Category Archives: Index Cards

Storyboard, Aug 3

This is what my storyboard for book two looked like two days ago. (The part with the green background.)

It had three cards on it when I started writing book one.  While writing book one, I occasionally slapped new cards up on books two and three when I had ideas, in the general area of the books where I thought something would happen or be important. [Book three is on top, but most of its cards are in the first part of the book so not in this pic.]  Post-its tend to fall off eventually but I did have some, and some scribbled notes and some printed.  Now I’m looking at what I have, figuring out what else I need, eliminating those ideas that probably won’t fit.

I am very disorganized. Any kind of analysis requires this kind of thought process is a real shift in gears for me.  So having these physical elements to work with–so fluid and easy to move around, remove, put back–has made all the difference in the world in my ability to visualize and control my story.

I’ve never done this detailed kind of outlining and plotting before, but for this trilogy it’s absolutely necessary.

The storyboard technique is from the aforementioned screenwriting book, Save The Cat, and I wish I’d learned it earlier.  I’d used scene cards before, but never in this way.

I have used color to represent things like “not sure about this” or “R’s pov” but when I have a plot that is getting close to solid, I will make all of this neat and print it out in proper scene cards and then use it to write from.

Also, I had a major spoiler on the board. Not that anybody ever actually reads it but me but… I have removed that spoiler and rewritten so that it is no longer spoilery. (wink)


Filed under Analog, Index Cards, Novels, Office, Organizing, Save the Cat, Screenwriting, Storyboard, Writers, Writing

And behind door number three…

If you’re not interested in the creative process and how I get from “idea” to “book,” you’ll want to skip this one.

So.  I have had a storyboard on the wall for book two in my trilogy for, maybe 18 months, maybe longer. It started off with only three cards, but as I thought of stuff, I would pin it up there to deal with later (when I was smart) instead of writing it down somewhere to lose (when I was dumb), or more likely, assuming I’d remember it (when I was flat-out stupid).

That’s just a small portion of the board, but it shows that some of them are scribbled by hand, some printed, some on colored cards (meaning I am not sure about them, but maybe they will take me somewhere), and post-its show up there, too, although they sometimes get knocked off so I really prefer cards with push pins.

Still, not enough cards to write a book, or even a brief synopsis, because they are isolated scenes with no connective tissue, no major mile markers to guide me, just a general idea that this scene probably will fall in this part of the book (beginning, middle or end).

The time has finally come to build this story.

But I couldn’t find the spine of the story.  What kind of story is it?  I know what happens in it, and the big huge revelations that explode everything to hell and back, but in Blake Snyder terms, I couldn’t figure out if it was door number one, a Golden Fleece or door number two, a Whydunit.  And from my experience plotting the first book in the trilogy, I knew that as soon as I understood what kind of story it was, at least some of the pieces would suddenly start falling into place.

I kept reading/skimming story breakdowns in Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies and could see elements in both Golden Fleece and Whydunit that fit my story, but neither was a clear winner.  So, I whipped out the colored index cards and decided to put the story elements that fit Golden Fleece on pink cards and story elements that fit Whydunit on blue.

And it still felt kind of murky. (See?  It even looks murky there, and that’s not because I adjusted the settings in iPhoto to make it look murky.  Okay, it is because of that. Sue me.) Anyway.  This tried and true process still wasn’t giving me answers.

BACKSTORY: I might point out that when I was looking for the structure of the first book I read through every Snyder-genre in Save the Cat Goes to the Movies, and dipped back into Save the Cat, too. (I say Snyder-genre because he redefines genre in a way that is amazing and is what truly opened my eyes to structure, but honestly he should have used a different term because genre is something tangible and defined.  His interpretation is something new and not really “genre” at all, and if I just left “genre” hanging out there, you’d wonder if I’m totally insane, not knowing if I’m writing a romantic comedy or a horror or a science fiction novel, right? What Snyder actually isolated is about structure and elements of plot that certain story-types have in common, not truly genre.)

Okay, so I was almost to the end of his book thinking, “This doesn’t work. I thought it worked; I thought he was brilliant; this doesn’t work for my new story.”  And then I hit the last section–Superhero–and like a flash of Hollywood dazzle and special effects, the elements were there, this was the story I was writing.  What’s more, as soon as I recognized that, many other story pieces made sense.  Ideas and scenes I already knew I was going to write were right there in the superhero structure Snyder outlined, and suddenly they were fleshing out and I was able to connect them better and the whole thing started taking shape.

Which doesn’t mean it got easy.  It just means it finally started revealing itself to me with logic behind it, not just floating in the primordial ooze that my muse hands me. /BACKSTORY

Okay, then.

So, here I was again, struggling to find the right Snyder-genre, waiting for the pieces to suddenly click into place, and it was staying vague and if-ish and maybe this and maybe that and, haven’t I been here before?

Oh yes.  I have. Indeed I have.

Exactly here before.

