Friday, November 15, 2013

Crafting Your Book's Visual Map--New Ways to Use a Storyboard

Storyboards are a fast and easy template to check the strength of a book's structure.  More and more writers use them.  I hear about famous authors who now "design" their books via a storyboard.  It's a classy idea whose time has come.

Filmmakers will be yawning here.  Storyboards are the basis of most films--they are like cartoon boxes that show the scenes and can be rearranged to create the best flow. 

But book publishers use them too.  Twenty years ago, I hired on every six months to an all-day storyboarding session for a Midwestern small press.  Eight "experts" gathered in their conference room, bolstered by coffee and snacks and catered lunch.  A facilitator drew the empty cartoon boxes of our blank storyboard on one wall, gave us our topic, and off we'd go. 



First hour, we brainstormed ideas for each chapter--under the umbrella of the book's subject and tag line (a premise statement that described the benefit of the book to a reader).  Our facilitator penciled in the topics in the individual storyboard boxes, usually one topic per chapter-to-be. 

Once all the boxes were sketched in (content), we checked the flow of ideas (structure).  Best method:  work forward by chapter from beginning to end,  then double-check by working backward from the last chapter to the beginning.   Look at each chapter's purpose (content, again) from a reader's viewpoint--what's their take-away or benefit?  How does this chapter further the tension of the story or the growth of the learning? 

Often, our structure check revealed (1) redundancies or (2) too-big leaps.  For the first, we'd scout out what was covered earlier and trim down.  For the second, we'd add interim chapters to transition the information in a smoother way.

Brainstorming topics was easiest--and I still find that true.  Structuring them, creating a strong flow, is harder and takes longer.  In my own private storyboarding work, I need time to play with ideas, get the big picture.

As a storyboarder-for-hire, I learned a lot about a publisher's (and reader's) benefit from storyboards.  In these all-day sessions, a solid book was designed.  Editors at the small press then reviewed our ideas carefully, before contacting writers to begin drafting the chapters.  Usually, the book was released nine months later.

Can you incorporate storyboarding into your current book project?  If you've studied with me online or in-person, you've probably already tried it.  Use this week's writing exercise as review or first taste of storyboarding.  Over 80,000 writers have viewed the video, below, and brought storyboarding into their writing lives. 

Check it out.  I describe the simplest storyboard--the W structure--and how it's used in fiction, memoir, and nonfiction.  Most importantly, why it can make or break a book.  


Storyboarding Video

Interested in working with me on your storyboard? 

I'll be teaching a hands-on storyboarding workshop at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis on Friday and Saturday, December 6-7. 

This two-day intensive lets you start, develop, and refine your own storyboard for a novel, memoir, or nonfiction book, and get feedback on its flow, as well as techniques on how to use the storyboard to brainstorm ideas (if you're beginning) or develop your plot arc, narrative arcs for characters, and the influence of era, culture, and setting on your book. 

Great for memoir, fiction, and nonfiction book writers at any stage of manuscript.  $198 for two days.  To find out more, click here for the Loft's website.