“You want me to write how many words?” My face flamed.
Except for smaller romance novels, and shorter novellas, most fiction involves writing eighty to a hundred thousand words. Even a shorter novel might scramble an author’s brain trying to keep all the layering and subplot threads continuing through page after page.
The first time this problem showed itself to me was when an agent told me I needed to extend my women’s fiction manuscript by twenty thousand words. When I began the rewrite, I noticed a subplot with the hero’s sidekick that was never addressed again after chapter four.
At our local romance writer’s chapter in 2012, a guest speaker, Shayla Black (aka Shelley Bradley) utilized storyboarding to solve this problem. I simplified this suggestion and found it the answer to my woes.
Here’s my steps:
- Purchase a simple white poster board.
- Buy 5-6 different colors of post-it notes, or flags.
- Mark off equally-sized squares, one for each chapter in your manuscript.
- Write a shortened definition of what each chapter square is about.
- Choose a colored post-it note for each thread. Stick it on each chapter that tells about that.
- When you have completed the full board, you can easily see if you have hot pink in the first and third chapter and nothing more about it until the end. What’s up with that?
Do you have lots of blue post it notes but few yellow?
Your storyboard visualizes for you what is lacking and what is overdone, what is skipped and what isn’t, what you need to add and what you need to take away.
For plotters, it’s easy to see the value of this tool. For pantsers, it may seem like too much planning and plotting.
We’re all different in our writing process.
If you’re a combination plotter/pantser like me, I free-write that first draft without a lot of planning. After that, I draw my lines on the poster board, write what happens in each chapter in a square on the board, and pick a color for each main thread of the manuscript. I then examine my colorful poster for something that jumps out at me, saying, “You messed up.”
See my two picture examples below. Each is for a women’s fiction. The first one is a completed, published novel.
The second one is my women’s fiction work-in-progress, so I’ve only begun. So far, I’ve picked hot pink for Joanne’s trying to be self-sufficient, blue for Calvin’s fight against his pornography addiction, green for Calvin and his father’s struggles, and yellow for thirteen-year-old Tiffany’s processing what a boy wants from her.
I hope this gives some of you an idea of how storyboarding might help you.
Janet K. Brown lives in Wichita Falls, Texas with her husband, Charles.
Worth Forgiving, an inspirational women’s fiction, is the second in her Wharton Rock series and her fourth published work. Her only non-fiction is Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness.
Janet and her husband love to travel with their RV, work in their church, and visit their three daughters, two sons-in-law and three perfect grandchildren.
Find her at http:/ /www.janetkbrown.com
on Twitter at https://twitter.com/janetkbrowntx