I moderate a little writers' group and I got a question the other day about when and how to use index cards for cork boarding.

I had to give it some thought. I didn't start out by using index cards (for me, writing started with stage plays), but now I'm writing novels and use the process all the time.  In fact, I can't really live without those pastel colored wee jewels. If I can't look up at my ginormous board stuck up on my wall or look at my split editor in Scrivener, my heart starts to skip beats and I begin to panic. So, after giving it a moment, this is what I came up with:

When a story first makes its way into my tiny pea brain, I jot all the gobbly gook down on any piece of paper (napkin, toilet paper, bank receipt, bubble gum wrapper, your kid's "make better choices" tattle tell note from their teacher) I can get my hands on. Then I sit on that for a while and let the ideas float around in all that empty space until it takes hold in whatever gray matter I have left--after seven kids, ten horses, a husband, a bigger house than I can manage, etc., etc.

When I've got a first scene and a middle scene and an end, then I grab out three different colored, lined index cards from my drawer.  disclaimer: This is what I do, every writer has a different way of going. Take it with a grain. At any rate, then I go about denoting said colored cards in my brain--Beginning (blue), Middle (green), End (yellow). Then I jot down the scenes I've got pinging around and still trying to find their place in my noggin. I use short and sweet sentences outlining each scene. It may go something like this~
Beckman on the bridge of starship and fights bad alien mo' fos.
Phoenix wakes in laboratory. p.s. Is she on Earth or Mars or ?
Baby is captured. p.s. Who is baby?
Beckman and Phoenix enter tunnel and find the quantum cube.
The team lands on the Seventh Star and meet up with command.
The Atpheran come in full battle force and attack the Star.
Phoenix cures the remnant.
The new ship is retrofitted and command strikes into the heart of hell.
Huge battle in space.
Captives are freed.

Okay, you get the picture. It's all very vague, but has enough to jog my memory and help facilitate me in fleshing out my story.

I pin these cards up on my board in vertical columns and start pinning more up as the story unfolds. When I see a real story in front of my face, I begin to move the cards around until I like the way the scenes are ordered. Then, and you're gonna love this, I pull them all down and re-do them all by P.O.V., and this time I arrange them horizontally. I might have ten different colors up there. I'm always so proud of myself at this point. I stare up at the board and see a real story. And, really, if nothing else, it looks pretty. 

But in all seriousness, this gives me a visual I need. I really do need  to see something.  My brain just isn't that organized to remember where I put this scene and that scene and which character is the main character for this scene vs. that scene. I just have to look up at the color and I've got it. This method also helps to keep me from going off on rabbit trails and tangents because I've got a small synopsis up there on each card. 

Right now, on my board, I have seventy-two cards pinned up. Am I going to use all these scenes? Probably not. I'm going to cut a lot of them out by the time I'm finished with my final editing. And that's okay. I'll take what I end up not using to start another novel. Good idea, huh? 

By the way, I use the same method in my Scrivener; so even if I'm writing over at Starbucks I've got my corkboard with me. 

Check out  Literature and Latte. It's a great word processor. There are some slick word processors and writer's tools out there, but these guys are my personal faves.




07/12/2012 7:54am

Google linked me to this page, nice reading

07/12/2012 10:00am

Glad you liked it. :)


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    Sydney Wright

    Apocalyptic sci-fi writer, mother, wife, designer, and seeker of wisdom and truth.


    January 2013
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