Saturday, March 30, 2013

Filing Card Outline

My critiques at the Vermont College of Fine Arts workshop suggested that my novel needs some major changes. To investigate the possible solutions, I made a filing card outline. I used one 3x5 card for each scene. Across the top of each card, I wrote a sentence or phrase describing the scene. At the bottom right-hand corner I noted the chapter number and assigned a scene number. 

To study my novel, I lay the cards out in columns by chapter. Our kitchen table is big enough to hold eleven chapters (approximately 1/3 of the novel) which is a reasonable amount to study at one time. The cards allow me to see what will happen if I move scenes around. I also added colored post-it notes. The yellow ones relate to problems that I noticed while making the outline. The blue ones suggest modifications that will be necessary if I leave the scenes in their original order, but change a major premise in the plot. 

Novels, especially in early drafts, are long, unwieldy things. The cards let me subdivide the problem and compare possible solutions.


Natalie Aguirre said...

I know a lot of people use the index cards. I write an outline in Word as I write my first draft and then am able to switch chapters around or delete them as necessary.

Hope the critique was good and will help you make your story stronger.

Kristin Lenz said...

I just did something similar with index cards, too. I'm revising a novel that has three alternating narrators, and it has definitely become unwieldy! Hope it helps you.

Ann Finkelstein said...

I'm also trying the VCFA method of closing the file on the first draft and writing a "Discovery Draft" from scratch - and my index card outline. We'll see how that goes.