Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Anatomy of My Plotting Board August 2, 2012

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 10:56 AM
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A while ago, I bought a bulletin board for plotting purposes. Now I’ve dragged it out from its prison under my bed for a little more use before I go to college. (I doubt my roommate would be pleased if I brought it along.) I’ve had a few people ask me if having a board is useful – and what to do with it – so here’s a look at what I do with mine.

On the far left, off the board, I have a printed hard copy of my manuscript. You can’t really see it, but it’s absolutely covered in annotations. I’ve been advised to avoid red for psychological reasons, so I used one of those color-changing pens instead. It started out purple and then switched to orange without much hassle. After that, things went downhill. The green bled into the orange, and then the pink bled into that, creating a lovely brown color that covers half my notes. Finally, the blue bled into what was left of the pink, returning me to a sickly purple color. Someone needs to rethink their manufacturing. Anyway. Moving on.

On the right I have a book cover made by another Inkpop user, half covered in post its. The post its are everywhere. They remind me of edits I need to do, words I need to replace, scenes I need to write, etc. Post its are my friends.

Below the book cover is a map of the setting. This is useful if you have a large or complicated setting – the typical high school novel probably doesn’t need one.

Below that is a calendar. This saved my life on so many occasions. My project is set in college, which means scenes in certain classes can only happen on certain days. I marked down what happened when, which chapters fell on what day, etc. Trust me – you don’t want to fall into the trap of writing a six day week!

The loose-leaf papers are an outline and character arcing notes. (I mentioned arcs in an earlier post.) I noted what actions main characters took in each scene and how that contributed/detracted from their arcs. I also answered three random questions (favorite food, color, activity) to try to see them as people and not words on a page. Since I had no clue about any of this, I made up random crap. I now have a character addicted to breath mints and another who enjoys full-contact board gaming. What is that? I have no idea.

My main use for the plotting board fills up most of the top half. They’re index cards – one for each scene. (This does not mean chapter – I usually have three or four scenes per chapter.) I write down where the scene happens, which characters are involved, and what happens. They’re color coded based on plot threads. This allows me to look at the book’s progression and see who needs more screen time, which subplots got lost along the way, where I should slip in extra scenes, what bits aren’t necessary, etc. I only have the cards up to chapter 17 in this drawing, but they’re helpful even when not completed. You can also shuffle the cards and see what would happen if you moved scenes around. Would it break the plot or make everything come untangled?

Overall, bulletin boards can be a really helpful plotting tool if you’re a visual learner. If you think it might help you out, buy one and try it. It won’t set you back much financially, and seeing your story laid out can make everything so much clearer.


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