How to use a story board

storyboardGiven that it is PiBoIdMo and so much thought it going into picture books, I thought this would be a good time to discuss how we write them.  One of my favorite tools is the story board.  A story board is an illustrators’ tool that allows you to plan out an entire picture book spread by spread.

How do you use it if you aren’t an illustrator?  Some writers make quick sketches.  Others jot down a few words that represent the scene.  A story board helps you see if you have enough “story” for an entire picture book.  Although the illustrator may not break it down the same way that you do, this will show you if you have only half what you need or half again too much.

Some people print out a story board worksheet.  You can download one here.

I find a single page a little too tight.  I also hate writing on the page and then erasing things as I shift bits and pieces of the story.

Other people use a template on their computer.  Since you can only fit about 6 spreads on most screens, this keeps me from seeing the whole thing at once.  Yeah, I know.  I’m picky.

So what I did was make my own template.  See that photo up there on the right hand side?  That giant storyboard started out its life as a piece of cardboard in a poster frame. I’ve marked off the pages I need to keep open and can see the entire book at once.  I write notes on post-it notes and lay it out on the board.  I can easily shift the notes as I add and delete scenes. Once I have everything worked out on the board, I rough out the story.

Because I’ve worked out many of the bugs on the story board, I can usually draft a picture book in an hour or two.  Do not fuss at me!  That’s a rough draft.  The language isn’t picture book language.  The characters still need work and everything else. That’s just a super messy rough draft.

But it comes together as quick as it does because I’ve already taken a hard look at the big picture.  Try it out when you write your next picture book and see if it helps.

–SueBE