Scene Cards for Novel Prepping

In this #PrepTober article we talk about some ways you can make scene cards for NaNoWriMo this year. 

Have you ever used scene cards to plan your novels? A scene card can be as complicated or as uncomplicated as you want it to be. You can make as many or as few as you think you will need. Whether a physical card or a digital card, scene cards can help you to sort out where the scenes in your novel will go, and just how many scenes you will need. They are more swappable than a traditional outline, and easier to take with you on the go.

  1. Physical Scene Cards

Sticky Notes are one of the first things that I used to build a plot structure. I used to take multiple colors, one for each character, and build out each of their arcs using one liners on these sticky notes. I would rearrange them on a wall or a posterboard and eventually into a notebook, and pull several sticky notes as necessary when I was ready to write the next few scenes. 

Notecards were also an early method of mine. Unlike sticky notes that could unstick after time and get lost, I punched a hole and reinforced the notecard, and could take the entire bundle or just a small section thereof with me wherever I went. Plus they were lined and I could write more than one line on them at a time if I needed to.

Printable Notecard Templates I delved into far too late in the game. I created these in my Etsy shop because I wanted to have some of my own so badly. They are available in multiple notecard sizes and designs, and you can use them to plot your next novel, take notes, or even use them for recipe cards. They are very versatile.  

  1. Digital Scene Cards

Trello is an excellent resource for making scene cards. If you didn’t know, you can add images, checklists, or any amount of description or notes to a digital board, and drag and drop cards across the board as you wish. They have a phone app and a web interface that syncs and they have integrations with things like Slack so you can jump between task lists with ease.

Post It Notes also has their own app. You can create digital Post It Notes in many different colors . You can also take a picture of any kind of sticky note (not just a Post It Note) and it will, very correctly, digitize it for you. You can add these notes to digital boards, and rearrange them however you want to. You can zoom in and out. It’s actually a really neat and useful app.

Scrivener of course has its own scene cards built into the functionality of Scrivener. I am not a pro and cannot possibly explain how to use these, but I would suggest doing a search online and reading up on the Scrivener tutorials if you are unsure of how these work.

Any word processor can also be formatted to look like a notecard or a sticky note, and can be printed out on a regular sheet of paper, or on a full stick page and cut to size. You can pick a notecard sizing instead of your regular paper size, and even choose narrow or no margins. Make as many or as few notecards as you want and type them instead of handwriting for a super clean look.

  1. Storyboarding and Mind Mapping

While not a scene card, exactly, other ways to plot your novels in a compact fashion should be mentioned. Storyboarding a novel on one page using images, or mind mapping parts of your novel are also valid ways to brainstorm your book.  

Storyboards can be digital as well as physical. You can clip and paste photos, or just make collections on Pinterest or your favorite app of choice.

Mind maps can help you build out several things including character or story arc moments. Think through what will make each scene the most impactful for your reader, and how you can really build up to that scene in your book.

NaNoWriMo is getting very close now, and I feel like I need to cram in all the prepping that I can in the last week before it hits. Fortunately, planning out a few scenes in advance really makes me feel like I can write an entire novel in a month.

Discussion Questions

  1. What would you say is the bare minimum preparation for going into NaNoWriMo?
  2. What are your best tips and tricks for making 50,000 words in November?
  3. Do you plan on participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Will you do a full 50K, and if not, what are your goals?
  4. What’s your favorite type of scene card?
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

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