Monday, September 12, 2011

In the Beginning... You Must Have an End!

Or Planning Your Storyline! 

Remember when we talked about road maps? You have come up with all these great ideas for your story, lists miles long, and you are ready to sit down and start writing! But, before you start you need to have a clear plan for how the story is going to go.

You think you do have that plan. It is all in your head and you have come up with so many fantastic ideas that if you don't start writing, then your little brain is going to pop like a balloon. This last step is probably the most crucial step that you cannot leave out! It is kind of like trying to make a chocolate cake from a list of ingredients without actually having a recipe. (If you haven't tried it, please don't! It turns out all mushy and GROSS!!!)

There are many ways to plan out your storyline. You can do an outline, like you did for school papers. This is a very traditional method and is nice in the respect that you can have order and balance, add details as they come to you, and have a clear path from beginning to end. This used to be my favorite method for planning my stories. But if you are more of a big picture person, it is sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees in this style. (Or in my case, you get bogged down on the details and end up writing your whole book in outline format!)

You can also do a traditional timeline, like you saw in history class.

Beginning----character development---first problem---building tension----blah blah---- climax---- the end!

This allows you to look at the story in a sequential line that gives you the big picture. It does not really allow for a lot of detail (Not if you want it to fit in a reasonably-simple-to-read line.) You could do a combination of the two (which I played with for a time) and this allows you to see the forrest and plan for the trees. However, in recent years I have discovered a nifty way that allows for detail, flow, and being able to see the big picture.

All I needed was to buy a dry erase board! (Which have become ridiculously cheap and easy to purchase at Staples!)

And so what you end up with is something like this!

As you can see, I can follow the flow of the story with the curves to ensure a productive pace. The blue is the general outline of the story. Each blue line sets specific scenes I have already plotted in my head. It is laid out in a manner that will allow the story to flow and maintain a balanced pace. (I actually had three or four other side stories that didn't seem to fit, so I have not plugged them in. We will see if I can squeeze them in once I start writing.)

The red marks are commentary notes to myself outside of the story line. Which perspective to use when writing the story, cliches to avoid, points to reference research notes and any other little notes I need to consider as I write.  I will add more red notes as I go along in the story.

This format is a great way to put all of the information together in a quick and easy view. I will also add my character bios with pictures to the bottom portion (held in place with magnets) for easy access during my writing process.

There are probably a hundred different ways to plan out your storyline and you really need to find what works best for your creative process.

What method(s) do you use?

Feel free to share in the comments below!!

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