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I’ve heard it suggested that novelists fall into one of two
categories: PLOTTERS and PANTSTERS. PLOTTERS supposedly carefully outline their
storyline before they begin writing. PANTSTERS jump in and, as the name would
suggest, they write by the seat of their pants.
I’m more of a hybrid
kind of girl. I plan my plot to a point, but I sometimes don’t know the
direction the book will go until I start writing and get to know my characters
better. What I thought would be the outcome differs from what I actually write.
For example, in Breathing on Her Own, I thought the story was going to be about
After all, it was Laney driving under the influence of
alcohol. Laney caused the accident. Laney needed to learn her lesson. At least that’s
where I started. Maybe I had it in the back of my mind that the book would
serve as a warning for others who drink and drive.
Not to be. As I moved through the story line I had mapped
out on paper, I came to realize the story was less about Laney’s transgressions
and more about how her mother, Molly, responded to the situation. Molly wasn’t
the martyred mom I thought she might be. She is the one who learned from the
experience. She is the one who experienced change.
As I said, I’m a bit both PLOTTER and PANTSTER. I guess
you’d call me a PLANTSTER. Sounds a bit like a gardening term. Maybe that’s
what PLANTSTERS are: people who grow a story from carefully planted seeds.
Today’s topic is about a few tools to use in planning your
story. The beauty of these tools is that each offers room to grow, change,
plot, and improvise. I call them storyboarding tools, though that may be a bit
of a misnomer.
If you think of storyboarding in its most traditional form,
you may picture a series of pictures connected to a sequential outline of the
proposed story. It may look something like this:
Courtesy of Google Images
When I create a storyboard, I identify eight to ten pivotal
scenes I want to include. I put them in sequence on the board. My problem as a
PLANTSTER is that I experience a level of frustration if I want to change those
around. They are “committed to paper.” Immovable.
I discovered a simple fix: Post-it notes.
Not bad. It will work. But in drafting my last three novels,
I’ve discovered a few more powerful storyboarding techniques. These are ideal
for PLANTSTERS because we are prone to change our minds mid-book. Here are my
1. Power Point
Storyboarding- I love this. I’m using this for my current work in
progress (WIP). If you are familiar with Power Point presentations, you
can easily implement this tool.
Strengths: I can
create my slides depicting those pivotal scenes. I can include pictures of the
characters, change the background to reflect the mood, move the slides around
if needed, print them off with a space to make notes (very handy for taking
with me to the dentist’s waiting room-yuck), and create powerful visual
reminders of what I had in mind for the story.
Layered Look Book
Weaknesses: Agood and usefulPower Point can take a lot of time to create. If you simply use text
you may as well use post-it notes. What makes the Power Point so, well,
powerful, is the addition of pictures, color, background, texture, mood….and
that takes a ton of time.
2. Layered Look Book-
I snagged this idea from Dina Zikes. It is two sheets of paper, offset, then
is a quick and easy way to organize your ideas for your book. These are so
portable so you can whip out your work while you’re waiting for the oil change
in your car to be completed.
Weaknesses: My layered
look books tend to get messy fast. I used one for a short novel and found the
space was too limiting.
It is, in a way similar to the layered look book, without
the easy to use layers. It is also bigger. And it has these nifty little prongs
to attach info I might need. So why did I use this? It was free. Someone was
throwing these away so being the teacher-person I am I saved them from the
Strengths: I like
being able to file papers related to the book in this in the part of the book
where I expect them to appear. Also, I like the portable nature of this. So
while I’m waiting in the car for my grandson’s school to let out, I can review
where I am and where I’m heading in the book. I leave the school with both the
boy and newly acquired inspiration.
folders I have are too big. (Undoubtedly why they were being tossed aside.) I
cut one down to size for one project. That is probably a better idea. At least
then the file folder can actually be “filed.” I’m sure you can buy the right
4. Photo/Card Album- I
have used this for every book I’ve written as well as a few articles and short
stories. It is an album to hold pictures. A small, flat album to hold snapshots
which I rarely have anymore in this digital age. I found it to be perfect for my scene cards.
is easily tucked in my purse or computer case. I love that I can move the scene
cards around, write on the back, and replace them if necessary.
you are a true PLOTTER, you will find the space limiting.
5. Whiteboard- A
whiteboard offers the PLANTSTER enough room to map a story plot, add details,
and color code information. Changes can easily be made to the story as it
can hang this where you see it every time you sit down to write. It can help
you stay on track with your story and remind you of details you want to
is not portable. If you write anywhere and everywhere, you will not reap the
full benefits of the whiteboard. Information can easily be erased. Accidently
erased. I suggest, you take a picture of it from time to time to make sure you
have what you need.
Whew! We made it! There are certainly other tools out there.
Scrivener has everything built into the software for you to plot or plan or
simply write. I know a few people who are using the secret board feature on
Pinterest to collect ideas for their books and post plot points. The idea there
is to then edit the page once you publish the book to turn it into a marketing
tool. I’m not there yet.
As I look back on this post, I realize I value being able to take my writing anywhere and everywhere with me. Maybe I should create a post on the "portable office!"
How about you? Are
you a PLOTTER, PANTSTER, or perhaps, like me...a PLANTSTER? What helps you
organize your writing?