Monday, March 7, 2011

Writers’ Tools: The Whiteboard

When we think of writers’ tools we think of pens, paper, computer, dictionary, thesaurus, but we have so many possible tools available to us. Today I’ll talk about the humble whiteboard.

I’m a visual person who for a long time earned a living in graphic design and animation. I work best when I can see as a whole the story I’m trying to write. This is where the whiteboard comes in. It’s like storyboarding for animation, only I don’t draw the scenes, I write them up in their basic form.

As you can see in the picture, I also use post-it notes for more detail. The pink ones are major turning points in the story. I also have green ones for character arcs. I’ve written up a timeline in orange pen so I can keep track of passing time in the novel. I’ve also written how each chapter ends in purple. Usually it’s not as full-on as you see in the picture, but I’m nearing the end of the project and I’ve added detail along the way.

I bought a second whiteboard for problem solving and idea generation simply because I like to spread out. I’ve been busy tying up loose ends and working on plausibility so I can leave my readers with a sense of satisfaction at the end of the novel.

In general whiteboards help me think. I could do the same work on a large piece of paper but I like the ease of erasing failed ideas on a whiteboard. I could use digital tools but it’s refreshing to get away from the computer.

What do you use to develop your ideas?

Note: this post is in answer to Carol @ Artzicarol Ramblings who wanted to know how I use my whiteboards.

45 comments:

  1. Oh, my! What a visual of organization! I'm allergic to whiteboard marker, but butcher paper and a cork board would do. Might have to think about that one. ; )

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  2. Zan, allergic?! yep butcher paper would work marvellously. Writing big helps the creativity.

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  3. your whiteboard looks like some mastermind's world domination board :)

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  4. That is actually a good idea. When I tried to work through the complicated plot twist of the Notebook Chronicles, I moved all the furniture, pulled down the photos, and had sticky notes all over the wall, that I could move around, where needed. I paced in front of them for weeks, rearranging, making sure I didn't miss anything.

    When our dog walked by her wagging tail would blow them off the wall so I had to use sticky tack behind some of them.

    My husband would just shake his head. "This mess makes sense to you?"
    'fraid so.
    I like the whiteboard idea better. Next time...

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  5. Ooo, I'm very visual too and usually draw all kinds of charts and lists in my notebooks to keep things straight. I wish I had somewhere to put a big whiteboard, cause that looks awesome!

    I'm trying out the cork-board feature on Scrivener, but you can't hand write notes around the cards. Hmm.

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  6. W.I.P. It: Proof that the best organization techniques are always the most fun.

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  7. I gave you the Stylish Blogger Award. Pop over to my page to see what you need to do.

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  8. I am still scraping my jaw off the floor as I gawp in AWE at your amazing whiteboard notes and post-its!! WOW!!!!!!

    WOW again!!!!!

    Wow!!!

    Take care
    x

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  9. I use Post-It Easel Boards and regular post-its. Binder to match post-its. In depth stuff is in the binders.

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  10. Dezzy, shhh, don't give away all my secrets ;)

    Tanya, I tried sticky notes on the walls and doors but they just didn't stick. lol at your husband's reaction. Hehehe. I think my hubby can relate.

    Charity, yep, I use notebooks as well.

    Loveable_homebody, hehe so true!

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  11. I use a note book for notes of scenes if I am not at home. I realy wish I was that organized...

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  12. Jessica, thanks so much for the stylish blogger award. :)

    And yes, I carry notebooks everywhere I go and they are scattered through the house as well.

    Old Kitty, and to think I used to keep all that in my head... might explain my insanity ;)

    Mary, very cool :)

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  13. I never thought about it, but it makes sense. Mh, maybe I should get one, once I start on another book. But then I always put chaos into these visual things and get lost. Difficult decision.
    Nahno ∗ McLein

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  14. Thanks for the great ideas! I use sticky notes on big hero/heroine posters stuck on the wall with sticky tag!

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  15. Aha! the mysteries are revealed (and gee, thanks for the mention, Lyn!). Hey, I should try this, since I'm a visual/artist-type person too.

    Hmm, but like Zan Marie, the markers bug me--instant headaches! Nasty things. I can use scratch paper and pins/tacks, however. Coolies! Will have to try that with my new WiP if I ever get started on it.

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  16. Wow! A great way to keep on track with the story. Your white board is full of words and mine is full of images. My pictures over flow on all four sides :)

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  17. Just an outline? Wow, I can't imgine doing all of that! Okay, I do write down all the character traits and names and such.

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  18. Wow, you're so inspirational! I don't have the patience for anything like this. Instead everything I do is on the laptop. I make detailed outlines for each chapter that I can change whenever I need easily.

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  19. Wow. I'm extremely jealous of your white board. I have two itty bitty ones, perhaps they will someday be as helpful as your white board. :D Thanks for sharing!

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  20. Nahno, hehe you could always trial it on butcher paper.

    Nas, that's cool.

    Carol, hubby bought me whiteboard markers that don't stink up the place with fumes. I love them.

