The Storyboard: The Best Way to Outline Your Picture Book

cave-below-outlineFor about two weeks now, I’ve been researching a new picture book tentatively titled “Cave Below.”  No, I didn’t do all of the research in two weeks.  This one has been rattling around in my head for a couple of years.  I just finally got serious and decided to get it done so I’ve been reading about the history of a cave, the geology and the chemistry involved.

With pages of notes, it was time to outline.  One of the best ways to outline a picture book manuscript is the storyboard.  For those of you who have never worked up a storyboard, it is a worksheet, or board, that allows you to mock-up a picture book so that you can see the entire thing on one page.  I don’t like working on something as small as a sheet of printer paper.  My storyboard is a piece of cardboard that was used to cover a mirror in shipment.

Why bother with a storyboard?  The great thing about using a story board is that I can see right away if I have enough scenes for a whole picture book.

But before I can lay things out, I need to transfer some of my notes onto post-it notes.  I fill out a post-it note/or part of a note, for each scene.  Then I take my storyboard and put everything in place.

Some people prefer to do this on a worksheet.  I like this post-it note approach because I can re-arrange things as needed.  When you’re writing a nonfiction book about a process, the order of the scenes is determined by the process itself.  The problem is that no single source talked about the entire process depicted in my book.

Because of this, I’m having to mesh what one source gives me with another.  In this case, it meant shifting what was initially scene 2, or the second speadk down the board so that it becomes spread 5.

Now that I have the storyboard, I’m ready to write.