the how-grace-outlines post: pushpin plotting

Every writer outlines his or her stories differently. Some use the “seat-of-the-pants” method and don’t outline at all. Others have pages of carefully typed information, or post-it notes lining their wall, or an excel spreadsheet thing. I have used most of these options at one time or another. (hey, I’m not published yet but I have been doing this for a while.)

But I have finally discovered my ideal method. I think it can best be explained in picture form:

grace's outline

This picture wins because you also get to see my hippie flower sheets and my bunny. Yeah, I’m pretty much a professional adult.

This bulletin-board method lets you move plot points, add and subtract plot points, see a basic story arc, keep track of where characters are if you have multiple POV characters, and SO MUCH MORE! (I feel like an infomercial.) It’s working for me, maybe it will work for you too.

The outline pictured is a bit old and unfortunately I don’t have a picture of my current WIP’s outline. But my bulletin-board method is particularly useful for this current WIP, in which there are two overlapping storylines, one of which is not told chronologically. The top half is one storyline, and the bottom half is the other storyline. I was so confused before I bulletin-boarded (?) it. Now I am slightly less confused. It’s beautiful.

I have decided that “bulletin-board method” is not very catchy. Please nominate a better name in the comments section. I will choose a winner, and he or she will receive world-wide recognition and possibly a virtual hug.

ETA: WE HAVE A WINNER!! Can we have a round of applause for Serena, please, who came up with “pushipin plotting.” and as promised: *awkward, don’t-really-know-you hug* Thanks Serena!



  1. althrasher said,

    May 6, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    LOL Grace, I think I love you.

    “Cork Board Compilation.”

    OK, I just like the word compilation.

    Can I have a hug anyway?

  2. ~grace~ said,

    May 6, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    I always have hugs for you, Alt.


    I will, um, consider using the word compilation. Though I am… still taking nominations.

  3. stamperdad said,

    May 7, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Whatever works. A picture is worth a thousand words someone once said. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

    Steve Davis

  4. Travis Erwin said,

    May 7, 2008 at 9:49 am

    I fall solidly in the seat panter category, but I do jot things in an old calender to keep my timeline stragiht.

  5. ~grace~ said,

    May 7, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Travis–an old calendar? like you have the calendar for the year the story’s set?

    thanks for stopping by, Steve! I’ll check out your blog.

  6. Serena Casey said,

    May 7, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I know “storyboarding” is already in use in filmmaking(?) and probably other things but it seems to fit here too. Or “pushpin plotting”?

  7. ~grace~ said,

    May 7, 2008 at 8:27 pm


    “Pushpin Plotting.” Succinct, catchy, clever, and it’s got alliteration.

    Unless someone tops it in the next 24 hours, we’re going with pushpin plotting.

    Yay Serena!

  8. Serena Casey said,

    May 8, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks! Now all I have to do is use the method myself—maybe it’ll get me going! *rushes off to accept worldwide adulation*

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