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.


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!

5 Keys To Writing 50K Words In 30 Days

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and everyone is going nuts preparing for it. And why the hell not? It’s the biggest writing project or festival of the year! well, at least for the creative writing community.

For those living under the rock, NaNoWriMo is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1 and November 30.
– Wiki

In the year 2014, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and having no idea how to write so much in 30 days I failed miserably with less than 2000 words. It was my very first attempt to write my first book (or for that matter to write anything substantial.) That year I hated NaNoWriMo from the bottom of my heart and decided never to take part in it ever again. Sigh… If writers are one thing, it’s dramatic.

Anyway, after a few months, I came to know about JuNoWriMo and decided to give it a try as it is not as hyped as NaNoWriMo and thought “What the heck.” Failing in NaNoWriMo 2014 helped me understand my weaknesses. So I chalked out a rough plan and went headfirst with a bowl of determination and a solid outline for my novel. And… I not only completed the first draft of my book with 52K words but also developed a habit of writing 2K per day.

After that the very next month I took part in Camp NaNoWriMo in July 2015 and won it with 64K words! It was the second draft for Deceived. Since then I’ve been writing 1K per day (on and off), which is actually quite good according to many big writers. Still, I try to write more whenever possible.

In this journey from 0 to 1-3K words per day, I learned a lot of lessons. Now I always look forward to all the NaNoWriMos, Camp NaNos and JuNos every year because today I have something that I didn’t have that first year, and that is confidence. Now I know what it really takes to get 50K+ words in 30K. And to help others who are struggling to get those dreaded 50K words done this NaNoWriMo, I’ve come up with 5 keys that are the most important factors for cracking NaNoWriMo and even to write a good amount of words daily even after NaNo.

5 Keys To Write 50K Words Within 30 Days

1. Planning:

I used to think that I was pantster, but it took me almost 8 months of pantsing to realize that I’m a hardcore plotter. Pantsing is not something that people really understand. Most of the people like to believe that they are one because pantsing does not require any preparations. They think that it is easy. But what they don’t know is that pantsing is not as easy as it seems. You really need to be a hardcore spur-of-the-moment pantster otherwise you’ll be staring at a blank screen for most of the time.
If you are struggling with your writing then more than 90% chances are either you think you are a pantster or your planning is falling short. Now when I say planning I’m not talking only about outlining your novel. No, planning also includes deciding or preparing a plan about what all you need to get done in the next 30 days. It can be as easy as making a simple bullet point list of stuff you need to get in NaNoWriMo.
Remember, the more you plan the easier it will be for you to write. At least, you won’t be facing the “Blank Screen Syndrome” and wondering “What the heck should I do now?”

Being a hardcore planster, I do a LOT of planning when it comes to my novels. For poetry, I write by the seat of my pants. It takes a lot of time, discipline and patience to plan your novel, so do a bit of research before you start planning and learn some tricks of the trades such as Character Profile Sheets, the 3-Act StructureFreewriting, First Drafts, different Point Of Views, the concept of Writer’s Block and Naming The Writer’s Unconscious and the difference between Editing & Revising.

Word of Advice: If you ever feel stuck somewhere you can try mind mapping and brainstorming.

Read my article on Being A Planster at Portobello Book Blog.


2. Setting Goals:

Just setting a simple aim or a deadline won’t work if you really want to hack this 50K code. You need to really think the goals through. Anyone can do the math to know the average word count they need to write daily in order to complete the 50K limit done in 30 days.. but how can you be so sure that you’ll be writing each and every day for the next 30 days?
My advice (at least to novices) is to keep at least 4 off days, let’s call them Zero Word Days – ZWDs, while planning because you’d need at least 4 days off if you want to write efficiently, especially when you’ve hardly written anything at all regularly before. I can write up to 1K to 3K words daily, even in non-NaNo months, still, I prefer keeping 4 ZWDs because it’s always better to be prepared for the worst.

And get this, even if you don’t need all the 4 ZWDs, you’ll only end up writing more than 50K the way I ended up writing 64K words for Camp NaNoWriMo 2015. So instead of having a goal of 1.6K per day (50K/30), try writing 2K per day. That way even if you don’t feel the need for any ZWDs then you’ll be writing 50K in just 26 days.

