Five Months Work, in Photos

Here is visual evidence of how I spent most of the summer and autumn, all in the service of the Work in Progress: two books, a blue foamboard, a pack of 3 x 5 file cards, and a handful of push pins.

I wasn’t writing: I was revising a novel (contemporary young adult, and that’s all I’m going to say about it).

These were my tools.

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors is available only as an ebook, well worth the download fee. I found it a bit tricky to follow the diagrams explaining act structure, but only because they didn’t show up full screen on a Kindle, even at the tiniest type size. I suspect on an iPad they’d show up just fine or on a Kindle app on the computer.

What was extremely helpful–and enjoyable–was the author’s scene-by-scene breakdown of movies. Watching Harry Potter 1 with Kindle in hand was one of the better afternoons I’ve had in a long time.

Save the Cat, which I borrowed from the library in old-fashioned book form, was exceptionally helpful for the actual storyboarding.

This is a screenwriting process that works for fiction as well. It involves breaking down the Work in Progress into scenes, one scene per card (or one group of related scenes per card), and then pinning them on a corkboard in a sequence that, ideally, falls into three acts, I and III being shorter than II. The trick is getting each act to end with an appropriate turn of events.

And after it’s all nice and tidy on your corkboard–or foamboard if you don’t feel like shelling out for a corkboard the size of a dining room table–you hunch  over a warm computer for weeks on end and wrestle the written version into something resembling the nice tidy storyboard version.

It’s easy. All you have to do is take out the scenes you love in which nice stuff happens but does not affect the outcome of the book, and ignore the pile of words you’ve tossed out, all 10,000 of them.

But you know what? Now that the surgery is over, I don’t miss any of those scenes one bit.

© 2011 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

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9 Responses to Five Months Work, in Photos

  1. Sue Knopf says:

    Boy, I’m glad I’m a book designer and not a book writer 🙂


  2. Anne M Leone says:

    Interesting to hear what books worked well for you. I haven’t read either of those, but keep hearing people trumpeting them. Think I might need to check them out. Is Save the Cat mostly about structuring a novel, then?


  3. Mirka Breen says:

    I love the timeless feel of the cards and push pins. I also admired your neatness, if the photo is a typical view of your board.


  4. Anne, thanks for the mention; I’m so glad the book is working for you. Send me an e mail so I have your address and I’ll send you a Word file of the structure grid that you can just print out.

    And that goes for any of your readers who’d like the grid as well!

    Alex at alexandrasokoloff dot com


  5. Jen Klein says:

    This is my first time on your site and — besides enjoying your writing — I am thrilled to see both Mirka Breen and Alexandra Sokoloff here! AS was so helpful to me when I started navigating the world of publishing (and, in case you’re reading AS, I totally plan to hit you up again when I am desperately in need of answers… hope that’s cool…).

    But back to you. I think it’s great that you’re employing screenwriting tips and tricks when writing books. I come from the script world myself and when I was meeting with book agents this past summer, I kept hearing the same things about why lit agents/publishers love screenwriters. It’s this:

    We know structure.
    We can write dialogue.
    We write fast.
    We’re not precious about our writing.

    It was both fascinating and flattering.

    Your site is delightful and so is your writing. I look forward to spending more time here!


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