Planning With Post It Notes

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been mapping out the verse novel I keep referring to. I started it last year with no real plan and began writing. 13.5K words later it petered to a halt as the year ended and I endeavoured to pick it up at the beginning of this year.

Best laid plans often involve doughnuts but returning to this project stalled for a number of reasons.


Staring at a document is not always the best way to find the holes and work out what needs to be fixed. When it comes to learning styles I am not much of a visual person, preferring verbal/auditory and writing (no surprises there). 

After a lot of thinking and composting trying to work out how this would all hold together, I thought about using Post It Notes to visually map the story I was telling.

Therefore, I printed it out, bought a wad of Post It Notes and started scribing, the title of each poem on individual notes. I needed to see the overall arching narrative, find out where the gaps were and think through what ending it was working towards.

Phase One – Beginning Mapping


The yellow Post It Notes is the MC arranged as the document appears on my computer. The pink is the MC’s own poetry, her Fermata (musical pauses – there is a strong musical reference in this verse novel). The blue is the MC’s boyfriend and his contribution to the narrative, his Random Conversations.

It reads from left to right (using the yellow Post It notes).

Phase Two – Playing With the Pieces


I began to rearrange the order of the poems and play around as to where the Fermata and Random Conversations would fit. Still reading from left to right but now adding in more of the narrative.

From here I went back to my notebook and started making notes about the plot and characters, scribbling out a brief synopsis to help work out the structure and development of the narrative.

Phase Three – I’m Thinking of Something Orange


The benefit of doing it on the wall was to see where there were gaps in the narrative. I used orange notes to suggest scenes/ideas/concepts to help build the storyline.

Phase Four – The “Final” Version


This mess makes sense to me. The story now has a structure and a flow (of sorts). I have now transferred the Post It Notes to my exercise book so I can begin the rewriting and editing.

I am going to take my print out and rearrange the pages as per the order shown above and reread to see if it holds together, even allowing for the gaps and silences yet to be written. 

I doubt this will be the final iteration in terms of plot and structure but doing this has given me a clearer idea of the form and direction of my verse novel.

Handy Hints

  • buy quality Post It notes as you don’t want them falling off
  • have a large handy piece of blank wall, or windows.
  • take a photo regularly in case they fall off so you can return them
  • colour code (character, plot, problems, themes)

I intend to use Post It Notes to help with the planning and mapping of a vignette collection I am working towards. Many, many uses.

Perhaps you’d like to join in Post It Note Poetry in February, 2016.

Community Over Competition

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I posted this yesterday and it was what I believe in.

I want to develop creative communities for amateurs and professionals where they can meet in real life and online to support and encourage, critique and develop, brainstorm and collaborate.

Gathering artists, musicians, writers from different creative fields to be a support network. We all tend to congregate with like minded artists (for me it’s writers) but how much more would we gain if we also met with other creatives to expand our thinking?

Creativity is about developing and championing community and the individuals within them. 

Who will you champion in your community?

Poetry Is Planned, Prepared, Edited, But More Often It’s Random

I love the spontaneity of writing, the burst of an idea committed to paper simply because you’re in the right place at the right time.

Then comes the hard work of making the piece sing.

Sometimes it’s playing with words as practice and having some fun. That’s what I did yesterday. 

I took an image posted on a friend’s Facebook wall and scribbled out an idea based on his caption, “and then the albino human statue unicyclist flew off into the storm…”

Albino Unicyclist Statue

Albino Unicyclist Statue Photo by Rob Cook (@robgcook)

This is the result

the albino fiddled with the coffee
splashing froth and milk and sugar
a hastiness borne of watchfulness

he stirred, attacking the inside edge of the cup
the clink, clink, clink an echo of rain
spattering on the window
grasping the cup between his hands
the white of one shadowing the white of the other
his fingers tapped a thunderous morse code
drained the cup
and then the albino human statue unicyclist flew off into the storm…

It was a random exploration and expression of an idea based on an image and its caption. 

Try it out as a writing activity, a way to practice and develop new ideas. As I posted recently, experimenting with Storybird does the same thing.

Experimenting With Storybird Part 2

One of the joys of being on holidays, apart from wearing tracky dacks all day every day and eating any bag of chips left lying around, is playing with new avenues for writing. I mentioned Storybird last week and presented a few poems.

I have been playing with a few more and present them here for fun.

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Can I Get A Haibun Over Here?

Thanks to my pet friend, Sean Wright, I have been experimenting with haibun. It is a Japanese form utilising haiku and prose. The haiku is meant to be stand alone as well as illuminating aspects of the prose. They are brief and focused.

I wrote a few to play with the form, a way of practising. 

