OUTLINING AND STORYBOARDING YOUR NOVEL

Now that the editing for my novel, MER, is done (Woo hoo!) I have some time to talk about the behind-the-scenes of writing a novel.

Like many of you out there I had always dreamed of writing a book, and made many attempts, to no avail. I kept thinking what is wrong with me? Why can’t I finish this book?

Well, apparently, not all of us are like Stephen King (the brilliant freak-of-nature that he is) and can open our minds and just let the words fall out effortlessly into an amazing bestseller. Some of us need guidelines. And that is how I discovered storyboarding and outlining. But first you want to brainstorm.

BRAINSTORMING

This is going to be the first thing you should do before you start any outlining. Make a list of anything and everything that could possibly happen in your book. Think outside of the box! This is the fun part. You have NO limits! No censorship, no one telling you what or what not you can do. And then for the outlining.

And not everyone is the same and that is why I’ll be discussing different outlining methods separately.

METHOD #1. STICKY NOTE STORYBOARD

This is the method that I used for MER. This style of outlining is great for the “visual type” of person because it displays your entire manuscript out in front of you and allows you to view the flow and chronology of your book. It gives more freedom to the writer (as opposed the “W” storyboard which we will go over later in this post.) Also, with the sticky note method, if later on down the line you aren’t liking the way it’s going or need to make changes you can easily swap chapters or slap on a new sticky note! Kabow! Easy as pie. Mmmm. Pie. (Thanksgiving leftovers on the brain. Haha!)

ITEMS YOU WILL NEED:

*A matte board or poster board (I went to the extreme and bought the biggest one they had and almost hang-glided through the parking lot of Office Max after a gust of wind hit me.Hahaha! That was fun.) Your poster board will need to be big to fit all of your chapters, scenes and sticky notes, but you might not want to get the monster that I got. It’s up to you.

*Sticky/ Post-It notes. I purchased two different rainbow-colored multi packs of the LONG sticky notes.You will need to have a few different colors to keep your categories separate. Examples of these categories can be plot points in the scene, character’s in the scene, location, items to keep track of, etc. The possibilities are endless, so use your own creativity to help you organize. Some authors use one color for each character. I have so many characters in my book that I would just list all of the characters in a specific chapter on one color and then layer the plot points for that same chapter on another color. You just need to summarize what happens in that chapter with no more than a couple of sentences or a few bullet points.

*Black Sharpee Marker. Of course you can use a pen or pencil, but in my opinion the black marker stands out and is easier to read when you stand back to look at your book outline as a whole.

That’s it! All you need is three items to start your post-it note storyboard (and possibly a pot of coffee and some good music.)

METHOD # 2. THE “W” STORYBOARD

This is the method often used by screenwriters, and although it looks more simple than the sticky note storyboard method, it gives you more of a structured guideline for your story. You need to find five of the most important points in your story, we will call these plot points. These 5 plot points will go from the top left of your “W” and so on until the last and fifth plot point at the top right of your “W”, creating a rise and fall motion.

TWO ITEMS YOU WILL NEED:

*Poster or matte board

*Markers

“W” STRUCTURE:

TRIGGERING EVENT: This is what starts your story (the plot point at the top left of your W) so choose your most important event to begin your story. Ex. a death, a secret, a mystery, a dilemma, or any sort of event that will start your story’s journey.

FALL: Then your story “falls” towards the next plot point and is setting up the problem.This is where you create more drama and tension for your story. It is the lowest point and further increases the need to drive the story on further.

FIRST TURNING POINT: Conflict/dilemma. This is where plans change and thing’s often reverse. Events may happen that you don’t expect. Maybe your hero decides to leave home.

RISE: This is where you begin to recover from the problem.

POP MOMENT: Conflict/dilemma. This is where your story explodes, thing’s may be revealed, or a battle may take place.

FALL: Deepening the problem. This is sometimes called the second “Triggering event” which is not as extreme as the first but brings the story back down to a low point.

SECOND TURNING POINT: This is the absolute LOWEST point of the story, where it seems that there is no hope.

RISE: Solving the problem.There is new hope, help comes. There is a change within the character.

