#AmWriting: Using a Calendar to Storyboard Your Novel
by Molly Jo Realy @MollyJoRealy
As a discovery writer, I sometimes feel as though I’m just a passenger on this train. I’m the transcriber of events observed. Or a screenwriter giving words to the movie playing in my head. Often, my characters will rebel, refuse, and rearrange the scenes I’m trying to create.
I don’t know about your writing, but getting deeper into the story has caused some drama, and I don’t just mean on the pages. NOLA has been started, restarted, edited, revamped, revised and solidified. And through the past three years of all that activity, it was getting hard to follow.
New Orleans happenings occur every day, and Josie is experiencing as much as she can. Characters, locations, food [oh! the food!], and of course drama, drama, drama.
Keeping Track with Story Cards is helpful with details, but I need something more. Certain events are set in stone, others are more fluid. NOLA takes place during October, and Halloween is a big occasion in the Big Easy. And let’s be real: There’s no bulletin board big enough to hang on my wall to pin over a hundred index cards on to in order to view it all. [Also, have y’all tried carrying a wall-size board in your backpack? Just sayin’.]
Calendaring NOLA helps me note the big events, emotions, and experiences that propel the story forward. This is where my Happy Planner comes into play. I call it responsible scrapbooking. With the month-at-a-glance layout and plethora of stickers, I laid out the story so far. From Josie’s runaway red-eye, to the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival, to Cafe du Monde, meeting new friends, reclaiming old habits, there’s a lot to remember about this journey.
NOLA is timeless. That is, events don’t happen on specific dates. So whether October 3rd is a Monday or a Thursday is insignificant. For future storyboarding, I’ll invest in blank calendaring pages. I bought my Happy Planner in November, which meant the pages for October 2016 went unused. Not anymore ~ A few dot/stickers to cover the dates, and I have a full month’s layout.
- The side notes allow me to list characters, locations, foods (for the NOLA Companion Cookbook), and other items I need to know.
- The Face stickers let me track emotions: Is a particular moment happy, sad, or exciting?
- Using different colored pens highlight themes: locations, events, dramatic scenes.
- What’s for dinner? Stickers indicate new eating experiences. Coffee stickers? Please. Do I really need to explain these? [whisper: Cafe du Monde.]
- Calendaring keeps it real: Does my story flow, drag, or skip around? [Note to self: Using a pencil helps until you know for sure. #experienceshows.]
Storyboarding NOLA is also a great at-a-glance review that gives forward movement by quickly answering questions:
- When was this character introduced?
- When was the last time it rained in New Orleans?
- What was the last big drama?
- Are too many events happening too closely together?
Of course, any calendaring system will do, but I find the abundance of creative options offered through the Happy Planner system really works for me.
With some sweet tea and responsible scrapbooking,
Now it’s your turn: How do you keep track of your storyline?
And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!