I have included two of them here. I used a third on Storybird as a picture book experiment and have had some good response to it. You can read it here: Pendulum


In the silent moment before the alarm makes its declaration of the birth of the day, I wait, awake. Outside my window the main road is silent, a petulant child trying to see how long she can hold her breath as if it can stop the day from starting.

spark of life
measured in two movements
light follows dark

The fanfare of the hourly news is followed by the burst of exhalation: the rapid, rasping, laboured breath of rubber on bitumen. It is a too-quick heartbeat, and if I lie here long enough I hear the rise and fall of cars. They lumber away, wheezing their way up the hill hoping the lights turn red to catch their breath again.

If I hit the ‘snooze’ button, I can pretend the news never happened and the breaths taken outside my window are nothing more than the wind playing with the trees shaking their thoughts onto the ground.

I want to see how long I can hold my breath until I find a pencil and a scrap of paper to keep tally. They will be filed in pockets of jeans, jackets and shirts, ensuring the stipend is not exhausted, and hoping the remainder can be carried over to the following day.

receipts kept in pockets
fall with autumn’s grace
kindling for the fire

Gunning Station

I only met you once in real life, officially, when I stood on your platform, my toes deliberately hanging over the edge, uncertain if a train was due to arrive.

Our first, formal introduction, where the firm handshake betrayed the frailty of the weatherboard spruced with a fresh coat of beige and capped with terracotta coloured corrugated iron. The blue Countrylink sign on each of the matching seats announced your name.

I felt the awkward familiarity of meeting a robust memory known only from photographs and second hand reminisces, seeing the aged decrepitude beyond. A faded discolouration, a tea-soaked sepia superimposed over the glare of a late winter’s afternoon.

shadow obscures
the printed timetable
a faded memory

A place as familiar as a Sunday lunch of roast lamb and vegetables, gravy thickened from the pan, linen napkins, silver cutlery and the lingering scent of tobacco rolled through your fingers. The smoke drifts up in curls like the steam engines who once waited on shunting lines now no longer connected.

Five generations of my wife’s family including her lived at some point in the stationmaster’s house on the hill overlooking the station. I look at the corrugated iron, rusting in the silence while paint peels off stone walls in a town redefining its face with brick veneer, upmarket cafes and gentrified real estate.

I walk the length of one platform, descend the ramp to cross the tracks and feel the rebellious rush of stepping over the rails. I half expect, even want, a passenger train or freight train to crest the curve and suggest that the pulse, however thready, exists for at least one more day. But none come.

I walk the length of the other platform and reach the boundaries of a circumscribed world defined by memories that are not my own.

Experimenting with Storybird

I came across the Storybird website during the week and was initially reluctant to sign up for the free account (yet another log in to remember) but I gave it a crack.

You can do three things with it

  1. write poetry
  2. write a picture book
  3. write a chapter book/novel

You use the images as a stimulus to create a piece of work.

You can write for the following age groups.


I began experimenting with poetry. You take a single image and are given a random selection of words. Think Magnetic Poetry for your fridge.

You are limited with the words you are given and this can sometimes be a frustration. However, the limited vocabulary makes you focus on what you can do with the words at hand. Sometimes the words are almost useless and you scrap it and start again.


These are some poems I have created.

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I also have a picture book using a haibun(a mixture of prose and haiku) as an experiment. I was limited by the number of images provided to create a strong narrative.

Before a picture book is ‘published’ it is vetted by the site. I found my story had been approved within less than 24 hours. I suspect this is due to the broad audience range available.

I can see this being a good tool from an educator’s point of view as a way of helping students experiment with language, create their own stories with visuals already created (artists can also submit their work for use but I do not know how they are supported and/or paid).

It is useful for a 10 minute creative break, or something to spark your imagination if you’re feeling stifled.

I am not sure how far to go with it but for the moment it is a fun, creative way to pass the time and get you thinking and creating. It may lead to other works or ideas. Ultimately it’s another tool you can use to be creative.

Life Doesn’t Follow the Archetypal Structure

Why should stories follow a 3 or 5 Act structure when life doesn’t?

I posed the question on Twitter to see what responses might be generated. I received a couple. One went off on a philosophical tangent. And my answer is already given.

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I suspect there is a field of narrative sociology (now there’s topic for a PhD) where this might apply and I remembered one of my twitter connections who is doing something like this.

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I write stories where I follow the practiced methodology of the 3- or 5- Act structure, following the characters’ development and complications. It is the fundamental aspect of story telling you can find on most writing blogs. Other experimental forms still adhere to this idea in some tangential form or another.

You can start the Ira Glass research here.

Life is chaotic, messy, rhythmic, cyclical, disorganised, organised, coincidental, planned.

The takeaway is this: we codify experience to make it easier to understand.

Your response?