EPIPHANY MOMENT or “oh my god point” (This point is used in fiction usually a few chapters before the END. I used this and it is great for fantasy.) It is a last conflict before the few chapters of resolution.

END: Resolution. This does not necessarily have to be a problem fixer, but maybe just seeing something in a new light, or a big change.

You don’t have to follow these exactly. You can have more small ups and downs within your rises and falls.

A good reference for the “W” Storyboard is by Mary Carroll Moore on YouTube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMhLvMJ_r0Y

METHOD #3. WRITING SOFTWARE

I actually started my novel with Y Writer by Spacejock, a free novel-writing software. I ended up combining this method and the sticky note storyboard, using Y Writer for my character list (which is SUPER COOL) and the sticky note method for the plotline. This method is perfect for the techie-at-heart and for novels that are beefed up with lots of information and lots of things to keep track of: locations, characters, items, groups, etc. I love this software not only because it’s FREE (starving artist here), but because it is so in-depth. I actually picked celebrities’ pictures to represent my characters and put them with their descriptions in the character list, so when I was like ‘wait…what was so and so’s eye color?’ (I used Orlando Bloom for one of my characters. Mmmm…Orlando Bloom *drooling*) OK! Back to point. I could just pull up the list with a click and have a full description along with pictures and tags. (I will be writing a future post about character lists.)

ITEMS NEEDED:

*Computer O.o

*Y Writer Download (or any other novel-writing software that tickles your fancy.) Here’s the link to Y Writer’s free download. http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5_Download.html

METHOD #4 TRADITIONAL OUTLINING

This method, which you may remember doing for book reports in elementary school, can come in a number of styles, shapes sizes, and is pretty self explanatory.

ITEMS NEEDED:

*Pen and Paper :0)

There are many outlining and storyboarding techniques, and I just highlighted the few that I think work best for novel writing. So if you are a no-guidelines-needed freak-of-nature and read this post anyways, I hope it was informative and you enjoyed it none the less. And for the rest of you like me, I wish you lots of luck and creativity in your storyboarding and writing ventures!

Please LIKE my MER book page here www.facebook.com/merbook1 Follow me on twitter here https://twitter.com/JadeMPhillips

Thanks for reading! And may the power of words be with you ;0)

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Categories: Writing Tips | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “OUTLINING AND STORYBOARDING YOUR NOVEL

  1. Thanks Jade – that was interesting. I use Scrivener for writing and only plan my story in broad terms to start off with, then as I write I start to add detailed notes for the next few scenes onto the corkboard on Scrivener. Articles like this are great when you are starting out as it can take a while to figure out what works best for you. I hadn’t seen the W storyboard, I use a slightly different model, but only slightly different.

    • I’ve heard of Scrivener but never used it myself. I’m definitely going to look into it as I’m always looking for new ideas for improved writing systems. Thanks for the great idea Susan and Happy Holidays to you!

  2. I like the storyboard method (and the thought of you battling with it in the car park!) Right now, I use the ‘eight-million-notebooks’ method.

    • Ooh, the classic “8 million notebooks” method. Ah yes. I’m pretty sure most of us were familiar with that technique at one point or another. And I’m not going to lie, aside from sticky note storyboarding, I have about 6 million notebooks of scrawled ideas, pics and notes. What author doesn’t? Lol.

  3. I used sticky notes, the real kind, for years and years, and then I got an iMac and sticky notes came on it as a program! Let me tell you, I was excited! I still use the real sticky notes, most lately when I went through each of my books to put a note on continuity and story elements that had to make it to the end. I preferred doing that with the physical books, and then went digital cataloguing all the notes I made. It made it easy to spot where and when I had to make adjustments. It was a large organizational challenge, but worth it. I use the sticky note program much the same way, color coded by book with notes on everything from storyline continuity to common spelling errors I should check before I hit the publish button. Outlining, no matter how you do it, is a way to help you remember those fantastic ideas you get and jotted down on your pack of sticky notes you keep on hand at all times! 🙂 Thanks for the great ideas, Jade!

  4. Charles Eastland

    Thank you Jade. Generous of you to share and help. Just beginning my journey in the eBooks format. Glad I found you.

    Charles Eastland
    “The Fire Poems”

    on amazon.com books

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