Whiteboarding Ideas for a Fiction Novel

by Rod Dunne on July 16, 2012

in Blog, Writing

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 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.
  • Scenes/Moments/Actions/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.
  • Characters
    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.

Tools

  • 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.

Thoughts

  • 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.

– Rod

:§)>

Author Rod Dunne...

Blog owner and writer Rod DunneI am the founder & sole writer on Squidinky.com. This is my personal blog detailing my creative writing. This includes novel writing (check out Terra Swarm, Erebus, and Soundings) and song writing.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rod Dunne October 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Just as an update, this jumbled up bunch of post-its got a lot more complex and finally ended up becoming my sci-fi novel Erebus > http://squidinky.com/erebus 🙂

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