idea into a framework for a novel, all within your favourite text editor, Emacs.

What you will learn during the session:

  • How to write a single-line plot for a novel
  • How to write the backbone of the novel, the main character arc
  • How to create characters and write their arcs
  • How to create a story design
  • How to create the scenes design
  • How to plan your novel writing project
  • How to track your project

The modified Emacs template has all the ingredients and flow to start from a basic idea to a full fledged thrashed out novel superstructure.

Once you are done with the superstructure, you can use the planning and clocking infrastructure to finish scene after scene, thus finishing your masterpiece.

We will use:


  • Actual start and end time (EST): 9:40-9:58


Do you have occasions to use Emacs for multilingual text composition? How do you deal with spell-checking etc?

  • Wrote in English with spell-check but wasn't able to find anything for the local script
    • ^ thank you. I find using multiple languages in one document is a hard problem, not made easier in Emacs

Is it possible to align the columns in headings and subheading?

  • Thanks for the beautiful demo.

Maybe there should be an emacs-for-writing mailing list and online Writers Workshop (?)

  • This is a good idea, perhaps an online Writers Workshop indeed makes a lot of sense.
  • Has conducted online WW in India, used Notion (Emacs Org Mode was scary for other attendees)

How do you share drafts of your novel? If you use pandoc to export to word (etc), how do you incorporate feedback on the document back into org? (Thank you for the talk)

Can you show exported pdf of any of your novel?

How do you collaborate with others while writing your Novel ? Like sharing your file and getting feedbacks.

  • working on ebook sustainability, long org mode file, pasted into google docs so collaborator and editor can see it
  • like to see python
  • paste to google docs

Can you text-wrap in the columns?

  • Community: possibly ftable.el
  • you specify column mode in org mode in prsentation
    • THANKS

How to enable column mode in org mode

  • M-x org-columns (C-c C-x C-c)
  • Or use speed selection in Org-mode.
    • Thanks


Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~10:03 AM - 10:13 AM EST
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 7:03 AM - 7:13 AM PST
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 3:03 PM - 3:13 PM UTC
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~ 4:03 PM - 4:13 PM CET
Saturday, Nov 28 2020, ~11:03 PM - 11:13 PM +08

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Previous: An Emacs Developer Story: From User to Package Maintainer
Next: Music in Plain Text