A New Use for an Old Tool

January 25, 2017

Storyboarding is an old tool used to arrange the flow of images in film. It involves time (what happens first, then second, then next, etc.) and provides an opportunity to imagine and evaluate ideas for the project.

How can you use storyboarding in your writing? Get some post-it notes or 3 x 5 index cards (whichever you prefer) and determine your working space. You can use a whiteboard or poster board for post-it notes or lay out index cards on any flat surface (floor, bed, table, etc.).

Jot one idea about your book per post-it or index card (example could be Jennie hears gunshot, peers out her window, and sees person look toward her). Write another idea on a different post-it or index card (example could be Jennie’s coworker asks her if she was home when the shooting occurred in her neighborhood). Write another idea on a different post-it or index card.

Don’t evaluate your ideas as you capture them. Wait until you’ve got a bunch of ideas¬† (let’s say, up to twenty), and then lay them out in sequence so you can begin to see your story unfold.

You’ll find gaps that need filling in. You’ll find scenes that need fleshing out. You’ll discover new things about your characters, and may even find some that don’t belong in your story at all. When you find things that don’t fit in this story,¬† save them to use in another one you’ll write.

As you work, you’ll get new ideas, which means you’ll create new post-its or index cards. As you do more research for your story, you’ll get even more new ideas to add to your story sequence. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with ideas, take another look at each idea and ask these two questions:

  1. Why does this belong in my book and why does it belong in this spot?
  2. Where else can I use this idea (think book series, short story, etc.)?

These two questions will help you decide what stays in your book and what will serve you better in a different story.

What do you do when you’re done with your storyboarding? Use the notes to help get you writing. For example, if you need an outline of what happens in each chapter, use your notes to help you create your outline. I caution you, however, to not spend so much time getting ready to write that you never actually get around to writing.

Consider this new use for an old tool and decide if you want to add it to your writing toolbox. Happy writing!



Organize and Track Your Submissions

July 16, 2014

Writers are creative people. Creative people often live in chaos because they’re so busy creating they don’t have time to organize.

If you’re writing for publication, however, you’re in business and need to stay on top of your submissions. You can create a form in your word processing program, use a table format you like, or create a spreadsheet. The important thing is you find what works for you so you keep it updated.

Once you’ve determined which tool you’ll use (form, table, spreadsheet), you need headers. Here are some for your consideration.

  • Title or subject. Use the title of your piece if you have one, otherwise enter the subject you’re writing about. Avoid abbreviations because you’ll tend to ignore or forget what they stand for after some time has gone by.
  • Type of writing. This is a reminder to you regarding whether you’re sending a query letter, an article, a short story, or a novel.
  • Status. A quick glance will show you what you’ve submitted (submitted), what you’ve completed (final), what’s at the editor (editing), what’s being rewritten (revising), what’s in research (researching), and what hasn’t quite made it to the writing stage yet (idea).
  • Where submitted. This is the place to track where you’ve sent your work. NOTE: If you’re keeping track on the computer, you can insert another line to list a second place for submission without repeating the title, etc. so you know how many places you submitted your query or article or fiction.
  • Date. This is the date you submitted your work, not each date you make a change to your tracking document.
  • Deadline. This is the date your writing is due after it’s been accepted.
  • Future submissions. You may want to create a list of other places to submit your query or article in case your first choice doesn’t accept your submission. Having a list of additional places to send to will keep your pieces going out because you won’t have to think about where else to send them.

You can’t be published if you don’t send your stuff out. Better to track your submissions so you don’t send the same thing to the same market/person a second time. Figure out what system you will work with (not start, then stop) and use the headers I’ve provided. Happy writing!