By Jennifer L. Davidson
Most adult writers have taken a writing class where the instructor suggested putting the events of their story on notecards or sticky notes as a way of plotting a story. Not everyone is a planner, so they might have let the concept go in one ear and out the other. But I find seeing the events of my story rather soothing. Having a plan makes me feel accomplished in a way. Because nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is worse than staring at a computer screen and not knowing what to write next. When you can look over at a poster board, wall, floor, or table and see the events that will carry your story forward to the climax, it looks like progress. Sure, you have a lot of work ahead of you, but at least you've created a path, a walkway to the end.
It's been interesting to observe how elementary and middle school students feel about this method when I teach it to them. As with adults, some like it and some don't. Some kids will cover an entire wall or cupboard with their story's actions/events. Others will tear up the notes or use them to decorate their desks. It makes no difference to me really. My goal is simply to introduce them to another way of thinking.
So, if you’re a planner like me, here are 7 benefits to writing down your story's actions/events on notecards or sticky notes:
All your ideas are visible in one place (no scrolling or paging up and down)
You can physically rearrange your thoughts
If there’s a gap in your story, it’s nothing another notecard or sticky note can’t fix
Bad ideas are more visible, but so are the good ones
You realize your character’s goal isn’t really their goal at all
Each action/event can become a chapter when transferred to your document
When you get stuck writing a chapter, others are waiting for your attention
When you're done, it might look like chaos, but chaos and creativity often go hand in hand, or you can at least tell yourself that. There should be no limits to the creative process. Make a mess! Cause your family to be inconvenienced! When you make your millions, they'll only remember the gifts and their names mentioned on the acknowledgements page.
Here are some pictures of how some students in grades 3-5 used their sticky notes during a week-long Creative Writing Workshop I taught this summer.