Storyboard A Novel in 5 Easy Steps

Storyboard A Novel in 5 Easy Steps

Storyboarding is a wonderful organising technique, that I feel, is highly underrated when it comes to fiction writing. It is a great tool to plot your novels and to put it all together in a coherent plot-line.

I am an intuitive writer but working on multiple long-form fiction projects can be downright scary at times because you tend to forget where you are in a particular story and what needs to be worked and re-worked on. Things get disorganised and that totally sucks the fun out of writing, even for a Panster like me.

And this is where storyboarding comes in. I used it to plot my first book Deceived and I am using it to plot my other 3 books too. So I thought it was time that I shared a little about how I storyboard. Organising tools can be dealt in any way one finds it comfortable, but many writers feel at a loss when they are to put their story into a coherent form and give it a structure. Therefore, I highly suggest using this amazing tool to streamline your novel and make sure nothing is left out or out of order. It is also a great way to let you know what to work on next and how much work has to go into a novel before calling it finished (which a lot of writers generally struggle with.)

So, here is how to storyboard a novel:

Storyboarding A Novel In 5 Easy Steps

Step-1: Base

The first thing that you’ll need is a surface, that we’ll call as our base. It can be a cardboard sheet, drawing sheet, whiteboard or even a clean wall. Basically, you’ll need a big surface are where you can plan your novel.

Now select a fitting plot structure for your novel. We all begin our stories with at least one plot structure in mind so if you don’t want to get too technical or like doing things intuitively then stick to the basic ones. If you are a plotter and good at organising stuff, then you might already have 2-3 plot structures in mind for your story, so put them in use now. If you are not into plot structuring or don’t know about it much, then go for the basic 3-Act Plot Structure.

I generally use the 3-Act Structure, developing it into 4 and then 5-Act Structure and then adding different curves of tension and plot-points. I also tend to use the Fichtean Curve a lot in my graphs, especially for tension and pacing.

Once you’ve decided on the plot structure to begin with, draw horizontal lines leaving a gap of 5-6 inches in between them. Draw at least 5 lines so that you have enough space for all your islands.

Read:

The 3-Act Structure: Introduction

The 4-Act-Structure: Introduction

Step-2: Scene List

Prepare a list of scenes that you have already written, presently working on or plan to write. For this you will have to name your scenes for quick and easy reference. For example, if in a scene, the heroine meets with an accident, then simply name it Accident. If suppose there are two or more scenes of accidents then name them Accident I, Accident II and Accident III and so on. These won’t be your final scene names, they are just for your own reference, so don’t fret over them much and waste time doing it.

Step-3: Plot Points

Make a list of all the major plot points in your story – anything of significance that defines your plot. These plot points will help you see your story in an objective way, helping you determine the key moments, the points of no return and the climax and resolution. If you feel something is missing, then better start working on your plot points now, before you go ahead.

Step-4: Islands

Now is the time to take the post-its or the index cards and start putting down each and every scene on them. These would be known as islands. Simply put the heading of the scene and write 2 lines describing it on each post-it or index card. You need to do it for all your scenes and plot points.

I usually colour-code as per how finished the scenes are, for example, the pink stickies I have used here are for the finished scenes, the blue ones are for the plot points, the peach ones are for scenes that need re-writing and the yellow ones for the scenes that are yet to be written.

Step-5: Put It All Together

Now put up all the post-its or tape the index cards as per your plot-line. Go as per the sequence of the scenes and plot points and start putting all the islands on your base.

Note: Do not paste your islands on the storyboard using glue otherwise you won’t be able to move them around without messign up your board.

And that is how you storyboard your novel.


After you’re done, have a good hard look at the overall story and if you feel some scenes are missing then simply create islands for them and add them to the Base.

How do you storyboard your novel? Don’t forget to share your experience with storyboarding in the comments section below!

The 4-Act-Structure: Introduction

The 4-Act-Structure: Introduction

 

As almost all the plotters would swear by, outlining a story helps a writer greatly in making sense of the story for the readers. We, as writers, know what our story is and how it plays out, the difficult bit is to put in into words in a systematic way and have it make sense to its readers the same way that it does for us. And this is where the story structures come into play.

I used to consider myself a hardcore plotter until I finally realised that I’m more of an intuitive person who writes by the seat of her pants as much as I rely on planning my stories. So now I try to find a balance between pantsing and plotting. And I personally see story structures as an adventurer’s maps – you can have all the adventures you want to have by following your intuition, but occasionally you need the maps to take you where you want to go, especially when you get lost or stuck.

I used the 3-Act Structure for plotting my first novel, Deceived, but for my second and third manuscripts, I needed something more extensive as they are more complex than my earlier work, so I used the 4 Act Structure. In this article, I’ll be introducing the 4-Act Structure and its benefits and use. If you wish to know more about the 3-Act Structure then you can read the following articles I wrote a while ago:


The 4-Act-Structure: Introduction

the 4-act structure

What is the 4-Act Structure?

The 4-Act Structure is basically the broader version of the 3 Act Structure in which the elaborate ‘middle’ is broken into two separate acts. This method is very popular among writers especially those who write lengthy novels and the ones who struggle with the ‘infinite middle.’

  • Act-1: Setup of conflict
  • Act-2: Build-up
  • Act-3: Crises
  • Act-4: Resolution

Here’s a simple diagram to depict the 4-Act Structure:

This image is subject to copyright.

What are the advantages of using the 4-Act Structure?

There are many advantages to using the 4-act structure, just like any other outlining tool:

  1. It helps in dealing with the overall story better, in an organized manner (just like any other story structure.)
  2. It assists in specifically dealing with the problematic middle of the story – the 75% part of the story that is a bit vaguely structured in the 3-act structure of story writing.
  3. It encourages in figuring out the problems with the story plot and in combing out the plot holes that would inevitably make your story weak.
  4. It helps in understanding what exactly your story is lacking in order to make it into a near-perfect manuscript.
  5. It even aids in recognizing, and then getting rid of, the redundant scenes, side stories and subplots.
  6. It greatly helps in dealing with the most coveted enemy of any writer – writer’s block, when you get stuck in the inescapable limbo.
  7. It also serves, for many writers, as a quick fix to complete the drafts within a particular timeline. It’s not necessarily a short cut, but can definitely be viewed as an answer to many plot-progression related problems.

When should the 3-Sct Structure be used? Before starting the first draft, in between or at the of the nth draft?

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve discovered the hard way that it’s always best to first write the first draft by the seat of your pants, no matter if you consider yourself a planner or a pantster, because the first draft has to be as unadulterated and pure as can be, and that would be possible only if you let your imagination take over your mind and the muse and instinct guide your hands. The story structure, whether it is a 3-act structure or the 4-act structure or even the 9-act structure, should be applied for the first time to the first draft once it is complete. Then as you progress, it depends on how often you want to adjust your story according to the structure; you can do it while you write or revise your drafts or before or after that. It is entirely up to you.

I have come to realise that if the story structures are applied to the story in the initial stage of the conceiving of the plot, before or right after beginning the first draft (which is far too complex and difficult than one might think) then it corrupts the authenticity of the plot that otherwise might have been and makes it feel constrained. And such writing often results in an amateurish end product.

If you want a simpler story structure for your story, then read this: The 3-Act Structure: In Detail


If you are suffering from a writer’s block or are facing difficulty in getting ahead with your story, here are some articles I recommend: