Writer’s Tool: Palm Cards

I am sure that a lot of writers use palm cards as an organisation tool and different people use it in different ways. In this way I’m just discussing my particular usage of them.

To be honest, I started using them when I got stuck on a particular scene. I had a gut feeling that I needed it but when I actually tried to write it, something just felt wrong. After doing a Google search on getting stuck and writer’s block, I decided to act on one piece of advice I came across which was to do a plot sketch using a medium different to the one you usually use to write with. For me, that would be my PC and I suspect that’s the mode of operation for most writers nowadays. Anyways, so I tried to act on this advice and decided to use palm cards since I just happened to have a stack of them sitting on the top shelf of my computer desk and I knew that I would just be replicating what I do on my PC if I take out a notebook (For some reason, I’m tempted to either write straight paragraphs on blank pages like a blank Word document or a blank page of a notebook or dot point lists are in reality just dot point sentence lists with the starting noun removed).

And then magic happened. Something clicked in my brain and told me that I should write on each palm card:

  • A one-liner summarising the main event in a section. Underneath the one-liner, dotpoints on sub-events
  • A listing of the side-plots and plot hooks for the section
  • Thoughts from self and beta reader about what to fix

I write these three things in different colours so that each section stands out. For the particular novel series that I’m working on, each book covers 4 palm cards. I stick them onto a single notebook page in subsequent order so that it functions as a de facto whiteboard.

I’m very happy to result on that particular incidence, this exercise told me that the scene was definitely needed. Having that secure in my mind, my brain told me straight away that the weirdness I had detected was I had failed to create in my own mind and hence could not put down on paper the motivations for the conflict occurring in this particular scene. Also, my main take-away from was that if you feel really stuck, then tweaking the way you are approaching your writing might make all the difference.

Now, extrapolating outside of that particular incidence, I found that this palm card story board that I had created was also particularly useful for me in that it helped me to keep track of the various plots and plot hooks going on not just within the current novel I’m working on but across books (I think I’ve mentioned that I’m a side-plot maniac and I have planned all these hooks that link up events across Chapters, sometimes even across books, so yeah I have a tendency to lose track of them even when I usually do a Chapter skeleton before actually writing. My beta reader definitely alerted me that this is inherent in my writing).

So, I’m sure that’s only one use for palm cards. Feel free to leave comments on the alternative ways for which you have used palm cards as a writer’s tool.

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