Sunday, July 17, 2011

Made myself a story board!

Cork board

As I mentioned a few posts back, I decided to go back and try to untangle and complete a sci-fi sort of story I started years ago. That story is, in short, a mess of epic proportions. It has multiple plot lines and narrative voices, and--just to make it all the more fun--the original plot line upon which all other plot lines were constructed...wrote itself out of the story. It doesn't fit anymore. Most of the characters that were a major part of that plot line don't fit. Which means the whole rest of the mess needs to be extricated from the grip of the dead plot line and rewritten to stand alone.

Now, as I've mentioned a time or two, I'm pretty much a seat-of-the-pants sort of writer. Planning would not have kept me from this mess. I end up in these sorts of situations every darned time, planning or no. But now, I need to redo time lines to make bits and pieces match up, and trying to hold it all in my head wasn't working. It's the primary reason I shelved the story to begin with. I need to visualize where people are supposed to be and when and where so all the narratives line up.

I've tried coming at this a few different ways: writing up a synopsis (I got lost), drawing up tables (I got lost), attempting to draw a time line on paper (I got lost, ran out of room, and kept remembering additional scenes I needed to cram in). I decided I needed something I could easily see all at once, *and* restructure until I have it all straight. A cork board seemed like a logical choice: something I could see and touch and move around to my heart's content.


Cork squares are on sale a lot of places this time of year--they're a cheap alternative to full bulletin boards. Not as nice looking, no, nor as sturdy...but you can make a four foot bulletin board for under ten bucks! Not bad. If I lived somewhere with really awesome thrift stores that had used cork boards in great condition, I'd probably do that instead, but I don't. These should work fine for just paper, though, which is all I really want them for. And it was nice to be able to define my own shape.

The squares I bought came with little foam mounting squares. Not knowing if they'd come with such a thing or not, I bought some Scotch brand mounting squares. I didn't buy quite enough of the Scotch squares to use all around, because I grabbed a pack *before* I decided to get two packages of cork squares. In retrospect, and for future reference...I should have bought more Scotch squares. The mounting foam thingies that came with the cork squares were eeeeeeeevil. Horribly, horribly evil. In particular, they had an absolutely maddening tendency to adhere to their own backing paper, so when you tried to peel it off to reveal the stickum, a whole layer of foam would peel away, revealing a completely not-sticky and useless interior layer.


I said some bad words in my head a few times on the squares where I used those. The Scotch squares, in contrast, were easy peasy--peel, stick, peel, stick. No drama. And they strike me as much sturdier as well. Worth the price of admittance.

I still have to play with this setup and figure out how best to make it work for me, but I have a good feeling about it. I'm going to mark some dates or at least year markers on the paper strips, and for the moment I'm using different colored cards for different characters--not really essential, but I like how bright it looks. Hopefully I can finally get this thing figured out so I can get back to writing!


Mike Speegle said...

Very cool! I too suffer from seat-of-the-pants-sci-fi-itis. Collision Course was quite the tangled mess, and still is three years later.

Having tried various other organization methods, I may just try yours. I enjoy programs like Scrivener, but computer programs are all limited by the same crippling problem: you just can't see the whole thing all at once. The cork board has the same advantages that a typewriter does; it does everything you want it to and nothing you don't.

Little Flower Petals said...

Scrivener is absolutely awesome for organizing the *text* of the story itself...but I still need to visually map out the overlapping time bits, and that's where I'm hoping the cork board will really step up to the plate. Then I can identify where I need patches and fixes and additional scenes and write those. The two should work nicely hand-in-hand.

And speaking of hand...this story was pretty much all written that way. I'm likely to continue working on each scene by hand, then typing it into Scrivener and smoothing it out. It needs a lot of smoothing. But I love these particular characters a great deal, and I'm very happy to be back in their heads and playing with them again!

notagain said...

If it's that complex, maybe it's not just one novel?

Little Flower Petals said...

The plot line that wrote itself out of this novel went on to become the main plot of another novel, so to a point, you're right: it was more than one. But that's getting ripped out and now it's just complex in parts. During one portion, for example, there are three different parties (with some overlap) who all want a particular item, each for their own reasons. Keeping track of who did what when and where, and who's got the button (so to speak) was making me crazy.

Strikethru said...

What a great idea! Wish I had seen this post back when I was trying to organize my old nano drafts, and fretting over a stack of index cards.