Want an easier (and more fun) way to plan and outline? If you hate outlining, storyboarding may be for you.
What’s a storyboard? I think of it as a comic book, or page.
According to Merriam-Webster, it’s:
…a panel or series of panels on which a set of sketches is arranged depicting consecutively the important changes of scene and action in a series of shots (as for a film, television show, or commercial)
Beyond outlining your fiction and nonfiction, a storyboard is a quick explainer, as What Is a Storyboard? A Complete Guide to Storyboarding suggests:
A storyboard can help get everyone on the same page quickly. Humans process images a stunning 60,000 times faster than text…
As with writing exercises, using this clever tool gets you inspired, and motivated, quickly. Your creative self fires up. If I’m getting close to a deadline on a project, and totally lack inspiration, I’ll create a quick little layout in my journal, outlining the next steps.
Storyboards: inspiration at a glance
Lack artistic ability? Me too. My drawing skills haven’t developed much since I learned to write, but stick figures are fine in your layouts. On the other hand, if you’re using a storyboard as an explainer, or as part of a presentation, Canva has wonderful, free templates for your storyboards.
Use color. If you haven’t used colored pencils since childhood, borrow a few from your children.
For a quick layout, use a letter-sized or an A4 sheet. I like to use the paper horizontally, with a line across the page, then two lines vertically, for six panels.
I encourage you to hand-draw your panels, because doodling has long been known to enhance creativity. Focus on speed when you’re doodling, because your goal isn’t a work of art, it’s to outline a scene in your novel, or explore ideas you might use in a presentation, or something else.
How will YOU use storyboards?
Let’s look at some ideas.
Fiction: perfect for outlines, backstories, and character development
You may be writing a scene in your novel. Suddenly, your inspiration dries up. When this happens (it will), grab a sheet of paper and divide it into six panels.
You might include:
- Location. Where’s the scene taking place? What sounds, sights, smells?
- Characters in the scene?
- The scene’s goal?
- A revelation: what does your main character learn?
- Major action?
A friend uses her storyboard panels differently: as a comic strip of the scene, with characters and dialogue. Horses for courses. Use your little panels in any way you choose—for nonfiction too.
Nonfiction: slant, outlines, research, and structure
Fiction, nonfiction, planning, and much else rely on the fundamentals of who, what, why, when, where, and how.
I find hand drawn sequences especially useful in nonfiction, whether I’m writing an article, a white paper, or a book. Not only for the slant (direction and opinion), but for also structure. Your storyboard saves time in ideation, and research.
Your concept for the piece of writing solidifies more quickly, and you’ll spend less time in editing.
Writing for a client? Use a free Canva template to pretty up your scribbles for public sharing.
What about copywriting?
A free Canva storyboard template
Copywriting: use storyboards to help you to create concepts and advertising
Creativity is messy, so many writers are disorganized, as I am. Although this is fine, it can also lead to needless creative blocks.
For example, let’s say you’re creating a series of Facebook ads for a client. You create the ads and post them. A week later, it’s time to create fresh ads, but you draw a blank when you stare at the earlier ads. You can’t remember the product, or the client’s goals.
Save the time it takes to get up to speed. When creating the ads, create a quick layout of them too, with sizes, goals, and keywords/ tags. Add the dates you’re running the ads, and anything else you want to remember.
Snap a photo of your hand-drawn sequence and upload it to Dropbox, Trello, or whatever space you’re sharing with the client.
How will you use storyboards?
This page has excellent free storyboard templates for you to use in your projects. Alternatively, rule up your own on blank paper.
Have fun. 🙂
Creativity is essential for writers.
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If you think you can't outline, you're wrong. You can create wonderful outlines which work for you: write more, and publish more.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.