    Elaine, pictures for inspiration? That's cool

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  21. Alex, my initial pre-first draft outline is not as detailed as what you see there. Not even close. What you see is something that has developed over time.

    Las Vegas, ha and I don't have the patience to type it up on the computer. We each have to find what works for ourselves.

    Madeline, perhaps they will :)

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  22. Oh. Wow... This is such an awesome idea! I currently have pages of notes stuck to a corkboard, never to be read again, and an outline on the computer. This gives it all at a glance!

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  23. Hmmmm.... that looks like an interesting idea, but I don't know if I will ever be able to use a whiteboard like you.

    Graphically, my strings of thought look like spaghetti, so any attempt of writing down a plan for my story in it entirity has ended up with me freaking out.

    ;-)

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  24. Wow! I am super impressed by this--I just have multiple messy word documents labeled things like "Character sketches," "Character Arcs," "Research," "Plot points," "Outline," etc. You're amazing!

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  25. That's impressive. I don't have room for something like a whiteboard. I use a three ring binder and dividers. Works great for me. I can scribble down all kinds of notes and organize it how I want and it's all right there at my finger tips.

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  26. I have a makeshift white board behind my bedroom door, but I just can't seem to get myself to do any proper planning. I've tried, but it's like my brain is too impatient to just get on with the actual writing! So planning then happens in random paragraphs inside the actual document I write the story in... Yeah, maybe that doesn't sound so great, but it's been working for me!

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  27. Such a great idea, I've pondered it myself. Now is the time to get past The Procrastination Monster and just get doing. Plus I have that "I hate outlining" thing in my head too. But I'll get over it.

    Alex
    Breakfast Every Hour

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  28. I can see how the erasing ability is helpful. I just plan on the backs of used printer paper. It's something I would have disposed of anyway, so i think mentally it helps me to just go for it, try anything, and be fearless.

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  29. wow, Lynda. That looks really great and so organized... I'm sad to say I don't use anything other than my brain and a little notebook in my purse that I"ll frantically jot ideas on while trying not to hit pedestrians... :D *snort*

    nice work~ <3

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  30. Way to much for me... First of all I live in a small condo. NO ROOM!

    I have a notebook that I jot down characters, like Alex, but everything else I do on computer.

    Michael

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  31. Laura, yep I tried that and that also happened. Seeing it all in one hit is so helpful.

    Misha, you could think of a plan as sauce for the speghetti ;)

    Jess, I have that too ;)

    Bish, it's true a decent sized whiteboard takes up a lot of room.

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  32. Rachel, if it's working for you then it's great!

    Alex, but the monster is slathering... Yep, I used to have that "I ahte outlining" thing in my head. No longer. I LOVE it.

    Suzanne, that's a great idea!

    LTM, it might look organised, but you should see my writing desk. It's a complete mess lol

    Michael, you could become the leonardo da vinci of outlining and write on your ceiling...of course, notebooks work too ;)

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  33. I use a notebook and post-it tabs. My post-its to the wall idea did not take. I also keep journals with tabs and a glossary / notes document which I update and print out every so often.

    Your white boards are impressive. I thought about getting a magnetic board I could press pushpins into. Maybe.

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  34. yes wow! what an excellent idea

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  35. I have a dream...it's to have my whiteboard as full as yours!!

    Amazing. I actually think better with multicolored dry erase markers in hand. It's all those year programming in teams. I'll bet it's like animation.

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  36. Wow! Lynda, what a great organization system! I use bulletin boards and index cards, paper, post its and the computer...but I haven't written a complete novel (yet). The longest work I've completed is an early chapter book.

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  37. Your whiteboard looks great. I use a notebook and write down the ideas on the pages. I like the idea of pasting the notes and being able to see it, so I will surely invest in a whiteboard.

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  38. Hello, Lynda. I've given you the Lovely Blog award. I hope you haven't got it already.

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  39. W O W! I'm still old school paper and pen. However, it looks a lot like your white board pictures with multi-colored pens, editing, lines crossed out etc. Great post - thanks for sharing!

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  40. M Pax, yep, I do all the journaling stuff as well. I mainly use whiteboards for thinking and organising.

    Michelle, thanks

    Cinnamon, hehe yes indeed

    Sharon, maybe one day then?

    Rachna, I love the freedom it gives me.

    Deborah, thanks so much :)

    Sylvia, hehe we all have to find out what works for us individually. Love the multi-coloured pens :)

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  41. what a fantastic idea! i have little post it notes written all over the place and then tacked to the corkboard, but not as detailed as yours.
    I may keep this idea burning for my ST story. Thanks

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  42. I love this idea! I'm off to dig the whiteboard out of the garage. Thanks!

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  43. I use mindmaps. I use Xmind for my computer and Thinking Space Pro for my Android. I also use Edit Pad Lite, and yWriter5 all electronic. Sorry. ;-)

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  44. Kerrin, yep I have post-its eveywhere too (not just on the whiteboard lol)

    Lauri, glad it helped

    Tiffany, the real trick is finding what works for you :)

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  45. Wow impressive!
    Not sure this method would work for me, but an adaptation might.

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.