I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Ah-hah Moment and Post-It Notes (Part 2)

By Jennie Atkins

In my April blog by the same name, I wrote about a trick I learned at Deep Thinkers, using different colored Post-it notes for the various parts of the story structure. Being a visual person, I could finally "see" the connections of how all the pieces parts of the story fit together. What I showed you was how I outlined the hero’s and heroine’s emotional journey along with the story plot.

Since then I’ve started working on the other parts of the story—like the romance thread. With a purple Post-it notes I add these points in the center of the chart. (I.e. first kiss, wooing, sizzle, etc.) You can do the same for suspense plot points.

Then I stepped back and got into the details of planning my story with salmon-colored notes. When I had an action scene I made notes of what the reaction scene would be. When something else happened with the story via a secondary character I made a sticky for that with another color. For scenes before and after turning points I made stickys for those as well. And for other details I thought of along the way, I added another sticky note.

Finally, I put everything in order with yellow sticky notes. I sequentially numbered each scene. Some people could use chapter numbers, but I prefer to add those to my WIP at the very end. So I number the scenes instead.

I know you’re imagining a sea of brightly-colored sticky notes…and you’re right, although I didn’t show all of them here. However, when I start going through them, I can see the story unfold. If I have to rearrange the order of the story, it’s as easy as pulling off a sticky and switching it with the out of order scene number.

The final step is getting all my random thoughts into something usable. I open up Excel and create a table with several columns. The first column is putting down in electronic format the information I’ve jotted onto all those sticky notes. The next columns vary, but they are usually for additional information like story world, character information, plot details or dialogue snippets I’ve imagined.

The neat thing is…it’s yours to do with what you want. You don’t have to do it like I did; you can set it up in a format that suits your writing style.

Now it’s your turn…What items do you use to brainstorm your plot?


  1. I just sent in book # 2, Jennie -- and I still have my over-size Post-Its on the back of my office doors. I know it's time to take 'em all down ... and I will.
    In a little while.

    Love how you have taken this idea and made it your own.

  2. Jennie, I love how you expained this. As I'm fast drafting, I realized I forgot a few scenes. Perhaps I should have tried the post its. :)

    For this story, I planned my structure, used the Book Buddy and other notes and then typed up a little bit of what would be in each scene. Then I put my story together. Similar to you, I can move the scenes around if I need to. :)

    I may have to try the post its for my next story. I love what you've done with this.

  3. I'm using Scrivner to write my new wip and am loving it. I also use a calendar to plot each day since my stories tend to happen over a short period of time. And I found out one more thing...when I seriously start writing, it has to be on the computer I always write on...well, doesn't have to be, but it helps. My brain seems to think my laptop is for watching TV or Solitare. lol

  4. Love this, Jennie. It's perfect for the visual plotter!!

  5. Being a visually oriented person, I made out the post-it notes after your first post on this, because I had finished the rough draft last July and needed a different method to show me what I thought I had written and what I had actually written (in terms of all post-it note colors). The story board works better for me than 3 X 5 cards that I spread on a table or the floor, because this system is portable. Thanks for such a detailed how-to post! :-)

  6. Thanks Jennie!
    I'm about to go into writing a fast draft next week and will def. use your post it notes idea!

    Alena T

  7. I'm willing to try something like this. Right now I use a massive worksheet that I've compiled. For the past 6 years or so whenever I got a good writing idea from My Book Therapy, ACFW conference, and many writing books, I kept adding to my worksheet. Then I make and outline that has first, second, and third acts. I then write my story and usually it flows pretty freely since I have all the bones in place.

  8. I'm a visual person, and this is absolutely wonderful! Thank you for sharing your method. I'm going to try this...now to buy more Post-it Notes!!

  9. Beth,
    You have proven the idea works! Congratulations on getting #2 out the door! Are you already plotting #3?

  10. Jeanne,
    I've put things on my computer before, but it still made me feel claustrophobic. I liked this method because I could see everything all at once.

  11. Pat,
    I get side-tracked by the games on my computer all the time. I probably should remove them - I'd get more done! LOL

  12. Paula,
    Glad to hear it worked for you. It definitely has its advantages to seeing the whole picture.

  13. Alena,
    I really like having it all in front of me. Then putting it into a spreadsheet once I feel comfortable with what's on the story board, I can expand even further prior to doing a fast draft.
    Good luck!

  14. Teri great idea. It amazes me how many stray thoughts, or dialog lines, or plot ideas I get on the spur of the moment and am able to stick them into my WIP. It sounds like you've got your system down pat!

  15. Thanks Lisa! Hope it works for you!

  16. Very helpful, Jennie. I couldn't stop to read 'til we moved all kinds of things to farm yesterday. Eventually I'll go buy colored sticky notes, too. Thanks for the great details and blessings!

  17. Just bought a bunch of Post-It Notes.
    Thanks so much for your tips!