Saturday, April 21, 2012

Storyboard Snippets




This past Tuesday, I posted a picture of my big-ass storyboard as part of a tour of my office space.  A few of my wonderful commenters expressed interest in knowing more about how exactly my storyboard is set up.  So this post will be devoted to answering this question. Below you'll find close-up pictures and descriptions of my process.  It's probably the craziest process out there (and, judging by my slower than molasses rate of production, perhaps not the smartest) but I like it and I hope that maybe you find it interesting.  At the very least, it could be a tutorial in what not to do.  At any rate, I'd like to warn anyone who maybe hopes to one day read my novel to not look too closely at these pictures because they will contain spoilers.



If you don't already know, I'm writing an epic fantasy series.  The first two novels are over 600 pages each thus far, which is not quite as long as A Song of Ice and Fire but still, a respectable length, I think.  Part of the problem I had in early drafts was keeping track of the wheres and the whens because, as is generally the case with epic fantasy, there are a lot of characters doing a lot of things at a lot of different times in a lot of different places, and I kept screwing up the timeline.

The story also takes place in four separate countries.  None of these settings are equipped with wi-fi or telephones or a pair of cans connected by a string.  None of them have any sort of mail delivery service that doesn't require the use of a horse or ship or some combination of the two.  All of this time needs to be accounted for.  All of these places need to have names, and I need to remember that when, in chapter one, the capital city of Eluned is located in the northeast quadrant, it had better be in the same place come chapter twenty.

But because I am stupid a visual learner, I had a hard time keeping all this straight just in my head and confusingly-scribbled notes in my notebooks.  I needed to see it laid out before me.  And thus, the storyboard was born.  I've had it for a little over a year now, and I think it's made a huge difference.  The first thing I put on it was the calendar:








This calendar covers the timeline for book one and about a third of book two.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do when I get to book three.  Or even the second half of book two.  But that's a problem for another time.  The months and years at the top of each page were chosen almost completely at random (one sentence early in book two makes it not random).  I just needed them to help give my timeline shape. On each page is written the major events in the novel, who does what when.  I've planned the series to be at least five books long (I'd really like there to be six because I like the symmetry, but I haven't thought that far ahead yet)  and because there is some back and forth happening, each novel gets its own color of ink. This way I know at a glance which notes corresponds to which novel.  The blue and pink post-it notes indicate scenes that need to be fixed and are placed on the calendar near to the scene in question.





The yellow post-it notes are those which still require my attention.  They've been moved from the storyboard to the bottom of my monitor so that when I start wasting away my time on Facebook or Twitter or Minesweeper or whatever (not that I ever do that), I'll see them and guiltily stop what I am doing and go back to what I should be doing.  Sometimes it works.





This map was the second thing to be put on the big-ass storyboard.  Yes, it's a map of England, Wales and Scotland.  No, my story doesn't take place in any of these countries, but like the months and the years of my calendar, I'm using it to help me keep track of where everything is because in earlier drafts, I did lose a couple of villages and one managed to move from the west to the south and back again.  Oops.  And because I can't draw, I used a map already in existence.  Each little pink slip is the name of a village/city in my book.




This is a series of emails I received from my last beta reader.  These are the notes she gave me.  The highlighted portions are the notes I wanted to make sure I really paid attention to. Hmmm. That makes it sound like I didn't care about the rest. Which isn't true. I am, as always, grateful for any and all feedback I receive.  I give it all very careful consideration.



This is a titles list for the entire planned series.  Five books, each written in three parts.  And don't you just love that font?  I do.  It's really the only reason I took the time to print out a copy of it.




This picture contains the BIGGEST DAMN SPOILERS of all, so please just kind of squint when you look at it.  This is obviously a family tree  (created for free at  Family Echo).  I created it to help me keep track of characters.  Plus, it just kind of looks cool.  But because I couldn't figure out how to get it to print everything (I am not known for my technical know how), I had to write in the rest.  It really worked out better this way because I don't have the storyboard space for a multi-paged family tree.



This is the most embarrassing thing on the big-ass storyboard, so much so that I'm a little surprised I posted it here.  Oh well.  This, in case it's unclear, is the prototype for my book cover.  I know.  I'm such an amazing artist you don't know why I'm wasting my talent writing books.  Please don't injury yourselves laughing.  Seriously though, don't hurt yourselves. 

