Week Eight Report: Storyboarding


Okay everyone, we’re done with Week Eight.

That means we have eight weeks to go and have logged countless hours of writing amounting to at least 12,000 words.  Everything we’ve done so far is starting to turn into something.  At this point, for most of us, that something is messy and in need of an organizational override.

This is also the point where many, especially myself, get discouraged and feel overwhelmed by the plethora of words and possibilities and the fact that all of these words and possibilities no longer fit into the hopeful little box you had imagined for them.

The best advice we’ve heard so far is to go on.  Muddle through.  Do whatever it takes to get words on a page, but at this point words on a page just won’t cut it.  As my professor, Cathy Day, put it last week—being a writer is like having homework every day for the rest of your life.  Well folks, the wonderful and sometimes difficult truth about being able to make a living from writing is that it isn’t an orthodox nine-to-five job, it requires you to sacrifice almost every piece of yourself in hopes that the end result will be rewarding both creatively and financially.

Eventually, that “game over” feeling will pass.

post-it gameover

Getting Past “Game Over”

will require going over everything you’ve written so far and meticulously organizing it so that is starts to resemble a cohesive novel.  One step in achieving this is storyboarding.

Storyboarding 101

While the task of storyboarding your novel may seem daunting and unapproachable, it is an essential part of noveling and is actually quite helpful and fulfilling once you get started.

Reverse Storyboarding 

In order to storyboard your own novel, it is beneficial to storyboard someone else’s novel, or even a film that you like to get a feel for its purpose and aesthetic.  In Cathy Day’s novel-writing class, we are required to reverse-storyboard a novel—I am using Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell—to give us an idea on how the elements of our story, namely plot, come together for the finished product.


There are many ways you can choose to reverse storyboard—I once covered the mirror in my Freshman dorm room with neon dry-erase marker outlining my idea for a Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle origin story—but for this project I will be using Post-It notes and index cards.

 A Quick for Instance

 Most of you, I am assuming, have read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, right?  Good.  The  premiere novel of the  illustrious J.K. Rowling is comprised of 17 chapters, so, I take out 17 index cards and number  them 1-through-17 lining  them up accordingly.  Then, I write a short thumbnail synopsis of what happened in each  chapter as it relates to  furthering the plot—this is really where the reverse part comes into reverse storyboarding, you  have to know how it  ends and have a good idea how you got there.  Sound easy enough?

Now, Sorcerer’s Stone isn’t as complex as the rest of the books in the series, so, if I were to storyboard say the whole  series I would need to include many different colored Post-Its attributed to different characters and how their stories  progressed or how their actions furthered the plot—a bit trickier, yes?

After doing so, I am certain you have a deeper understanding of the events put in motion early on in the series, as well  as, a deeper understanding on how noveling works.

Your Finished Product


Photo borrowed from Erica Ridley, http://www.ericaridley.com/read/storyboarding/

               Should look something like this.



Or this. (Faulkner’s notes for The Fable)


Or this. (Heller’s storyboarding of Catch 22)


Or even this.

What I Learned

From reverse storyboarding I was able to discern which parts of my novel belonged in the trash and which parts are necessary in developing the plot, even parts that I hadn’t considered before.

 Storyboarding is a necessary and helpful tool for developing a novel.  It is so wonderful to be able to walk up to my post-it note timeline and add/move/remove pieces from my novel without having to muddle through notes and Word documents.

There are many many ways to storyboard.  The best way is to find a way that works best for you; there are also programs available online such as, Scrivener and MindNode (on the App Store for Mac) that are fun, easy to use and paper-free!

See Also

Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet from his screenwriting manual Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.  Creating beat sheets is similar to storyboarding for screenwriters, so called for each “beat” in the plot.  Typically, in the filmmaking world, storyboarding is attributed to the process of building scenes before principal photography.  

As always thanks for reading!  Be sure to post any questions or comments below! Happy Writing!


3 thoughts on “Week Eight Report: Storyboarding

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