Lay It All Out: Carding Your Story in 5 Easy Steps

Last time I talked about the rough outline I make of my story when I first start to plan it out. The next step in my frighteningly detailed method of pre-writing is carding my story.

It’s possible that you don’t know what carding is (I didn’t until just a couple of years ago), but it’s an easy answer. Here’s a step-by-step guide to carding your story.

  1. Take out your materials: index cards (post-it notes, computer program, whatever), a pen (or marker or keyboard; seriously, whatever), any outline you may have and any notes you may already have.
  2. Write each scene on its own index card.
  3. Put the index cards in order.
  4. Stack them nicely when you’re happy with the number of scenes you have and the order they’re in.
  5. Seriously, put them away. You can move scenes around later if you need to.

There is a problem with the easy answer, though, and I’m sure you know what it is. The easy answer is easy because it’s general. Often the general answer doesn’t help much when there are questions, and there are usually questions.

I’m afraid my post isn’t going to help much there.

Carding works for some people and doesn’t work for others. I know of writers who card everything but flash fiction (it would only take one card, which would be silly), and I know of writers who pants the entire story. I’m somewhere in the middle. I used to go through four or five outlines before I had a workable one, and carding has helped to cut out at least two drafts.

If you’re having a hard time outlining a story or writing one, just try to card it. The good thing about carding is that it becomes easier to see the pace of the story and where you need extra scenes. Who knows? It might help.

Do you card your stories? Am I being crazy again? (Don’t answer that one; I know the answer to that one.) Will you try carding if things get tough?


2 comments on “Lay It All Out: Carding Your Story in 5 Easy Steps

  1. anonymous says:

    Glad I found your blog. I was doing this yesterday without realizing that this is a technique.

    • b.h.quinn says:

      It’s definitely a technique; I first learned about it in one of my many writing books. It sounds like it works for you, which is all the more reason to use it.

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