Every author has a different plotting method that they prefer. I vary between a few different styles, depending on what I’m working on. This week, I’ve been using a post-it method. For me, this means writing scenes or plot details on post-it notes and laying them out on foam core. I like putting them on foam core rather than a wall because then I can move the entire plot as one piece and even stack various plots against the same wall – I can put it away when I’m not working on it. This helps to keep my workspace organized.
While generally the post-it method may appeal more to visual people (which includes me), it also has advantages for working out specific types of plotting problems:
Sometimes, I have specific scenes in my head, but I’m not sure what order they need to go in or what (if anything) needs to come between them. Some may not even end up being used (see the scrap scenes in the upper right of the picture above). Post-its are useful for solving this problem since they are easily movable and can be arranged in various orders without rewriting anything. I can shift them about like game pieces, mixing them with each other and with new moments I think of until I find an order that works. If I change my mind later, I can shift them around again.
- Tracking Point of View
So far, I have not written books with enough character viewpoints that this is absolutely necessary; however, even when trading between two characters’ perspectives, it can be handy to see how balanced the scenes are between them. Color coded post-its show whose point of view the scene is written in quickly and easily with a single glance. If I ever attempt something that changes points of view as often as, say, the Wheel of Time series, I will definitely be using color-coding and post-it notes (for starters).
- Tracking Information
With complicated books like that, tracking information is a necessity. The more intricate a plot is, the more important it is for the reader to know specific information at specific times – and for them to not know specific information at specific times. I use one color post-it for information tracking so that I can see when vital details are revealed to the reader and/or the main character (These are on pink post-its in the one above. There will be many more soon.).
By revisions, I mean scenes and details that I need to go back and add to what I’ve already written (definitely not grammar or anything like that). I don’t know if other writers do this when using post-its, but I often find myself realizing that I need to go back and add information here or change this scene. If I’m already using a post-it plot, adding those revisions in a different color is simply a way to visually track what I need to do – a reminder that it needs done.
I only use post-its when I need to plan big picture information. Like roughing in a drawing, the post-its show me the general shape of what the story will be and serve as visual reminders of my plans. Setting them up helps me organize my thoughts, and once set up, they’re good reminders to refer to quickly as I’m working.
If you’re thinking of trying this method but aren’t sure it will work for you, go ahead and try it. In the worst case scenario, you waste some post-it notes. You can always put them in the recycling. It won’t be wasting time because you’ll learn how you like the method, and you’ll be spending time thinking about your plot. Even if you scrap the post-it plot you make at the end, the time spent thinking about the story will help you move forward, and that’s what it’s all about.