Writing with Visual Aids

Every time I start a new writing project, I think about how I can do better. Not just write better, but how I can improve my process. One thought keeps coming back to me. I need to use visual aids.

Most of my writing now is done on my computer, with Word (for the plot ideas, manuscript, query letter, and synopsis) or Excel (for the chapter outline and query tracker). But many of my writing friends (and published authors that I read about) use visual aids as well. They use sticky notes. They use flip charts. They use index cards. They use poster board. From what I’ve read and heard, using visual aids is a great way to plot your story and to keep track of events. It’s also a great way to world build and develop you character traits.

I think it’s time I joined in on the fun.

But how?

If you have a private place to write, with some available wall space, poster boards and flip charts would work well. You can hang them up near where you write and then brainstorm ideas that way—writing down every idea you have. You could use them after you’ve established an outline too by making a chart that shows a chronological course of events. Having it all right in front of you as you write could help keep your story on track. I know of some writers who hang large posters or paper at the very top of their wall. They read like a story from left to right wrapping around the room.

Sticky notes are a great tool for this method too. You can stick them on the poster board or paper and take them off as you add and delete ideas from your manuscript. Genius!  

But what if you don’t have a large space? I struggle with this very thing. I don’t have a specified office in which to hang my plot points. And I refuse to hang them in my living room or dining room. I’m way too particular about my house. But that’s just me. It might just work for you!

Maybe this is why I’ve never used visual aids to write before. But I think I’ve found a way.

Foam Board! I love foam board. In case you don’t know what it is, it looks like poster board but it has a foam core backing on it which makes it stiffer than regular poster board. And it’s easier to handle. It comes in lots of colors too. It’s amazing. So I’m thinking I can write my chronological order of events right on the foam board or even write them on sticky notes and place the notes on the foam board. They’ll fit in a closet when I’m not writing. I can pull them out when I need them. I can use a few—one for world building, one for each character, one for the chapter outline…whatever!

I may start using index cards too. This is perfect for someone who really doesn’t have much space at all. Use them to pace your plot. Write one scene on each card. Rearrange them as necessary. Take them out of your desk and lay them on a table or the floor when you need to visualize your story. What could be easier? They would work great for keeping track of character traits too or even world building.

I’m going to give it a try this week with my new manuscript. I’m just in the process of brainstorming ideas and developing my main character. I think the foam board, sticky notes, and index cards can work for me. What about you? Maybe it can help you to organize your thoughts and your story too.

Maybe you already use visual aids when you write. Maybe it’s something different than I’ve described. Let us know. I’m game for anything!

I’ll see you all on Monday when I blog about my week’s progress with said manuscript. I’m having fun creating this new story. I hope you’re having fun with yours too. Because how lucky are we? We get to write. Every word is a gift…to ourselves and to anyone who reads them. So yeah. Life is good. 🙂


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