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Have Board; Will Plot - Guest Post by Kathleen Peacock

Kathleen Peacock is the author of Hemlock, a YA urban fantasy trilogy, the first book of which will be published by Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of HarperCollins) in 2012. When we saw her tweeting about her whiteboard plotting acrobatics recently, we asked if she'd share her secrets.

Have Board; Will Plot
By Kathleen Peacock

To Do:

(1) Take picture of dry-erase board without revealing crucial plot elements.

(2) Think of angle for YA Highway post about dry-erase boards.

(3) Try to convince YA community that dry-erase boards are sexy. That they are, in fact, “bringing sexy back*.”

(4) Buy fourth dry-erase board. Three just isn’t cutting it.

Lurking in a corner of the home office where I do most of my writing is a haphazard setup consisting of a 23” x 25” dry-erase board precariously perched on a flimsy bookcase. Leaning against said flimsy bookcase are two more boards, ready and waiting to go (I’ll often use one board just for a specific act or for planning out a difficult—or big—scene).

Anything and everything goes on them—bits of dialogue, lists of possible plot points, timelines for certain characters (one board ALWAYS has a drawing of Jamie Harrington’s storysaurus and a diagram from The Writer’s Journey). Other people use moleskin notebooks; I need a large slab of blank space and markers that make me slightly giddy. That’s just the way I roll. (If I had Stephenie Meyer’s bank account, I’d probably buy a segway and find some way to put a dry-erase board on that. Nerd power, kids. Never underestimate it.)

There are a few reasons I prefer brainstorming on dry-erase boards instead of in notebooks (though notebooks are much easier to carry in my purse). The sight of all that empty space encourages me to think big—to fill it up with possibilities—and (thanks to years in Corporate Land**) holding a maker in my hand automatically puts me in brainstorm mode. All that space is also great for seeing how acts look next to each other and mapping out what’s happening off-screen, to other characters, while my heroine is out tracking down werewolves. Plus, with the boards, I actually have to walk past the ideas on a regular basis—even if I’m not consciously thinking about them, I am seeing them.

Dry- erase boards probably won’t be bringing sexy back anytime soon, but I find them helpful.

* I’ve never really understood where sexy went? Did Justin Timberlake rescue it and carry it back for the masses? Did he plot out the rescue on a dry-erase board before leaving to liberate sexy?
** Corporate Land is a strange and mystifying place where everyone is garbed in polyester and everything is measured in fifteen minute coffee breaks. They love dry-erase boards.

Thanks, Kathleen!
Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. I currently have a weird setup involving the glass bit and the cork back of a giant picture frame covered in record cards with scene outlines written on them. It's awful. I love whiteboards, but unfortunately mine is a) tiny and b) in my garage at university, while I am currently at home in a different country. But hey... maybe I'll use the money from my new job to buy a massive new one instead of, I don't know, saving... :p

  2. I use butcher paper but I do like the idea of a dry erase board since you can ERASE things that aren't working. Because that happens!

  3. This seems like such an awesome idea. Thanks for the post; I might have to invest in a dry erase board. I really love how you mentioned the fact that you walk past the ideas every day. That seems like a perfect way to inspire writing and get the creative juices flowing. :)

  4. This looks like so much fun. I think I should buy one of these for my home office!

  5. I love this idea! Writing things out always helps me brainstorm, and I like that on a dry erase board you can correct things easily.

    Also I love the "plot" you have laid out for Mac :)

  6. I also have whiteboard, but it's covered in 3 year old scribblings and ideas that need to stay at the forefront of my mind. Love the idea of plotting on them- although it would probably not work in my case. Great post.

  7. Justin Timberlake totally carried sexy back to the masses. He danced it over and adorned it with SNL hilarity. *fans self*

    um wait we were talking about

    White boards! Yes. I have a chalkboard now b/c you told me to get one of these. I like Christina's butcher paper idea above too.

  8. Ooh!!! I need to try this! I love the idea of writing in notebooks but my handwriting is like a drunk toddler's. But I actually CAN write decently on dry erase boards thanks to years of teaching. Huzzah!

    Thanks for the post, Kathleen. :)

  9. While this sounds like a great idea, I don't think it would work for me. I love whiteboards, don't get me wrong, if I had my way, I'd have about 10 of them just to hold my to-do lists. But when it comes to my stories I want old ideas to STAY PUT! So I know where to find them later, just in case this shiny bit that just didn't work in that plot might transfer over to *that* shiny new idea!

    What can I say, I'm old-fashioned. Give me a Mead Composition book and a pen any day, and I'm happy =)

  10. Good idea. It's a lot harder to lose than a notebook.

  11. Kath, not to be picky, but shouldn't Jason's last plot point be to 'marry Laurie'? :)

  12. ...I totally want to get a white board now... Ikea, here I come!

  13. I LOVE my dry-erase board! It was the first thing I bought when we turned the guest room into my office and I don't know what I would do without it. Plotting, outlining, brainstorming, to-do lists and word count goals... it helps with everything.

  14. I love using notecards to outline my WIPs. The dry erase board would be fun, and I know TV writing staffs all use them to plot out scripts. But I'd be afraid of brushing past it on my way to the kitchen and accidentally erasing my story.

    Anne - I still use a mead composition notebook, too! I've been told I look like Harriet the Spy when I carry it around :)

  15. I LOVE WHITEBOARDS!!!!! I have two giant ones that I put, like, everything on.

  16. A.J. : I have this fantasy where I eventually get a house and a mortgage and then I turn one bedroom into a giant dry-erase board. (something I'm not sure I can get away with while renting)

    Christina: Butcher paper is an awesome idea! I hadn't thought of that.

    Samantha: I was pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive they were.My fancy magnetic one was almost thirty, but my no-frills ones were about $12 Canadian.

    Andrea: If only I had purchased stock in a whiteboard company before the post went up... I wonder if there's still time...

    Sarah: Hee. You didn't expect to see real plot, did you? That quote might make it in, though.

    Laura: One of the advantages of my multi-board setup is that I don't have to erase right away.

    Kate: I keep meaning to ask how the chalkboard is working out. You should do a chalkboard post!

    Michelle: My writing is way better on dry-erase boards, too.

    Anne: I can totally understand that.

    Pen and Ink: Of course, it's also harder to carry around...

    Laurie: Jason's bringing Laurie back.. forget Mac, she don't know how to act...

    Miss Cole: Yay!I suspect your whiteboard will be fancy and would laugh at mine.

    Marissa: Yay! I'm not the only one!

    Phil: I've tried index cards before but, for some reason, my mind won't work that way. That being said, I know lots of writers swear by them.

    Gracie: *fistbump* awesome!


    Thanks YA Highway (especially Kirsten) for having me! :D

  17. Thanks for your wonderful idea about Board. Really great.


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Item Reviewed: Have Board; Will Plot - Guest Post by Kathleen Peacock Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard