I feel writing takes a great deal of planning before I’m happy to get typing… at least to write anything decent.
I can’t just sit down (literally), day 1, chapter 1, page 1, and start writing.
This needs some foreplay (figuratively) before I put pen to paper.
Here’s a peek at my whiteboard for my next novel (you can click it to get a slightly larger copy). You won’t be able to read individual post-its, but it should give you a sense of the structuring I like to use. Explanation of the sections is below.Whiteboarding a Novel (CLICK TO ENLARGE… Slightly)
Whiteboard Components (L-to-R)
- Character Arcs and Plot Arcs
Rapidly fills up once the story is taking form. As you can see this book is at the early stages when structure & arcs is still fluid.
- Fuzzy Concepts
A handful of plot ideas. Taken from my personal digital mindmap containing hundreds of story ideas. Fuzzy ideas are either dropped or are firmed up to become scenes or events.
This is the first section to be filled out with cards (post-its) detailing a flow of scenes. Progresses in rows (left-to-right). As you can see, the ending is already filled out and the bulk of Act II needs completion.
A growing list of names for characters, location names, settings, rooms.
- Random Generator (blurry green font… oops!)
This is my fun way of creating obtuse, unexpected parts in a story. I put up a list of phrases which can be taken from anywhere (abstract poems/songs are great as a source to crop from). If I’m stuck in a scene then I look at the random list for some possible synchronicity. Some odd link usually jumps out.
- Concept levels (allegory/metaphor/symbolism)
This normally includes items like political, religion, philosophical, psychological, etc. elements I like to underpin a story with.
- Major theme, plot & sub-plot
This is essential to nail early on. All scenes need to progress, debate or involve the theme some way.
- Concepts for a series
As I’m writing, thoughts pop up for follow on books with the same characters.
- My temporary whiteboard is actually Magic Whiteboard paper… allows it to be pulled down, transported and go with me anywhere.
- Post-its are used so I can easily move them around.
- Whiteboard markers are used later on to connect scenes together.
- I also put lines in to connect scenes to concept levels (where something is progressed) and themes.
- The fuzzy concepts and central ‘Scenes’ sections is where I start adding planned elements at the fuzzy front end of the writing design process.
- As the book design progresses then the leftmost ‘Arcs’ section fills out as Act I, II & III flesh out and crystallize. Post-its from the ‘Scenes’ can move in to the ‘Arcs’ once I’m happy with the story structure.
- I photograph the board each day in case I wish to rollback changes.
- Once happy with the structure I take the final photo of the board and transcribe it onto a laptop to have the scenes set out, in the order I designed.
Final thought: This is just a dynamic approach I use. It works for me. I also tweek it each writing project I start. Some elements become very useful, others can get canned.