More on that in a minute.
Unfortunately, I’m as messy in my writing as I tend to be in other areas. In fact, in the past, I’d often discover after days and days of writing that I needed to go back and discard virtually all of what I’d produced. This was usually because I’d ventured off onto some enticing little rabbit trail, or because I’d been treading water and going nowhere due to the fact that I had no clear idea of what should happen next in my story.
And seriously, people. Who has time for that?
When you’re hauling yourself out of bed at 4 a.m. to squeeze in a writing session, that time is precious--as anybody who’s voluntarily gotten out of a cozy bed at that hour knows all too well. I sure didn’t want to waste so much of it writing stuff that I ultimately couldn’t use, so about a year ago I began to research story planning methods that might work well for a disorganized creative visual learner like myself.
Not only are these marvelous things so much stinking fun to make (Think colored sticky notes! Trips to the office supply store! Joy!), but they have really helped me keep my daily writing sessions on target—by keeping the “big picture” I’m so fond of right smack-dab in front of me.
So just in case there are more fledgling writers out there struggling to make the most of their precious writing time, here’s my own little newbie author storyboard method:
I use a dry erase board and one foam project board for each story, but two of the same kind would certainly work. I also use a variety of bright sticky notes in different sizes. (Be sure to get the Super Sticky Post-it Notes ® or another full adhesive variety so they will stay put!
Trust me. I learned that the hard way!)
Oh, and pick cute colors. Because. Fun.
The dry erase board is my GMC board, based on Debra Dixon’s book GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict. I mark it off into columns.
Although I draw my grid with a marker, I use 3” x 3” sticky notes for the content. Each point of view character is assigned a different color sticky, and I put those into the grid, detailing all the inner issues that add momentum and meaning to the story. I also include the “hooks” of my story, those little attention grabbers that make the book appealing to potential readers.
On the foam project board, I use the tiny rectangular sticky notes as chapter headings. Once again I use a different color 3” x 3” note for each p.o.v. character to rough out a scene-by-scene outline, jotting down the basic events of each section. When I’m done, I have an overview of how my story is structured.
I then take out my smaller stickies again and flag my plot’s turning points and the black moment to check my pacing. Since I also need to make sure the love story is developing naturally, I go back through one last time, adding pink sticky notes that detail what the characters are noticing about each other, how their feelings are growing, etc.
When I’m done, I have a bird’s eye view of my plot, and that makes it easier for me to recognize and fix problems before I’ve written them into the manuscript. The great thing about this is how low stress it all is. I have no real sweat equity invested, so I feel free to play with my story until I’m satisfied with its flow and development. It’s a lot less painful to toss a sticky note (or a whole pile of them) in the trash than it is to delete hours of writing.Best of all, I think this is a tool that both plotters and pantsers can embrace. Now me, I’m primarily a plotter with an easily bored inner pantser. The rogue pantser part of me often thinks it would be a great idea for my characters to suddenly skip out on their planned activity to go bungee jumping , or adopt a shelter puppy, or learn to ride motorcycles. And sometimes that’s exactly what they need to do.
But other times those tangents turn out to be a big waste of precious 4 a.m. writing time. That’s when my storyboard serves as a wonderful compass pointing me to my story’s true north. It’s a great negotiating tool between my plotter and my free-spirited pantser, and it helps me to figure out what spur of the moment additions would really make my plot sparkle…and which would best be saved for another story.
When I am ready to…gulp…tackle that first blank page and begin the first draft, I keep the storyboards propped up beside my desk. They serve as a quick road map every time I start a scene, cueing me in on what events and romantic elements need to be included in that particular section. They remind me of the underlying stakes of the story, and they show me what’s coming up next so I can keep all my characters off their motorcycles…or at least riding them in the right direction.
If you’re techy you can use Scrivener or a similar program to create virtual storyboards. They work beautifully, I’m sure. But of course, then you lose the joy of a totally justified trip to the office supply store and all the multi-colored wonder of sticky notes.
And that’s just sad.
What about you? Are you a storyboarder? Or do you have another planning device that works well for you? Share your story plotting method below, and you might win a package of Super-Sticky Post-it Notes ® along with a copy of my October debut novel for Love Inspired, A Family for the Farmer! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
And P.S. I shared my storyboard post with Tina Radcliffe, and it turns out she is a storyboard fan. Here's her version:
Laurel Blount lives in middle Georgia with David, her husband of 28 years, four fabulous kids and an assortment of spoiled farm animals. She divides her time between homeschooling, writing, teaching Spanish at a local Christian school and milking her grouchy Jersey cow. A Family for the Farmer, (Love Inspired, October 2016) is her debut novel. Visit her website at www.laurelblountbooks.com.
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When she inherits her grandmother's farm, Emily Elliott must return to the small town she thought she'd permanently escaped. The citified single mom of twins must live on Goosefeather Farm for the summer…or lose it to neighbor and childhood friend Abel Whitlock. It's Abel's chance to own the land he's always wanted, but he won't do it at the expense of the girl he's never forgotten—or her adorable twins. Instead, Abel will show Emily how to take care of the farm and its wayward animals. He has three months to fight for a lifetime with the family he loves.