How to organise your narrative - Claire Scobie
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How to organise your narrative

How to organise your narrative


With the help of post-its, coloured pens and A4 paper, this exercise can give you an overview of your project. In her no-nonsense book How to Nail Your Novel, Roz Morris calls it: The Card Game. I use a mini version of this in my workshops and people LOVE it. It gets comments like, ‘The entire weekend was worth it just for this.’

I did a longer version in August while at my writing residency in Bundanon for my new novel – the stunning view is pictured above. To the left, you can how I’d laid everything out in my studio space while in the middle of this activity.

You need: palm index cards, post-its, coloured pens & paper (A4 & A3 to think big picture.)

I printed out my entire manuscript and read it quickly, making notes on the main things that happen in each chapter. Don’t get lost in the detail – think high evel.

Then, with different colour marker pens and palm cards, I broke that down further. On the cards I wrote out the major scenes, colour-coding the main characters, thoughts on themes and structure, major plot points and minor turning points.

I laid these cards out on two trestle tables, shuffled them around and saw the whole story. It soon became obvious where some cards (i.e. scenes) doubled up. I took out anything irrelevant and tried to see any obvious weaknesses in the plot.

I had fun with it! I then transferred the palm card notes to a spreadsheet (yup, I know). That was a bit laborious, but it means I now have what Roz calls a ‘beat sheet’ which I can refer to as I work through the next edit. I also made a list of all the scenes that need reworking and any new scenes to write. Often in the first draft, you’re so focused on getting to the end you don’t give yourself time to pause. This helps you see what you need to fix before you get stuck into the next round.

Over to you: how do you plan your writing?

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