The Importance Of Paper When You Plan Your Story

The Importance Of Paper When You Plan Your Story


Sometimes we need to use paper when we write. This post is about the importance of paper when you plan your story.

I love paper. There is just something about writing by hand on a piece of paper. The faint scratch that becomes a new story, a new picture, a new poem. All that potential. It is at once terrifying and glorious.

A new document in MS Word doesn’t quite feel the same, but I’ve learnt to appreciate that too. (Mostly because I have terrible handwriting and the rate of deterioration is alarming.) I have to type up my work. However, in every story, there comes a point where I need to print it out. I need to hold it in my hand. I usually only do this at the very end, but until then I need to be able to plan and I want to create the same effect for my planning. I need to make my ideas tangible and my story concrete.

Disclaimer: printing is a sacred act and not a decision that is taken lightly. Trees are important and I beg you not to waste.

This week in the 52 Scenes novel writing challenge we’re posting our 40th scene. We have 12 more scenes to write until we reach the end. It was at this point that I realised how important paper was to me. Paper makes the idea real. It turns ideas into books. It brings my story to life.

Our homework for this stage of the challenge is to plot the end. This is not to say it is the first time we are plotting, but it is more about going back and making sure the right things are happening and that we are keeping track of the changes. This means we are making lots and lots of lists.

This is where the realness of paper comes in.

The Importance Of Paper When You Plan Your Story

1. You Can ‘See’ Your Book

There are many ways to do this. Scrivener has awesome corkboards. I use the headings function in Word, but that still means you are clicking back and forth between documents. What helps me the most at this stage is to ‘see’ the whole thing. Think of it as ‘your book at a glance’.

2. Material

Post-It-Notes, index cards, big whiteboards. Find what works for you and make your story visible. I use one scene per card, and I use colours to show who the viewpoint character is.

Extra Reading: Why All Aspiring Novelists Need A Vision Board

3. Placement

Put this board nearby when you write. You really want to be able to see it. Whenever you are stuck or need another line to add, look at the board and see which thread you can pick up.

4. Remember

Writing a book means you have a lot to remember. What was that character’s name again? Or which hotel did you send them to in scene 3? Glance at your board and see it all. No more scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. This is also a brilliant sub-plot tracker.

5. When Do You Do This?

Some writers can do this right from the beginning. For me, I need to keep the momentum going. When I find myself slowing down and needing to go back to find details it is good to formalise these things. This usually happens somewhere near the middle and becomes more and more important as the story progresses. Near the end, it is imperative for me.

My fellow writers have made amazing boards to keep track of their work:

Yogani Singh
Yogani Singh

Hanri Mostert
Hanri Mostert

Susanne Bennett
Susanne Bennett

The Last Word

There are many ways to make your story real and to cement your ideas while you write. Experiment and find a system that works for you.

Mia Botha by Mia Botha

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This article has 1 comment

  1. Anne

    There tips pre-suppose that the writer has fully-function ability to hold a pencil, and write legibly. Having arthritis in my finger joints means that I can no longer do so. Yes, I do scribble the occasional note, but all too often, the result is usually partly illegible.
    I do need paper, however: A4 printing paper. All the bits and pieces I need to refer to when I’m typing my MS, are printed out and kept on file close at hand. Each story of any length has its own file, usually containing character sketches, plot outlines, story time-lines, bits of research, and odd notes about specific scenes.

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