Ladies and gents, boys and girls, the answer was right in front of my nose.  Intellectually I had already decided I knew what this story was not. It wasn’t another superhero story, because, duh, I didn’t want two books in a row to have so much structural in common, plus, we’d already established that part of the bigger three-book arc, plus–

I was wrong.

And as soon as I recognized I was wrong, look what happened.

Behind door number three–

Answers started coming faster than I could write them down.  Yellow cards started piling up. Until now I feel like I just was dealt the winning hand in the championship round of Texas Hold ‘Em.  Read ’em and weep, boys.  Read ’em and weep.  (Okay, nobody can read my handwriting including me, but still.)

Which doesn’t mean it will be easy.

But it just got fun.


Filed under Analog, Index Cards, research, Save the Cat, Screenwriting, Storyboard, Writers, Writing, Writing Process

Save the Cat, anyone?

So, I have written about Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need before.

And I have probably mentioned Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told, as well, since I believe you need both these books to approach plot and structure the Snyder way, and frankly, this is the best approach I have ever found. [YMMV, etc.] (I don’t know how I missed Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into … and Out of, and why it’s already out of print, or at least not available from Amazon, but at least it’s shipped by Amazon so I can use my Amazon Prime, erm, I digress. Ahem. But if you have that book, let me know what it’s about and what you think, though I’m probably about to order it. And isn’t it amazing how the last book you’ll ever need on screenwriting still was followed by more books? Is anybody surprised? But, if the third is anything like the first, it’s well worth the money and I am wondering if there will be any more, since Blake Snyder is no longer with us, may he R.I.P.)

I’m curious about those of you who also have used STC. I’m really curious how many of you were beginning writers and how many brought a certain amount of knowledge of story with you as you began reading the book. I’m curious about your experiences with STC, successful and unsuccessful.

I’m considering using it more heavily in my writing classes, and want to get a bigger picture of how people respond to it.

For my own part, even though I already understood 3-act structure and had published five novels and won a couple of screenwriting competitions before I picked up STC, the scene cards, sceneboard and genre breakdowns from STC gave me a set of tools that opened up plotting to me in a way that for the first time truly helped me do it. Not understand it on a broad, general level. But actually take my own ideas and arrange them, and understand how they should fit together to achieve what I wanted.

Perhaps I also bring a lot of confidence to the process and I know when to ignore something and when to use something, when words in a book are helping me get closer to my vision and when they aren’t.

Think that’s it?

Tell me. Let’s talk about saving that darned cat.

BTW, if you’re doing nanowrimo this November? This might be a good time to whip out STC and start plotting that novel. It would be an excellent way to map it out in detail so you can dive in and start writing.


Filed under Index Cards, Movies, nanowrimo, Novels, Publishing, Save the Cat, Screenwriting, Storyboard, Writers, Writing

Home Library

What’s your home library like? My book of favorites is a mess of battered paperbacks that I know I’ll go back and reread again so I don’t let go of them. I have a bookcase of reference materials beside my desk so I can reach and grab at any time. And I also have some crowded shelves that I need to thin from back when I was picking up books just because they looked interesting and I thought I might like to read them. (My shelves are organized enough that I know where a book is likely to be by bookcase.  Examples forementioned: books I love go here, books I use go here, scripts I want to scan into digital files and then ditch are over there, etc.  And then the two bookcases of stuff that I need to sort through and thin out.)

The problem is, my life has changed. I no longer spend so much time reading books that I pick up and read one just because it looks interesting. I have to really want or need to read it to spend the time on it.

I think my casual “that looks interesting” reading is now done on the internet.

And yet I still find myself ordering a book from Amazon or picking one up at the book store just because it looks interesting, and then, months or even years later, it still sits uncracked on my shelf.

I really need to get past this need to acquire and to own and to hold books unless they are books that I lust after.

But while I’m doing that, I also ran across something really cool. I don’t loan a lot of books because the ones I would loan are the ones I love and wouldn’t want to lose, and I learned better than to loan them when they stopped coming back.

But if I loaned books, I’d be tempted. I mean, these fit 3x5s and everything. And they’re so cute!

Library pockets:


I am tempted to buy them the same way I’m tempted to buy books that look interesting, except that I’m sure they would go into my drawer until I needed them and that would be, probably never.  Or I’d stick them in a few books but not loan those books out.  Or something.

More like them, and other library supplies here.

So tell me about your books, your home library.  Stacks everywhere or neatly shelved? You’ve read them all a gazillion times or many are to-be-reads?  You can find any book at any time or you’d hunt for days to find one?


Filed under Books, Index Cards, Writing

3×5 Storage

Levenger has a very attractive storage device for index cards marked down right now. I don’t know if they’re closing out or if it’s a temporary sale, but if I didn’t already have my antique oak storage box, I’d be lusting after this pretty thing.

(The actual storage device holds the three drawers that are open on top.  The one in the foreground is sold separately.)

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Filed under Analog, Getting Things Done, Hipster PDA, Index Cards, Office, Office gear, Writing

Keeping It Simple Stupid Isn’t Always Simple.

