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 PeacockTo 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.