How I Storyboard for Novels #AuthorMustHave

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I had enough interest garnered on this through Facebook, so I’m doing this post to help show how I outline. I do better visually. So, of course, this method ends up working out better than most. The fun part of this, is I can transfer what’s done on this to paper and have a written outline to follow for when I’m out and about, or for when I need to write a life-sucking synopsis, and I can easily shuffle scenes around to suit changes to the story.

For this post, I’m using the story The Dark Ones (Fallen). (PS: stay tuned for a cover reveal. This one’s going to come out next year if all goes well!)

So the first thing you need to do is insure you have the following items:

  • full size, tri-fold display board (36 in. x 48 in.). I usually get the cardboard ones, though I do have a foam(ish) one.
  • Super Sticky Post-it pads in assorted colors and sizes. I like the ones that are full-adhesives, but I have been known to use the regular (and lined) ones for more detailed scenes.
  • pencil and click eraser (trust me on this one, it will save your sanity)
  • ruler
  • dry erase labels or some other removable tag for chapters/scenes.
  • permanent marker
  • your notes/ideas on the story.

Once you have all your materials, it’s time to decide on how you are going to format your board. I have limited space which prevented me from utilizing the full size of the board. Originally, I had all the squares on one full size board, but because I have a very small desk (see pic, sorry for it being sideways) So, I took the cardboard tri-fold poster board and cut it in half length-wise, like so (see pic above). I then divided the original squares in half, giving me the same number of boxes to work with. For this size of board, it probably would be best to used lined post-its so you could stagger the posts.20140715_180452

Step One:

So, to create the lines, mark the first side of the tri-fold at the halfway point (if following the board above–1/2 size–that is 9 inches. If doing the full size, that is 18 inches). Keep in mind, some of the boards may be off by a 1/4 inch due to the factory cutting and processing. But that shouldn’t throw off your measurements too much or make your board look “uneven.” Draw the line all the way to the fold. Next, divide in half again (4 1/2 inches if following board above).  The last step on this side is to divide in half lengthwise. Do you see a pattern here?

Step Two:

Divide the second section in half. Then, in half again. Once you have the second section separated into fourths, take the first three lines you made and bring them across. Make sure you use your ruler to ensure straight lines.

Step Three:

Using the ruler, drag the three horizontal lines across then divide in half.

What you will see is the board above (minus all the post-it notes).

Now the real fun begins!

Whether you do your outline/storyboarding before or after the first draft, this method makes it easy to “see” your scenes in one place without flipping between screens and pages. Here’s how I did mine (for this story)

Anna Scene

Normally, I just put in a summary of the events in the scene, accounting for characters, mood, and general information.

This time, however, I took some input from a friend (and because it fit) and included elements of the scene as well.

This is one of Anna’s scenes. I have her post-its as green (because that’s what I had the most of). Here I listed a basic summary of the scene. The yellow in the right is me keeping track of my time line (dates) and weather.

The orange is the emotion of the scene/chapter. You can’t see it but it says “Intense” and “Suspenseful” which you could probably gauge by the summary, but this is a note to me to keep the moods or feel of the chapters in mind.

The pink are important points in the story, like new characters who will quite possibly impact the character/ story in some way. In this case, Naddia is one of the minor antagonists of the story but still affects the character in a meaningful way.

Scene Close UP

Here you can see large blue post-its to symbolize the other POV character.  Then, 2 squares over, there’s another smaller post-it that is also blue. That is what I use as an important note to me on key elements in the story.

You’ll notice that I don’t include everything on each chapter and that’s because I don’t feel like I need to.

Do you remember when I said cut in half? Yeah. This is if your story (like mine) decides to last forever, or you end up having much shorter chapters than expected and additional plot points characters throw at you.

Here’s the second poster board.


As you can see, I’m working as I go. I already had most of the story written before sitting down to do this, which, I might add, is one of the beauties of this method (or any outlining method, I’m told). It doesn’t have to be done before any writing can be done. This can happen when you want it to happen or when you get so far off the original idea of the story that you need to rein yourself back in.

Of course I wouldn’t be anywhere had I not looked up storyboarding on Google. There are many other authors who have covered this and their methods all differ, as do mine. The important thing is to have fun and don’t bog yourself down with too many rigid rules. As far as I have learned, there is no right or wrong way to do this. This method of storyboarding is what works for me and I love it. I hope that this helps you with your next project (or even your current one). If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I’ll be around!

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