First of all, I am still in love with my P-Touch Label Maker I bought when I first read Getting Things Done. I use it all the time for creating various files.

You might recall that I have a fondness for those most useful 3x5s and have a lovely old card file I store them in, see below:


And now that I’m working on a new novel (yes, the most recent idea that grabbed me by the throat is for a novel and not a screenplay so I figure what the hell, may as well) and it’s going to require a lot of research and organization and, voila! My card file will come into play.

Now, one of the basic ideas behind the filing system in Getting Things Done is that you don’t color coordinate because that leads to procrastination and disaster. “I don’t have any more red folders, thus I can’t file anything.” That kind of thing.

But I’ve decided that because it’s dark in my card file (see above) and I’m going to have many categories and subcategories filed in there, and if they are all the exact same color, it will get very confusing–

I broke down and ordered P-Touch colored tapes (and I’m already pouting that they don’t have orange, purple and fuchsia).

Yes, colors!!!

It felt audacious and daring.

And they arrived.

And they don’t fit my label maker.

And faced with having to return them and pay postage and pay postage again to get them in the right size–

I decided, oh, I don’t think so.

And I ordered a new P-Touch Personal Labeler that will fit them. (Now that you mention it, my other P-Touch does feel a tad impersonal. I just hadn’t realized that was a problem.)

Ordering a new one instead of returning and reordering tapes is much simpler.


Well, now I have two P-Touch labelers, both of which I intend to use, and well, somehow this isn’t simplifying my life, is it?


Once I have pretty files set up, I’ll post a pretty picture.

Oh, and, all you writers out there. How do you organize your research? What categories, etc?

Characters, Locations/Settings, Scene Cards, what?

I’m curious.

Because any time I can read about how people organize things, it inspires me.

(And why is it that the fact that ordering colored label tape has been much more complicated from the very start wasn’t enough to warn me away from this system? I fear the answer is because I am blind to logic.)


Filed under Analog, Books, Getting Things Done, Index Cards, Novels, Office, Office gear, Writers, Writing

Macs get all the cool stuff.

Toni told me about it first. And shared her frustration that it’s only for Macs. And I blew it off. You know, just a nice little package of gimmicks and aren’t there other similar programs out there and why would I want this if I’m so happy with my real 3x5s and I’ve been using MS Word since I bought my first Mac in 1984 (yes, THAT Mac) and bought my first MS Word 1.0 for $129.95. Especially when writing a novel, I think the idea of buying specific word processing software is silly. Word is truly enough. Really.

I still haven’t reconciled with not using Word but I succumbed to the siren song of “free software demo” and am currently exploring the pleasures of Scrivener.

Right now I’m loving the gimmick aspect–I love this corkboard on my screen that displays all the character images I’ve gathered for my new project. I thought I might print them out and make some sort of a collage like Jenny Crusie (scroll to bottom to see what I mean/link courtesy of Toni, again), but right now this is so much easier and I like it a lot.

About the corkboard. I know other screenwriting programs offer similar stuff, and if you use one that does what Scrivener does, please let me know because I have friends with PCs who are jealous, ya know. But I know I’ve seen lots of programs that allow you to do things similar to this:

That didn’t impress me much, seen it before, more or less. But for the first time ever, I’ve been collecting visual images to inspire/intrigue me while I’m writing, and I regret not being able to show you a pic of it*, but you can also import images, videos, audio, etc. to a Research corkboard. My corkboard is now covered with lovely images of locations and characters. When my new widescreen monitor shows up (one that actually works, this time) I’ll be abe to have the corkboard open while I’m working. And did I mention, my images are really lovely and wonderful and inspire me to write?

Or, here’s an image from the Scrivener site that shows somebody with a single image open with their work, rather than an entire corkboard.

Okay, yes, bells and whistles. Gimmicks, maybe. But this stuff, I love.

So, sorry if you don’t have a Mac and can’t get a lovely demo of your own to play with, and pay for (only $39.95) should you decide to keep it.

This won’t replace my 3x5s because I don’t want it to. I love my real 3x5s. But I’ll also dupicate them into this program, because yet another way of using it is to have the scene card open in the right panel while you’re writing, along with any notes you’ve made.

Scrivener. Check it out. If you have a Mac. Let me know what you think. Do you really use it, or did the fun/new wear off after awhile?

*There is also the issue that even if I could do a screenshot of my corkboard with images to show you how pretty it is, the fact is that these are all images I’ve saved off the internet and are the creative property of other people. And while I don’t feel guilty at saving them for my own use (it’s not like I could buy them anywhere) I don’t think I’m allowed to actually post them to my blog, either. Which is a crying shame, because I’ve got some gorgeous original art here. But, just imagine something gorgeous and lovely and pretend you can see it, okay?

ATTENTION! Windows users get cool stuff, too! *Scrivener for Windows is available in beta here.


Filed under Computers, Index Cards, Macs, Screenwriting, Scrivener, Software, Writing