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How to Write a Book: the Storyboard

Cheryl's Musings: How to Write a Book: the Storyboard

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


How to Write a Book: the Storyboard

Writing life I’m working on a work-for-hire picture book project right now, a project for which I need to assemble 40 pages worth of info on text, graphic novel-type dialog, sidebars, text boxes, and illustration notes. For the first time in my life, I’ve used a storyboard as a writing strategy to help me see the “big picture” of what I’m writing. I’m now officially a storyboard convert: Fitting your story into a visual format is a great creative exercise to help you look at it with fresh eyes.

A storyboard can help you answer questions such as:

  1. Do the page turns pull you forward?
  2. Does the excitement build? Where do surprises or changes of direction occur?
  3. Are there enough scene changes (and, therefore, illustration possibilities) to make this a good fit for a picture book?

I found plenty of info out there on how to create a storyboard manually (i.e., stapling pages together), but I wanted a storyboard where I could move content from one page spread to another, something where I could play and change things without starting from scratch every time. I wanted to be able to type in text, but within a visual layout. Here’s the result:


And here’s the how-to:

  1. Create a table 1 row high and 2 columns wide using your favorite word processing program (I used MS Word).
  2. Click to place your cursor inside the box. Enter hard returns until the table is sized as desired. This is your first spread (pages 2 and 3, which are usually the copyright and title pages, respectively).
  3. Click outside the box and enter a hard return (to separate the first table from those following). Select all (CNTRL-A), copy all(CNTRL-C), and paste (CNTRL-V) until your document contains the desired number of tables (14, 16, and 40 are some common numbers—count the number of spreads in a book similar to yours to decide how many spreads to play). 

Note: this is NOT the format you’d use to submit your book, but I find it very helpful as I write and revise. Have fun!

:) Cheryl



At June 2, 2010 at 6:31 PM , Blogger Jen said...

Great info. I just finished the 5th round of revisions on my current picture book, and was thinking of laying it all out like this to see how it flowed (now that I finally like where it's going!). Thanks for sharing how you did it!

At June 2, 2010 at 8:16 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Hi Jen. Oh, yay! I'm glad this was helpful! I'd love to hear what insights you gain from the process.

At June 3, 2010 at 1:48 PM , Blogger Martina Boone said...

This was terrific Cheryl! Thanks for sharing such professional, helpful advice. We've got a detailed post on dummy-making over at our blog if you ever want more information on a different trick that provides a lot of the same feedback. Thanks for taking the time to post this!


At June 4, 2010 at 9:06 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Hi, Marissa. Cool! I will head over to check it out...



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