A couple weeks ago I posted some pictures of my office, including a pic of my new “beat board”.
Several of you asked me to explain what this is and how I use it. I’m borrowing heavily from a post I did pre-NaNo 2011, so some of you will have heard this before. But for those of you who are new to the wonder of Beat Boards, strap in and let’s go!
I am completely gaga over the screenwriting book, Save The Cat. If you haven’t read it yet, I completely, 100%, highly recommend it. In the meantime, here are the highlights as they apply to me and how I write a novel.
Using the document below I fill in a sentence or two that addresses that “beat” or plot point (I’ve also included a question that helps me in this task). You can go here to get a fantastic beat-by-beat breakdown of where these beats should land in your manuscript, depending on the anticipated length of your novel.
If you’d like more information, there’s lots to learn on Blake Snyder’s website.
7. B Story: This is where you move into the second act of your story, or, the dreaded middle section. (duh duh duhhhh) It’s usually the B story, or the love story, or the big action/adventure story of your book. What is the new relationship in your main character’s life?
Now for the beat board . . .
I use a corkboard, (but you can use a wall, or whatever) and a stack of index cards (or sticky notes). My crit group just gave me a new package of index cards–they know me so well! Thanks guys!
Don’t freak out over the size or color of your cards. Just use whatever. You can use colored pens if you want (I usually only use colored pens if I’m beating out a story with multiple points of view–each main character gets their own color.)
Now, using a couple strips of masking tape, divide your corkboard (or whatever) into four even sections (three strips of tape.) This denotes Act I, Act II part one, Act II part two, Act III.
It should look like this:
ACT II part one
ACT II part two
Now, get out your beat sheet and your index cards.
On your first card, jot down your notes for the Opening Image. Tack it/tape it/whatever right at the beginning of your Act I section.
Your next card is #6 on the Beat Sheet; the Break into Two card. Place it at the very end of the Act I section.
Next, #7, B Story, at the beginning of the Act II, part one, followed by #9, Midpoint, at the end of that section.
#10, Bad Guys Close In, goes at the beginning of the second Act II, followed by #13, Break Into Three.
Your last section starts with #14, Finale, and finishes with #15, Closing Image.
Now, fill out your cards for the remaining beats and tack them to your board where they belong. You’ve probably got some scenes in your head, so jot them down on a card and figure out where they belong. Your beat sheet should give you a pretty clear idea where it goes on the storyboard. Go ahead and stick your cards up there.
Action scenes, or beats that involve multiple scenes to play out, get stuck to the board in cascading groups. You can see what I mean in the photo of my board:
It’s easy to see where the holes are, but I’m not worried. In fact, I’m kind of happy about it. This outline keeps me in line by pinning down the beginning, middle and end, but allows me the freedom to work out all that fun middle stuff.
If I get an idea for a scene I can write some notes on it and add it where it belongs. That way, I’ll know exactly where to add that scene once I catch up to it. And when I’m sitting there, all out of Mike ‘n Ikes, my mouth hanging open as my gears try to get the writing going, I can look at the board and know what I’m supposed to work on next.
Whew! That was a lot of info! If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer in there.