Whiteboard Plotting


Yesterday I posted a photo on Twitter of my whiteboard plotting madness. A couple people asked me about it, so I thought I'd do a post about how I did it.

Whiteboard plotting is awesome because it's quick and easy, and you can erase anything that doesn't work. Of course, you need a whiteboard, preferably a large one. Luckily my husband is a big geek who insists that programmers need a giant whiteboard in their office. But you could also do this method with a corkboard and a bunch of index cards. I've seen other people do it with poster board, or pieces of paper taped to a wall.

Next, pick your outlining/plotting method of choice. I listed three methods that I like here, but you can use whatever you want.

I used Dan Wells' 7 steps for this exercise because they work great for outlining subplots and seeing how they intersect with the main plot. I also think it's a good method if you know the beginning and ending, but are confused on the middle (usually my problem).

So, I put up all 7 steps on the left side of the board (Hook, Plot Turn 1 and 2, Pinch 1 and 2, Midpoint, and Resolution). Then across the top I added 4 columns, each for a different plot:

1) ACTION - This is the main plot, involving the villain, the mystery, the explosions, etc. This is where bad stuff happens, and your character finds a way to save the day.

2) SUBPLOT - This is your main subplot. In my first book it was, "who is the traitor?" but it could be "conflict with parents" or "rivalry with mean girls," or whatever.

3) ROMANCE - Yep, the romance needs to go through the 7 steps too, whether you have a love triangle or not.

4) CHARACTER - This is important for seeing how your character progresses through the story.

You can add even more plots, or change these around, but this is what works for me.

Now you have all your columns up on the board, and it's starting to look like an Excel spreadsheet. Don't panic! Fill in the sections that you know. You'll probably realize you know a lot more than you thought.

Once you're done, step back and look at the white space. Now you can see what you need to brainstorm to fill in the rest. If you have other sections figured out, you can start to connect the dots. What do I need to get from this point to the next one?

Keep filling in the sections, even if you have to write something vague, or if you might change it later. Don't worry about being perfect. The nice thing about a whiteboard is that you can erase something if it doesn't work. Trust me, seeing those white spaces and filling them in will get your brain going, and before you know it, you'll have the 7 steps of all 4 plots figured out.

Once this is done, I take a photo and type everything up in Excel. Sorry, I love spreadsheets. You can use whatever method you like, but make sure you write it down somewhere else, in case your spouse/kid/cat comes in and wipes it off.

Have you tried anything like this? Do you think this method might work for you?