Hope everyone had a very, Merry Christmas! I can’t believe this is the last Saturday of 2009. Next week if I have time, I’ll blog about my favorite books of ’09 and my New Year’s resolutions. One of my resolutions is to finish my novel, which means I need to wrap up these preparations for the second draft and actually get started on the thing. So without further ado, the last December edition of Winter’s Editing and Revising Extravaganza!
In my opinion, one of the hardest things about writing a novel is seeing “the big picture.” Yeah, I can sit down to reread my manuscript, but my mind tends to focus only on the words I’m currently reading—or maybe the current scene or chapter, if I’m lucky. So how can I step away from the words and see how all the scenes and chapters fit together into one complete story? How can I study the novel’s timeline, or the appearances of a character, or missing plot elements?
The solution: a storyboard. I think “storyboard” was originally a Hollywood term, used by movie or TV-show producers to describe a sequence of drawings representing the shots they plan to film. But writers can also use a storyboard to represent the scenes in a novel. If you like to draw (stick figures welcome), then feel free to create an artistic storyboard! If not, consider these other possibilities . . .
Visualize Scenes with a Storyboard, courtesy of Editor Unleashed. Read the comments from that post for more ideas of how to storyboard (such as using photos instead of drawings).
Kate Messner’s revision process relies on Scrivener writing software, which includes a virtual bulletin board with different colored notecards. One color represents school scenes, another color for home scenes, another for extracurricular scenes, etc.
If you don’t have appropriate writing software, do it the old-fashioned way! For instance, Caitlin Kittredge’s notecards and bulletin board work well for revisions. She uses one color of notecard for existing chapters, a second color for the changes needed for existing chapters, and a third color for brand new chapters (she went from 25 chapters to 40). So if a card for each scene sounds too daunting, try a card for each chapter.
Post-it Digital Notes is another type of computer software you can use to organize your story. Or get real Post-its (of different colors) and stick them on a table or on the walls of your office/bedroom!
Some authors brainstorm with a whiteboard and marker. Others write scenes/chapters on pages of paper and hang them from laundry lines! Another common practice is to enter the scenes into a spreadsheet (Excel or other program), which allows you to easily change the order of the cells. I’m thinking about painting my office door with magnetic paint; then I could rearrange scenes using notecards and magnets.
It doesn’t really matter which method you use—find what works for you. Once you’ve chosen a method, decide on the focus of your storyboard. I might focus on plot (the mystery, mythology, subplots, etc) and the characters (best friend, love interest, mother, etc) to get a big-picture view of how much time I spent on each plot thread and each character. I may be focusing too much on one aspect and neglecting others. A good balance makes for a stronger book.
Any questions about storyboards? Any ideas you’d like to share??
I’m not sure what will happen on next Saturday’s post—I’m flying by the seat of my pants at the moment. But if you want, use this Christmas break to prepare for revisions based on the WERE advice. Then jump into a new draft on January 1st!
And don’t forget to read WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. Book club discussion begins Jan. 6th!