Part 1 of this topic was posted way back in February, 2010 and I noticed something recently, it is the most popular searched for topic and has shown up and been read 400% over all others to this day. So I went back and read it again (even corrected a silly typo), and thought it was time to look at this topic again.
Post 1 was really focused on the 40 scene cards that SAVE THE CAT utilizes. I have the software and do use it, but not to it’s full purpose. I keep that board with those cards up under my writing software and use it as a self check, along with that bible of a legal pad that I still find works best — for me.
And that really is the key here, what works best for you as you peck away in the isolated world of your story? Sure, if you’re a development exec or work in a story department, those huge cork boards with the taped off rows, serve very well for anyone on your team to look at to work out a story problem. But when you are on your laptop doing your grunt work or facing a big rewrite, don’t introduce some scheme because it works for others. There’s a popular rewrite instructor that asks (as part of his process) for you to write a treatment as the story exists and then write a treatment of how you want the story to be told. Helpful advice to find what isn’t working (be it character, plot or whatever).
Screenwriters are pretty much the only writers that use the scene card approach, but all writers use some sort of road map, be it outline, treatment, journal or cocktail napkins. Here’s a cool one from J.K Rowling’s Order of the Phoenix:
and here’s a link if you want to download it.
I’m thrilled that her tracking outline is much like my legal pad theory – for me it’s a visual thing that long bodies of typed text or stacks of index cards or mini-typed index cards don’t provide.
The creative brain needs to doodle, and it finds meaning, plus no software or amount of push-pins can do what margin notes can. BTW there’s a lot of cool fan geek stuff on her plot, personally I love the column of the prophesy and how she keeps track of it.
So, as you search online for help in your writing process (or as avoidance to it) please, do what works best for you, you’re the one that will have to decipher it when you go back and make sure you got all your tidbits in and so what if it’s coffee shop napkins or post-it notes around your computer screen – it’s a system, don’t worry if you don’t do it like the books say…