Monday, April 30, 2012

Beat Sheet vs Bookmap

B is for Bookmap and Beat sheet
 Pantsers, skip down to Bookmap. ;)

A beat sheet looks like an outline. A bookmap looks like an outline too. The difference between the two is how and why you use them.

Beat sheet: I look at this as a roadmap for my manuscript. I create it before I sit down to write page one, and it can vary in degree of detail. There are two layers in this process for me. First I open up my blank template in word-

Template? Ah! The horror!

Wait a second. The template basically includes what happens, the big moments that all my threads work toward. What I do with the story to get to those places depends on what happens at the keyboard in my drafting stage. A beat sheet keeps me on track, keeps me focused on the point of the story so I don't go off in a tangent, unless I want to...

Step two: Take the outline to the storyboard in Scrivener. This is where scenes start to pop out for me. (I lie. The first scene is already in my head when I come up with a main character. That step is before any of this outlining. Sorry for the tangent.) I make little notes on the research I'm doing for the story - or big notes, depending on the subject. These notes are reminders. For example, the saffron crocus is a fall blooming flower:Make sure the scene is set in late August.

Next I sit down and work on expanding the beats, grouping them to create chapters with a clear arc. Then I draft.

Bookmap: This is new and exciting to me. I just learned how to do it in an SCBWI Master Class with Cheryl Klein, and I recommend finding a class near you. I can't tell you all the secrets, because what I learned is her intellectual property, but the core idea is a basic one:

Deconstruct your manuscript into scenes, and make sure each scene is working toward the goal.

Remember I mentioned tangents? Well, even with a beat sheet, there are a bunch of things that can go wrong on the way to a finished first draft. At least for me, anyway.

The bookmap helps me notice redundancy, points out weak scenes, and overall helps me distill the big picture again - the why it happens.

I think the bookmap is an important step because my characters have usually modified the "why" since I sat down to write the beat sheet. Looking at each scene again in detail also triggers my inner editor: This is clearly what the character needs to say/do vs where I left off in the draft.

Now. Back to work. Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard!


Matthew MacNish said...

Funny that you're on B when we're all on Z. LOL. Anyway, this sounds pretty useful. I'll have to look into it.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

THis is good advice. I've never used scrivener.

Golden Eagle said...

That sounds like a great way of structuring your story so it's cohesive. I tend to write outlines, but sometimes they fracture or lose sight of the "bigger" picture.

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