Jan 31, 2011

The Note Card Technique

Don’t know where to start on your outline?
Not sure what order your story goes in?
Wondering if you have missing plot holes?

Try the note card technique.


  • notecards
  • writing utensil; I’d say pen
  • open floor

What to Do

1.) List a single scene on one notecard. Make sure it’s actually a full detailed scene that includes a beginning, middle and end, rather than just a feeling or thought.

Clearly, your scenes will be of absolute relevance to the story. Only include the scenes that move the plot forward and are essential to your theme and end result.

2.) Make a notecard for all the important things you can think of that happen in your story line. You don’t have to think of them in order, just think of as many as you can.

The number that you have will vary depending on how long you intend your story to be. If you are writing a short story, it will most likely be between five and ten cards. If you are writing a novel, it will between 20 and 50 depending upon how detailed you define your cards to be.

3.) When you have a substantial amount of cards, begin to arrange them in chronological order. Start with the oldest event and work your way up to the end.

Write down the order of this so you can reference it later. You may want to write it on the actual card.
4.) Look for spaces where there are plot holes,something is missing, and add a notecard to fill it in.

5.) Rearrange the notecards so that there are secrets locked away and the reader is lurking through the shadows of your plot. You don’t want to give everything away all at once or your reader will get bored and give up. Add some of the notecards at the beginning of the chronological list as flashbacks. Start your story off with some dramatic action. Make sure you have enough tension and breathers throughout the middle. Slowly reveal the truth until it all becomes known at the end.

If you don’t like where it goes and want to start over, simply place the cards back in chronological order and begin again.

6.) Once you have your plot in the order you prefer, transcribe it to an outline. You already have it laid out the way you want, all you’re doing is copying.

Make sure to stick to this outline when you’re writing. At least hit all the major points that are necessary to move the plot forward. Let your mind explore to an extent, but don’t get too lost from this path you have defined for yourself.

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