My daughter recommended an app called “A Novel Idea” but sadly it doesn’t work on my Android devices. Evernote is excellent and I’ll be talking about that more in a future blog post, and I also use stacks of notebooks and of course word processing, but for (re) sequencing a story, everything seems too linear, too two-dimensional. I was looking for 4 dimensions, easy to track and change, ideally separating out story strands when I needed to.
So I went old-fashioned, back to a technique I used to use for script-writing – record cards.
Now I’m just talking STORY here, not character or location or research - though you can make notes about these aspects on record cards too, even snatches of dialogue. But I thought it worth sharing with you the advantages of using simple record cards, or at least why I use them for story planning.
Some novelists don’t plan at all, and sometimes I prefer not to plan my writing and just let the story happen. And I started “The Burning Girl” without a plan, while I explored the characters and where they wanted to take me. Pages and pages of notes and early drafts.
But “The Burning Girl” is a crime thriller, full of twists and turns, and I quickly found myself needing to keep a note of important details. I also realised that that I would have to keep checking and re-sequencing the Story Sequence (or the Plot) as the narrative unfolded.
So I’m working with record cards because I can:
1. Work with them anywhere, even when there’s no electricity (such as waiting for my daughter to come out of school) or where there’s no space (such as a crowded train).
2. Re-order them easily, including colour coding to differentiate actions, story strands, events and necessary exposition.
3. Add new information easily anywhere into the sequence.
4. Present them in a variety of ways, laying them out on the table, putting them on a noticeboard, scattering them beside me when I’m working on the laptop, carrying them in a pack, etc etc.
5. Record just enough about a scene to get writing it; in fact, I find the limited space on a record card helps me focus exactly what that story element is about.
and most importantly, because I can:
6. Afford them! A pack of coloured record cards costs just £1.50 from my local supermarket. I can afford to use two packs if necessary. Why pay more?
In the comments, let me know how you organise your story.
Best wishes until tomorrow.