One afternoon last year, I got the idea to make a mock-up of something I thought would be cool, but I have absolutely no artistic talent (which should be painfully obvious to you now) and I have no idea how to use Photoshop or Gimp or any of those types of programs.  So I decided to print out a couple of pictures (I don't even have a color printer) that I liked (even if the woman is missing the top of her head and the guy would ideally be facing the other direction and not have a quiver of arrows on his back) and sketch in the rest.  The cross is supposed to be a dagger and the empty circle behind it is supposed to be something cool, like a stained glass window, but I didn't even know how to go about sketching that so it's just a circle.



This is what I do when I have to work out problems in chapters, more specifically the ordering of scenes.  I wrote about it in detail back in January, but here's a recap:  each slip of paper has written on it a one line description of the scene.  Blank slips of paper represent scenes that need to exist but don't because I don't know what they are yet.  In this format, I can easily shuffle them around until I nail down the order I want them to be in.  Transitions and flow between scenes are very important to me and this helps me make the most of it.  Most of the time.  When my dining room table isn't available for this exercise (read: when I'm too lazy to clean it off...), I use post-it notes and my Serenity movie poster.

So there you have it.  Those are the contents of my big-ass storyboard (and my dining room table).  Not traditional in any sense, but when have I ever done anything traditional?  I apologize for the length of this post—I hope you don't regret your interest in the big-ass storyboard and that you didn't fall asleep at your computer while reading it.  And if you did, I hope you didn't drool all over the keyboard.  Talk about your messy clean up.

Have a great weekend, all.  See you Monday.

42 comments:

  1. I had a question at some point, but it's late, I'm tired, and I already forgot it. I don't really have time to read back through the whole thing and try to figure out what it was. But, at least, you know I -had- a question.

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  2. Wow. I wish I'd that much room on the wall to plot.
    My writing area is a small pocket in the dining room where, if it can't be done on the computer, I don't have it.

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  3. That is such an amazing board. I'm impressed, but I can see why it would be madness not to have it. 5 books is an immense amount of information to hold.

    I loved the slips of paper on the table. I've been known to cut up a story that wasn't working and literally paste it back together in a different way, all over my dining room floor. Sometimes cut-and-paste on Word doesn't work!

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  4. I can't decide which part is my favourite - the calander or the map. The whole thing is so biiiiiig and pretty! I wish I could be as organised.

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  5. Great process and post. I recently bought all the supplies for my own storyboard, timeline, and map even, but I don't have enough "story" to go on them . . . yet.

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  6. Okay. I wasn't bored nor di I drool. Thanks for inviting us into your little office and how you do things.

    All I can say is, WOW!

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  7. This is an excellent way of keeping things straight. I am a visual sort of person/writer too! I use postcards (sometimes huge ones) and pin them up on a board. I think you need something like this in order to keep everything straight. Esp. in something like what you are writing.

    Good luck. All this work should pay off!

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  8. I love story boarding. It helps keep things clear, but more, it makes me FEEL professional. If it works for Joss Whedon (who said in an interview he's all about the story boards) then it works for me :)

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  9. Oh my freakin...that's a lot of organizational intimidation in this post.

    I think I sketched out a timeline on a page in a notebook once to try and keep me straight on events. I'm thinking I need to adopt your much more helpful storyboard idea. That is, wow, I gotta get my butt in gear and get organized. No more excuses!

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  10. Wow, I'm impressed! Very organized. (And visual learners are not stupid, they just learn in a different way.)

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  11. Wow! What an awesome storyboard! In those complex epic fantasies, then it's definitely good to have a way to keep everything straight.

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  12. Wow, you should teach a class on organizing your epic. You gave me some ideas.

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  13. Holy crow! You're very organized. And you have all that space for it. It's impressive. I have a tiny space and any piece of paper is due to end up in the hands of a toddler.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

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  14. (There's a way to go into the HTML and make sure things get centered. I'd explain, but I'm not sure how as I only kind of understand how to do it.)

    I wouldn't call your process crazy. I think it's cool.

    And I love the cover. It's a great way to think from the end. You see it "finished" which lets you believe it will be finished, and... Anyway, it's a great way to keep you focused on getting it finished and published. Good luck.

