It’s mid-October and time for many writers to think about National Novel Writing Month—thirty days of dedicated writing where you take an idea for a novel, sit down and daily write at least 1,667 words of a rough draft. The goal of this month of concentrated writing time is to get the entire story down while the inspiration and ideas are flowing. At the end of the thirty days, you should have a novel-length story, hopefully with a complete story arc (beginning, middle, end).
Once that is done, the work really begins.
To succeed at completing a project with such an ambitious goal, it helps if you spend some time planning your novel. To that end, I like to storyboard all my ideas. By making this effort when the idea is first in my head, if I become lost or find myself floundering in the writing process, I can come back to my original files and remind myself of what the original concept of the story actually was.
Many people use Scrivener for this, but I found the learning curve for that program to be too annoying, so I simply use a spreadsheet program, because all the important information is on the same line.
Scrivener costs $40.00which is not bad, but Google Drive has the free program, Google Sheets. This program is similar to Excel (which I use), so the principals I will be discussing are the same.
Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides are a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation program respectively, all part of a free, web-based software office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. The three apps are available as web applications, and as mobile apps for Android and iOS. The apps are compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. The suite also consists of Google Forms (survey software), Google Drawings (diagramming software) and Google Fusion Tables (database manager; experimental).
The suite allows users to create and edit files online while collaborating with other users in real-time. Edits are tracked by user with a revision history presenting changes. An editor’s position is highlighted with an editor-specific color and cursor.
Admittedly, this program doesn’t do what Excel does but it is perfect for this if you don’t have Microsoft Office.
But you can do this any old way that makes you happy, even by drawing columns on a sheet of paper by hand. The point is to have a list of names and places with five pieces of information pertaining to the story all on the same line. I have so many ideas that I created a blank template that I fill in, retitle, and save in a new folder for each prospective story. I may make as many as five storyboards in a week, out of which I may not write any of them, lol. But the ideas are there for me to access when I want them.
The following is a screenshot of my blank storyboard template. Originally this began as a way to do short stories, but my novels begin with ideas storyboarded out this way too.
The storyboard for my ideas works this way:
At the Top: Working Title
If it’s an idea for a short story, the intended publication and closing date for submissions (not needed it it is for a novel)
Column A: Character Names: list the important characters by name, and also list the important places where the story will be set.
Column B: About: What their role is, a note about that person or place, a brief description of who and what they are.
Column C: The Problem: What is the core conflict?
Column D: What do they want? What does each character desire?
Column E: What will they do to get it? How far will they go to achieve their desire?
As I said, this plays directly to how a linear thinker like me works. It takes advantage of the ideas I have that might make a good story, makes a note of all the pertinent ideas I have at the outset, and offers me a jumping off point.
Feel free to take this idea and run with it. Design the storyboard that works for you!
Credits and Attributions
NaNoWriMo 2017 Municipal Liaison Badge, © 2017 www.nanowrimo.org, (limited use permitted for Municipal Liaisons on blogs and social media).
Wikipedia contributors, “Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Google_Docs,_Sheets,_and_Slides&oldid=805075002 (accessed October 15, 2017).
Screenshot of Blank Storyboard Template, © 2017 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved.