Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Nanowrimo Prep: The Index Card Method

I want to skip ahead of myself here for a minute and say that if you do not have a premise for your story yet, or if the thought of having to write a premise is making you hyperventilate, THAT'S OKAY. Put down the knife and breathe.

Because maybe what you really need to do is do some free-form brainstorming on your story. Get to know it, as it were.

And the best way I know to do that is to use index cards (or Post Its). Here's the whole post on the index card method.

but unless you're familiar with the structure grid already, don't even worry about that, yet. The idea is just to use a pack of index cards and write out all the scenes you know about your story already. Just a simple one-line description, one scene per card. It can be as vague as: "First kiss with love interest." Or - "Watch sunset together." Or - "Hero kills babysitter" or "House eats mailman" or "Heroine slips into alternate dimension". (Hey, Halloween is coming. You all know what I write.).

I guarantee that writing out those scenes will lead to more scenes, and if you want to take a stab at putting them in a relative order, that will lead to even more scenes.

What I am trying to get across here is that you don't have to follow these steps in any particular order. If you can't get to a premise yet, that's really just fine. Do some brainstorming for a while to coax your story out. You can do this on paper or on the computer, but if you haven't used index cards before, just try it. There's something magical about the cards, I swear.

And it's so fast - I have to write two book proposals in the next week and there is no way I would even attempt to do that without index cards. They work.

It's a great day for brainstorming, all this rain in So Cal. Use those negative ions!

- Alex


Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.

- Smashwords (includes pdf and online viewing)

- Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amaxon DE (Eur. 2.40)

- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

- Amazon/Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amazon DE


Previous Nanowrimo Prep posts:

- Do You Know What Your Next Book Is?

- First, You Need an Idea

- Your Best Idea

- What's Your Premise?


Jenni Legate said...

Phew! Thanks for that clarification. I was a bit panicked trying to get the premise down. I have the general idea in mind - but it rambles, and trying to formulate it in a way that I think will appeal to anyone outside my head is a bit tricky. I just sent a link to your Monday post to a friend who is struggling with the same issue. I am going to play around with the cards and then come back to the premise idea.

I read The Moral Premise by Stanley D. Williams recently, which also recommends understanding what the main moral conflict is before starting to write and focusing the premise on this conflict in values, but I think that's a little harder to formulate before fully thinking out what's going to happen in the story.

So far, I have a rough skeleton of the plot and a couple of ideas about the protagonist and villain, but not a lot else.

Marie Andreas said...

Great post :). I'm an extreme pantser who is venturing into the plotter zone for NaNo. I'm even breaking down and buying the cards! LOL!!!

Thanks for doing NaNo prep this month- I've done NaNo before, but I want to be more focused this time.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Jenni, don't sweat it! Just ramble on for a while. I'll post more on narrowing down the premise, too.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Marie, I think you'll love the cards. It doesn't even feel like work.

Robb said...


Love your blog and your books!

I've written a screenplay and I'm toying with the idea of doing NaNo for the first time and turn it into a novel.

It's not exactly starting from scratch but then again---it's a whole different beast.

Whaddya think? Is it kosher to start with ideas that I've already worked out in a script?

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Kosher? My God, Robb! The only rule of Nano is WRITE THE DAMN BOOK.

With a whole screenplay to work off of, you could be done in a month. That's awesome. Do it!!!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Okay, maybe I've had a little too much coffee. What I mean is - you could have a REALLY SOLID FIRST DRAFT of a book in a month.

Robb said...

Thanks, Alexandra.

I'll keep you posted on how my REALLY SOLID FIRST DRAFT came out when Nano is done!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...