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  15. That is some serious organization there! Awesome! I'm a very visual person, I should probably try this at some point :) Have a great weekend too!

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  16. That is amazing. I have to admit, I could never organize a book this thoroughly. It's pretty cool!

    Just wanted to add a big Thank You for the kind words left on Karen's blog!

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  17. I want one for my MS too!! haha. No really, that looks amazing and so well organized - I definitely envy your awesome writing space :)

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  18. Very impressive. You are so organized. As long as it works for you, keep doing it. Thanks for sharing you story boarding process.
    : )

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  19. i LOVE your ba storyboard! i am a total organizer, with maps sketches, timelines. so awesome!

    i have a scene that takes place in india so i have to keep up with the time change and got advice from a native, my neighbor. its so fun!

    you already have 2 books done? wow! dare i ask, have you queried?

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  20. Ok, there was so much to your post and I really enjoyed it, but what I want to comment on most is the fact that you used frakking on your blog! Laughed so hard a little pee came out! Go BSG! :)

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  21. Wow, you have this organized so well. There are a lot of good tips I can use here. The hardest part about writing, it seems is keeping all the little details straight.

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  22. This is the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen. I can't wait for this book to come out. You are amazing.

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  23. I want to scream with joy that IT'S NOT JUST ME!!! :) Okay, instead of slips of paper on the dining room table, I have index cards (some ripped in half - don't ask) spread all over the floor. I have a storyboard with pics I found (draw? ha!) representing some aspects of the story. But still.

    I am now kicking myself that I hadn't thought of the calendar or map idea before. LOVE IT! I know what I'm working on tomorrow. :)

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  24. WOW! That's a lot of work so kudos to you! But I think it works for you because you're writing an epic fantasy--otherwise, you'd totally forget the names and places you've created without some sort of organized notes/storyboard to accompany it. I only write urban fantasy/paranormal so I don't need as much detail as you do. I usually jot down my notes for reference, but no maps or anything for me.

    Good luck!

    Btw, I hate the new blogger interface,too. So confusing! I guess I just need to get used to it.

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  25. Thank you so much. It was so informative, not boring at all. I wish I was that organized.

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  26. When you're ready to come over and organize my scattered ass, just let me know. : ) Seriously love your storyboard.

    I use the giant stick on the wall Post-It pads. It's like a piece of artwork at this point. I'm sure my wife is thrilled, but I refuse to take it down.

    Your writing guardians (under and beside the table) look like a dedicated lot. Typical: dog looks ready for scraps, cat looks ready for a meal. : )

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  27. This is so interesting! Thank you for sharing. I love the idea of a calendar and using an existing map (I can't draw maps either).

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  28. Those are some epic storyboards! :) I like all the post-its on your map.

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  29. I feel so inadequate.

    Wow.
    Just wow.

    HMG

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  30. This is really impressive. Like others, I feel totally inadequate LOL. I am the least organized person on the planet.

    And, just have to say that the new Blogger is freaking me out too. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

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  31. Not only is your story epic, but so is your storyboard. I think my favorite part of it is the way Aragorn seems to be staring lovingly at it in the picture with your beautiful Big on the couch.

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  32. Wowzers, that is a frakking large ass storyboard and complex genius process. I am in awe, my friend. Just in awe.

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  34. I, too, have a giant board for writing purposes, but it is neither that ginormous, nor does it contain much of my story. It's mostly ideas for my blog and later stories on haphazardly arranged post-its, with just a chapter outline for my novel. (My 40+ pages' worth of notes for the novel are all digital. Though I think I may have to go your route -- on a smaller scale -- before the second draft, to keep everything straight.)

    Thanks for sharing, M.J. Go epic, or go home.

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  35. I am in awe of your awesomeness. And of your organizational skills and tidiness. Holy crow, batman! This is ah-mazing. Makes me want to plot out my life!

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  36. Now THAT is my kind of story board!! Dang, I totally need to find one that big!!

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  37. Wow. This is an amazing story board. It is so helpful to see this stuff.

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  38. I love that you drew your own cover! And I'm impressed with all your storyboard info. I think visuals help so much. I have character sketches and pics on my storyboard as well so I can always look at it ... and of course my handy dandy story bible always at my side. ;)

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  39. Wow. And I thought I was a detailed plotter!

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