Novel Plotting with a Storyboard

Since sending my novel out to beta readers a few months ago, I’ve been working on “replotting” – rearranging my story to make it more effective.  If I were a better, more organized (morganized?) writer, this is something I’d have done before writing, but obviously that isn’t the case.  At any rate, I’ve been posting photos and getting questions, so I thought I’d share!

Anatomy of a Storyboard:

IMG_3867Click above to embiggen!  Read below to understand (maybe):

To start, this board reads from left to right, top to bottom as per the graphic below.  My original intent was to make something like a storyboard that’s used for films, though my novel didn’t exactly fit that “form”.  Ideally, each row represents a “sequence” of events, and there are a certain number of scenes per sequence – and idea that I got from this blog. While I’m not fond of the premise that every story fits a formula (not perfectly, anyway), it was a new way of thinking, so I went for it.  Without further ado, here’s how I created my storyboard:

sequence

  1. Scenes: Each of the white, printed pages on the board is a scene from my first draft.  I boiled each scene down to a few bullet points; as you can see, some are bigger than others.  I arranged them into sequences (presto rearrange-o!) and taped them to the board.  Plus colouring, because if I had only wanted data, I would have done this in Excel.  In my mind, each scene in a sequence should revolve around the “mini plot” of that sequence.
  2. Meta Data: Speaking of data, I noted some of that, too.  Since one of my revision goals was to shorten my story, I summed wordcounts for each sequence in order to identify sections that were too long.  Sticky notes for that!
  3. Timeline: First on the storyboard agenda: I noted one overarching timeline to help me keep track of when events occurred.  This was especially important because I was doing so much rearranging; I needed to be sure each scene would fit the timeline in after I’d moved it.  My story spans several years, so I stuck a new note on at each new year, season, or throughout sequential days/important moments.
  4. Main Plot(s): Next, I went through with sticky notes to mark what was happening with important characters/factions throughout the story – even if those characters weren’t in that specific scene.  For example, while my protagonist was failing to learn magic, I noted that my antagonist was off being promoted elsewhere, and the invaders were sending in spies.  While these details might not make it into that scene, it’s good to keep track of what’s going on with my main characters – I can write them better if I know them better, and it helps with foreshadowing/small details.
  5. Character Arc(s): Depending on your story, this might be pretty similar to Step (4): I added sticky notes for the arcs of all the main characters – when does my protagonist learn life lessons?  When do my antagonists feel regret?
  6. Minor Plot(s)/Arc(s): Finally, I did the same for subplots and minor characters.  These were a lot fewer and farther between, but I think this results in better writing of my minor characters.

Next Steps:

Application: Now it’s time to stick all of this into my computer.  I’ve summarized all of my written notes, sticky notes and random scribbles and I’ve done a little more rearranging (and I expect I’ll do a little more once I get more notes back from my beta readers).  It’s a long process, but I feel pretty confident this’ll work!

I like the sequences because they add an intermediate between “scene” and “act” (or whatever larger story “element” you might like to use).  It’s nice to be able to take a handful of scenes and direct them to some end that isn’t “the next scene”, and lends a sort of wholeness to scenes that can otherwise feel kinda disparate.  It makes the story move forward, which is always good :D


your turn scroll

Your turn: What techniques do you use to organize and keep track of your story?  Are you one of the jaw-droppingly amazing people who organize before writing (shock and awe!)?  Do you, too, procrastinate by plastering your wall with text, Post-Its and drawings?

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