I’d love to hear from you if this helps you!
First I’ll remind anyone reading this that I’m presenting this as my own methods of writing. There are very few people who have the same approach or process toward writing and this applies even more to storyboarding. In no way is this intended to be “the one true way” to do anything.
I’ve decided to present this as a journey through a story from idea to storyboarding to beginning to write. The results will be available in my newsletter because I’ve chosen to make my newsletter story – Games Coyotes Play – my demonstration story.
I’ll be honest that I’ve done this for several reasons.
One is that most publishers don’t want you to have more than a small percentage of a story you are trying to sell already on the web. So using a new story that I want to sell would be a bad idea.
The second is that plagerism happens. More often than you want to believe and even to starting authors like me. I work hard for my stories and I want to believe it won’t happen to me – but I’m not that much of an optimist. So I had to use something that, if it were plagarized, it would perhaps be recognizable as mine by someone and wasn’t something that would directly cost me money. So if anyone sees a story that looks a lot like mine with coyote shifters and all, please turn the thief in.
The third reason is that I began this story BEFORE I learned to storyboard and I’m feeling the lack. I need to get it settled in my own head, so this will help me too.
I’m always up to questions and comments, so don’t hold back. Hopefully this will help others and be a good exercise for me as well.
Before I delve into the story next Wednesday, you need some supplies in order to storyboard. Here is a list of what I use.
- Foam Core Board
I really like the folding presentation boards for storyboarding. They are very convenient because I can fold the two sides in, with post-it notes intact, and not worry about them getting knocked off or moved. Since I move them to wherever I’m writing and often have several stories that are storyboarded but not currently being written, I can tuck the waiting ones in the closet and unfold them when needed. I own five of these boards at the moment.
I use the white boards but I have seen some dark ones. The white ones merely reduce the number of pens I need to have and are cheaper. I also think the colors of post-it notes show up better for me.
I’m a dedicated Sharpie fan – the ink stays even when my son spills stuff on the notes. I only use black and I keep several retractable medium point black sharpies in my supply bucket.
I’m also a relatively neat writer and I don’t write LONG bits of info on the post-it notes, so that also lets me use a bolder pen. It’s easier to read from a distance, as well.
- Post-It Notes
I use three different sizes of post-it notes when I storyboard. I keep about 5 of each color of the 3×3 and 1.5×1.5 notes in my storyboarding bucket but just the yellow lined ones in the 4×4 size.
There are all sorts of shades of notes out there. I happen to like the Super Sticky ones because I move my notes around a lot. The only important things are to make sure you can tell the colors apart instantly and you can read your writing on the note. After that, go with what you like.
- 3×3 Post-It Notes
I use 3×3 Notes for POV characters only and on them is written the scene information in the color note for whomever the POV character is. I’m a huge hater of head-hopping so this helps me keep on track.
I usually use:
- Pink = Heroine
- Blue = Hero
If I have any other POV characters, I use a different color for each one of them. But ONLY POV characters get a 3×3 note.
- 1.5×1.5 Post-It Notes
These are the notes I use for prompts, for plot points, for triggering items, etc.
My standards are:
- Green = Pacing/midpoint notes
- Orange = Sex
- 4×4 Lined Post-It Notes
These are used for making notes of character appearances, families, paranormal abilities, etc. Basically for anything that I need a quick reference for.
You’ll need this to mark off the foam core the first time you use each one. After that, it’s not needed.
- Removable/Repositionable Tape
I keep a roll of this on hand for the occasion when I’ve moved a note a bunch of times and the adhesive refuses to work properly. Not a necessity but I nice thing to stow in the bucket.
Preparing the Storyboard
You need to have your collection of post-it notes and pens. I actually keep all mine in one of these clear paint cans people use for crafts. It has the advantages of looking nice, keeping them all together and clean and, best of all, the paint can is very hard for my six year old son to pry open!
Then you need to divide your storyboard into chapter squares. I use a plain old wooden yardstick and a sharpie and divide it into six inch squares. It ends up looking like this when unfolded and propped up.
Most of the time I won’t show you the full storyboard. We won’t use nearly the whole thing for my sample story and you’ll want to read the post-it notes more than you’ll want to admire the empty landscape.
Note that I don’t number the squares. I know some people do but if I have several small stories, they may all live on the same board just in different areas. If it really bothers you, feel free to number yours or use a small post-it or even a flag for the numbers.
I know that I seem to work best at two scenes per chapter. So each square will have two scenes in it. One of the reasons I use the size post-it notes that I do is that two sets of one large plus four small ones will fit in each square. I like to be able to see it all at a glance, if I can. I don’t like to stack them. The top half of each square is always scene one and the bottom half is scene two.
Setting Your Story Length:
Now is when you really have to decide about how long your story is going to be. This can actually be done several different ways.
If I know how long I want the story to be (or it’s required to be), I can use a formula to determine the number of chapters. The basic formula is:
Desired Wordcount / Average words per chapter = number of chapters needed
So if I wanted a 60,000 word story and I know I write about 2,500 words per chapter, I would need twenty four chapters. Always round up.
- Chapter Count
If you are doing a serial, you may know that you need to have a certain number of episodes or chapters. This is how Games Coyotes Play is set up. I knew I wanted the story to run for a year, so I knew I needed twelve chapters.
- Mark the Start and End
The next thing I do is mark the real start of the story – the Inciting Event. I always put it at the very beginning because I have a bad habit of trying to introduce too much backstory before the real story starts. It helps to keep me honest.
I stick a small post-it in my plot point color (it’s really lime green, despite the pics) labeled “Inciting Event” on the board.
Then I put a plot point post-it labeled “Resolution” in the last square.
Now my storyboard looks like this:
- Add Midpoint
Now I find the middle of the story and put a plot point post-it labeled “Midpoint” in that square
- Add Basic Turning Points
Now, still with the plot point post-its, I add the other two turning points to create the basic story structure I use.
A “TP” post-it is placed midway between “Inciting Event” and “Midpoint”. Another “TP” is placed midway between “Midpoint” and “Resolution”.
- Make Pacing Adjustments
Now I step back and look at what I have and make adjustments if I think I need to. In the case of “Games Coyotes Play”, I do need to.
This is a serial story so it has no real ongoing momentum to carry it forward. That means it can’t tolerate much in the way of lag or really slow spots. When I look at the storyboard shown in the last step, I see a lot of empty squares. Those are points the story can lose momentum.
It can also benefit from the second half of the story moving faster.
In this case, I decided that I needed to add two more turning points and shift the midpoint and the third turning point. You can see in this photo that the midpoint has shifted one chapter later and an additional “TP” is now inserted midway between the first “TP” and “Midpoint”.
The next thing was to move the “TP” after the Midpoint to a scene earlier in the story and inserted a new “TP” post-it between it and the Resolution. But in this case I put it the chapter before the resolution and also labeled it the “BM” for Black Moment.
Now when I step back and look, it’s in better balance and not too bare. This is a good start to a well-paced story.
Come back next week for the next installment and I’ll start to show the POV notes.
Comments and questions are always welome