If you feel that you are under some sort of writing pressure, then use one of your 4 ZWD and take that day off (if you’re following my way then you have the absolute liberty to take it easy and enjoy for 4 days.) Go out and watch a movie. DO NOT sit in front of the laptop and sulk watching other’s progress because it will lead to writer’s block. Just relax and forget about writing for a day. The next day you’ll be surprised to see that you’ll be ready to write again and that too with a renewed sense of excitement.

Sticking to the word count is great, but never, and I mean NEVER EVER, stop yourself from writing more than the everyday word limit. Someday you might feel like you can have a 3K day or a 5K day and maybe even 10K day. Do it! Whatever you do don’t stop. And from the next day do what you’ve been doing earlier. Stick to the word count. The idea is not to write less than 2K.


3. Writing In Intervals Or Slots:

I love this way of writing and I prefer to call it SLOTTING. I’m not sure about everyone, but so far I’ve interacted with more than a hundred authors and what I’ve gathered so far is that writing in slots is always better, and even more effective, than writing in one sitting. Now there are exceptions but I’m talking about the most common cases.

For slotting, you can write either in word-slots or in time-slots:

  • Word-slots – In one sitting I can easily write 1K. So, if I sit 3 times a day to write my novel or any other project for that matter, I can easily write 3K a day. And that is exactly what I do. I always settle for 2-3 slots a day. Morning, afternoon and/or evening. This way I can write without stressing out and can easily get other stuff done too.
  • Time-slots – If you want to write in time slots, then start with 1/2-hour slots, 2-3 times a day, no matter how much you write, but at the end of the day make sure to complete the minimum number of words you’ve set as your daily target.

If you are a beginner and want to write 2K per day like I explained in the previous point, then you can go about it like this: Write 500 words in one sitting, 4 times a day. But 4 times is a lot, isn’t it? So what you can do is write 500 words, then take a 20-minute break. Do not write in these 20 minutes. You can either read something or do a house chore or better yet take a nap! Then after 20 minutes write another 500 words. Repeat this in the evening. This way you’ll be writing 2K per day very easily.


4. Determination:

This is where most of the people balk, especially in the long run. You really need to be determined about writing and completing your goals. Don’t let anything or anyone come in the way of your writing. Write like your ass is on fire and the only way to save it is by writing… Just write!

If you’re struggling with a particular scene, then leave it and move on to the other one before you get irritated and stop writing altogether. If you like quotes then I’d suggest you write some of your favourite ones on a post-it or a note card and put them up on the wall just above (or next to) your writing desk, where you can see them while writing.
If you feel like quitting, think about why you started writing in the first place.

Also, you’ll have to be determined to achieve all the goals you’ll set for yourself. Instead of focusing on writing 50K within 30 days, try and focus on writing 2K every day (or whatever your goal is.) This will make all the difference.


5. Prioritising:

Ah… Now, this is an important one. Sometimes we get so excited about writing that we totally forget about other things and just write madly. It’s okay to do this if you have some really great idea that you just can’t miss, but doing this, again and again, is not as good an idea as you might think. Trust me, it’s not a healthy practice. If you choose to go on like this, then sooner or later you’ll be overwhelmed and develop a writer’s block. And we don’t want that, do we? The only solution to this problem is to prioritize.

Remember, each and everything is important. If you’re writing that doesn’t mean that you have an excuse to leave the house dirty or make other family members do your work. Nope, it’s not acceptable. Once in a while, it is okay but being a writer is not about writing in November only. You have to write each and every day of the year, so set aside time for everything that you are supposed to do. Remember you won’t get the time, you’ll have to make it.

Writing is your craft, your love; don’t make it a punishment for others.

I’m a fitness freak so along with all the house chores and writing I need at least an extra hour for my walking, jogging and yoga. So, I get up at 6:00 am and make it a point to finish my exercise and yoga routines by 8:00. And then I carry on with my day like any normal day.
So, all you need to do is prioritize stuff and make sure that you do all the necessary things.

Note: All the pictures used in this articles have been taken from Pixabay unless stated otherwise.
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