Then my best friend Erin stepped in. Erin lets me dump my rough drafts on her, wading through it like a champ while still getting her own writing done. She deserves several medals by now, just for sticking with me through all these horse stories when horses are not Erin’s thing even by a long shot.
Last summer I was deep in planning mode, trying to find plotline strands and tie them together. Because Erin is also a planner, she pulled out her Post-it Poster and waved it at me like she does every other time I see her. The Post-it Poster is a W-Storyboard told in—you guessed it—Post-its. As a writer, I’ve always been dedicated to the uncomfortably detailed outline. I’ve discovered I am shockingly good at invariably taking some turn right off the outline somewhere in the middle, forcing me to re-outline the outline. This is expected. As I outlined the new novel, I wasn’t sure how to stop what I was fast accepting as a fact of life. The sudden turn was a force of nature, always showing up, sometimes repeatedly. This was how I dropped two novels back to back. It couldn’t happen again.
Cue Erin and her Post-its. The W-Storyboard is pretty simple in theory. You start off with a sparking point—the beginning of the novel—and then you plot down to a turning point, which takes off to a counter turning point, and so on until your plotlines all arrange nicely onto a W. It’s basic, and yet I was somehow missing this in all of my outlines. I liked the structure, since plot points building on each other meant there was less time for me to make random changes.
So I bought a plethora of Post-its. Neon colors, pastels, with lines, without. I assigned a color to each character. I stared at my outline, and then I looked at the mostly blank wall in my old apartment. Then I really did go crazy.
|Remarkably enough, my cats left it alone.|
Yes, I put my book’s plot on my living room wall. Yes, people came over, would inspect my Post-it art, and always said, “Is this a book?” I would nod sagely. Yes, it will be a book.
But most importantly I wrote. I stuck to the Post-its. It wasn’t perfect, because no first draft is perfect, but I didn’t go careening off the writing cliff mid-sentence. This was a major victory, and it goes entirely to Erin and the Post-it Wall.
I’m in the middle of the second draft now, and the plot has shifted, the characters developing, the theme becoming more pronounced. I tore the Post-its off the wall, but I’ll put them back up after the second draft is finished to see where I am, and to see where I need to go next. I can see more clearly now, and the book is better off for it.
So thank you, Erin. Thank you, Post-its. I don’t know what would have happened without you.