Tag Archives: Writing Tips

Visual Plotting (aka Storyboarding)

Visual Plotting (aka Storyboarding)

When I first started writing, I was a pantser writer (that means I wrote by the seat-of-my-pants…no planning or plotting), but the more stories I created and the longer they became, I had to morph into a hybrid writer where I would have to write a high-level outline and then I could sit down and write my books.

I recently ran across the concept of visual plotting aka storyboarding on Rachel Vincent’s blog** and the idea really appealed to me for a couple of reasons:

1) Because I’m a very visual person
2) Because when you write bulleted items down in an outline format on paper and you print it out to read it away from your computer, you aren’t given the freedom to “mess” with the order of events/scenes(how and when they occur) as easily.

So I gave this concept a whirl for my manuscript Insurrection (the second book in my Scions trilogy that I originally published with Harlequin under their Silhouette Nocturne line).

Storyboard by P.T. Michelle
FYI: You can do this on Scrivener now! But if you prefer a tactile, hands-on approach over digital, then here’s how you do it. The concept is the same regardless.

Supplies needed:
1) Dry erase board big enough to hold a LOT of sticky notes.
2) Different colored post it notes to represent different aspects of your story, ie Main plot, main subplot, secondary plot, minor subplot and of course the romance.
3) Dry erase markers. (I tried to match mine to the sticky notes, which I’ll tell you why below)

Basically what you’re trying to do is take high-level ideas and put them on sticky notes in a one-liner format. As ideas/new scenes come to you, keep writing them down on the appropriate colored post it notes and then plunk them on your erasable marker board in no particular order. Once you have as many as you can think of, start placing your ideas/scenes on the board in the order that makes the most sense for them to happen in your story. After you have placed all of them, you might get an idea to move a scene earlier or later and that in turn might spur new ideas or scenes or plot twists for your story…to which you’ll jot down on a new post it.

In my mind, this kind of plotting helps for two reasons:

1) It’s more flexible
2) It lets you see if your story is balanced or where you might need to add more elements for a better balance.

For instance, if you look at my storyboard at the bottom of this post, you’ll see that I don’t have any light pink post its at the end. Light pink post-its represent the romance aspects of my story. Yep, I haven’t figured out yet exactly how I want the story to end. Also, since I have yellow at the beginning but nothing near the end, I can tell I need to make sure I carry my secondary plot further into the story. I have ideas for both additional light pinks and yellow posts its, and those I could either jot down on a few post its and keep them to the side until I decide which one I want to use OR I could use my markers and write out the different ending ideas on the board off to the side. That’s why the coordinated markers might come in handy.

Rachel’s example helped her formulate her synopsis, which I think is the BEST use of this storyboard…ie, high-level plotting. That’s exactly what each of those post it notes represent…plot points, twists, romantic scenes, etc that will happen in the story—and that’s exactly how you write a synopsis…at a high level.

Did Insurrection follow this outline? Some of it did, but it gave me a very loose road map and a place to “play with” ideas and tweak my story as I’m moving along.

For a great tool with many functions such as:

1) Helping you get out of a plotting rut
2) Helping you write up a synopsis when you haven’t written the rest of the story yet…ie, if you want to write a proposal to pitch to NY publishers/agents, etc.
3) Helping you tweak your novel as you’re writing it

Give storyboarding a try and see what you think.

I’ve added the storyboard below again so you can see it beside the color-coded legend (which I also pilfered from Rachel** 🙂 ).

Storyboard by P.T. MichelleGreen: Main plot
Hot pink: Main subplot
Yellow: Secondary plot
Blue: Minor subplot
Light Pink: Romance

Tip: I wrote on the back of my post it pads what each color represented. Then if I forgot while I was plotting which color went with what, I just flipped over the pad to remind myself. That should come in handy since it might be a month or two before I use the pads again for the “next” story plotting.

** Giving kudos and credit where it’s due.

NOTE: I wrote this years ago, but just ran across it in an old website archive. I’ve reposted it here so I’ll have it archived on my current website for any aspiring author or reader who is curious about the writing process. All writing tips are posted under the writing/craft, writing tips category.

Writing Tip ~ Using Text-to-Speech with Edits & Recent Reviews


An author friend suggested that I try the Text-to-Speech feature on my Kindle when it was time for me to do a read through on my current manuscript. She said she found it really helpful. I figured I’d give it a shot. When doing edits, I normally go through at least three rounds before my critique partners ever see the book. First round is on the computer, then second round is on paper and then the third round is on my Kindle (where I upload the file to my Kindle and read it there). Doing this allows me to see my manuscript in several different ways. You’d be surprised the things you can catch using different mediums while going through edits.

So, as my last round reading over my book on my Kindle, I also turned on the Text-To-Speech feature. Notice I said ALSO. What I mean by this is, I turn on the TTS AND I read the words along with the guy reading them to me. You’d be surprised how many little things your eyes just “slip over” BUT if you’re also hearing it at the same time, you tend to catch more things beyond general typos like: repetitive words, repetitive phrases and missing words. When I do this, I turn it on the fastest function and kind of speed read through it.  Hey, another added benefit…maybe I’ll learn to read faster. LOL!

Give this a try the next time you’re going through edits on your manuscript and see if it doesn’t help. I know I’ll ALWAYS use the TTS feature now.


“The chemistry between Nara and Ethan blew me away. It’s pretty close to what I remember feeling between Mac and Barrons in Karen Marie Moning’s Shadowfever series. For that reason alone, I’d recommend the book. They get pretty steamy – without there even being any sex!” Click here to read the entire review at Never Too Fond of Books


“I liked how Brightest Kind of Darkness kept me guessing through the entire novel. Brightest Kind of Darkness sets up for the second book wonderfully as I have so many questions about Nara and Ethan” Click here to read the entire review at Vamps, Weres and Cassay


“If you’re a YA PNR lover but your bored with the mediocrity of the genre’s recent additions this will restore your faith. Brightest Kind of darkness is a well crafted paranormal romance with a refreshing and original plot, I couldn’t get enough.” Click here to read the entire review on Reads With Reckless Abandon


“Brightest kind of darkness is completely unique and original to anything else I have read before, I really loved the concept and am looking forward to the next book in the series, Lucid, so I can, hopefully, find out the answers to some burning question we’re left with at the end….” Click here to read the entire review at Bookaholics

Writing Tips ~ What to look for in a Critique Partner & Writing Links


When I first started writing, I belonged to a couple of critique groups and while I found them VERY helpful I also found a large group to be a bit overwhelming. Personally I’ve found that having at least two (but no more than four) crit partners to give different perspectives to be the best scenario for me. So after nine years of writing, here are a few things that I’ve found to be the most important aspects I look for in good crit partners…

Honesty: You need a critique partner who’s going to be honest with you. And no I don’t mean, one who’s going to say, “Your story sucked!” 🙂  No, I’m referring to a person who’s not afraid to tell you if something doesn’t work for her…and ‘why’ in a constructive manner. Being honest with your CPs and having that honesty returned is critical to establishing a beneficial, long term critique partnership. Sure we can complain to our CPs that they just tore our book to shreds, BUT I’d much rather ‘fix’ the issue now then have an agent or editor reject the story or a reader call me on it later.

Responsiveness: This is very much a two way street. Now it’s true we need to give our CPs enough notice that something is coming for crit, but sometimes things happen. Having a CP who gets crits done in a timely basis (whatever ‘timely’ means to the two of you) is important in keeping a rhythm going between you and your CP. Some CPs prefer to crit a chapter at a time. I prefer chunks or even better…the whole book. I prefer this because I can also look for continuity and catch issues easier if I’m reading the whole story without time lagging in between (because that’s when you forget the details).

Similar writing skill level: Obviously we’d like to have someone who is more skilled than us, but each critique partner brings her own skill set to the table. For instance, one of my CPs has 3 other women who crit for her. Between the four of us, we each find something different. Every time! *g* All of our different perspectives helps her craft a well-rounded novel in the end.

Reading for several aspects at once: I prefer to do a line for line crit. Other than grammar, I also look for plausibility, logical scenarios, time line consistency, appropriate point-of-view shifts, world rules consistency, passive vs active, telling vs showing, pacing, descriptive details (ie, do I ‘feel’ the scene), and characterization development. All these things tie into making the story an overall ‘good read’. Every CP will have their strengths in critiquing your work and that’s why it’s important to have more than one CP. They will each find an different aspect in how to improve your story.

Likability: While this doesn’t seem like it would be something that’s important in the critting process, THIS is very important during those times when you have to “be honest” with your CP about something in the story not working, especially if you end up having to call on the phone to explain where you’re coming from because email just doesn’t cut it. That said, with every crit, it should be understood that it’s not your manuscript and the author can take or leave your comments as she sees fit.

How did I find my crit partners?

I found my first crit partner via an on-line message board. I got lucky and we hit it off right away and we were at the same skill set level. My second and third crit partners were authors that were at the same publisher with me. I now have three crit partners and I find each of these ladies brings different aspects to the table when they crit my work.

I highly recommend working with critique partners. Good ones are worth their weight in gold. They will help you improve your work because they care about the overall product…almost as much as you. After all, they had a bit of input in the process!


I’ve received several emails recently asking me about how to get published, so I decided to create a Writing Links page. Hopefully you’ll find the information helpful.