Storyboard, Notebooks, or Software Program? Building Your Book

I know. Your whole book idea is in your head. “I’ve got it all up here” you say.

the book is in my headThis is not a good place for your book.

Writing a book is an organic process. You start with what you know, with what you think your idea is. But along the way as you write and test out your ideas, they change and morph, and it is in the process of actually writing it that you usually FIND the book you set out to write.

There are a number of tools writers use to keep track of the ideas, changes, plans, research, background reading, notes, pieces of dialogue, parts of scenes, flashes of things that occur in the writer’s dreams or daydreams, the eavesdropping in coffee shops or something you heard on the radio.

Lisa Catherine Harper writes about Using the Writer’s Notebook:

Stack of Notebooks

She says: “Notebooks illuminate the mysterious correspondence between a writer’s particular vision of the world and their narrative art. Gordimer writes of fictional character, ‘Imagined: Yes. Taken from life: yes.’ Notebooks help reveal how this looting of life transpires. All my students have found the practice and study of notebooks revelatory. And because many of them begin notebooks as journals, and aren’t sure how to get started, or why, below follows the more useful advice developed in seminar, inspired by our reading list and the students’ own ideas about how notebooks work best for them.”

storyboard ideaYou can also use Online storyboards or use your wall to create one using large index cards and pins that move around. I am a visual, hands-on person so I need to pin ideas on cards and move them around, stand back, think, walk, come back, move them again.That’s how my ideas build. You have to find what works best for you.

sample storyboard





Watch this you Tube video on storyboarding for making videos — it applies to drafting a novel or book trailer as well.

 If you have found something helpful to share with other writers, tell us!  Here’s to building your book smartly!



What the Editors Bought Recently: Nonfiction

Here are some book proposals that got editors to jump, make an offer, buy, and put into their production schedules:


 Kim John Payne’s THE COMPASSIONATE RESPONSE, a powerful meditative method for changing the negative ways we communicate with and react to the important people in our lives — our children, colleagues, partners, friends, and other family members; showing us how to shift negative emotional habits into new ways of working with social tension, differences and other conflicts, to Jonathan Green at Shambhala, by Carol Mann at the Carol Mann Agency.

 Sam Horn’s ARE YOU INTRIGUING? a guide from an intrigue expert teaches how to capture and hold attention, be memorable and be intriguing, to Steven Piersanti at Berrett-Koehler for publication on 3/2/2015.

 World class ultra endurance athlete, public speaker and high school English teacher Travis Macy’s THE ULTRA MINDSET, in which the record holding winner of the Leadman, a combination trail running marathon and 100-mile mountain bike race set at over 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, boils down the principles of an elite adventure athlete and offers them to anyone looking for an edge in their own athletic, professional, or personal life, to Dan Ambrosio at Da Capo, for publication in Spring 2015, by Daniel Greenberg at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency.coaching

 Oprah Winfrey’s WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE, a collection of the monthly essays she has written for O, the Oprah Magazine over the past 14 years, organized around themes including joy, gratitude and possibility, with a new introduction, to Flatiron Books, for publication September 2, 2014.

 Dr. George Everly, Jr., Ph.D, Douglas Strouse, Ph.D, and Dennis McCormack, Ph.D’s THE RESILIENCY ADVANTAGE: Secrets of Mastering Adversity from the Original Navy Seals and Other Extraordinary People, a self-empowerment book authored by three doctors whose lives, while taking three very different paths, converged in an insatiable quest to learn what makes remarkable success possible amidst extraordinary adversity, to Ellen Kadin of Amacom for publication in 2015, by Leticia Gomez of Savvy Literary Services in association with Ascendant Group.

 Psychoanalyst and author Stephen Grosz’s THE SEVEN OBSTACLES TO LOVE: And Other Stories, about the most compelling, bedeviling question at the center of every life: how do we find and keep love, to Susan Kamil at Random House, by Melanie Jackson.


 Wealth management expert and president and CEO of Trilogy Financial Services Jeff Motske’s WE NEED TO TALK, based on the author’s War of the Wallets financial compatibility quiz, offering a guide for couples to remain financially fit, avoid the common fights regarding spending and saving, and build a happy, financially secure future, to Dan Ambrosio at Da Capo, for publication in Spring 2015, by Kirsten Neuhaus at Foundry Literary + Media.

 Milo and Thuy Sindell’s THE MIDDLE PATH OF LEADERSHIP: Discovering the Latent Strengths That Drive True Performance, a fresh take on how to uncover new hidden strengths in every leader, to Neal Maillet at Berrett-Koehler, by Kimberley Cameron at Kimberley Cameron & Associates.

 John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen’s THE BILLIONAIRE EFFECT, a systematic study through PricewaterhouseCoopers of self-made billionaires that provides fresh insight into the key personality traits and practices of massive wealth creators, an actionable plan for developing their habits, and a look at how these “producers” work strategically with the more common “performer” personality to generate enormous wealth, to to Emily Angell at Portfolio, by Jacqueline Murphy at Inkwell Management.

 Neuropsychologist Theo Tsaousides’s READY, SET, GOAL, a practical guide to overcoming the mental blocks that get in the way of achieving success, to Marian Lizzi at Perigee, with Jeanette Shaw editing, by Jeff Herman at the Jeff Herman Agency .

 Director of Search at BIng/Microsoft, Stefan Weitz’s SEARCH: HOW THE DATA EXPLOSION GOVERNS WHAT WE THINK AND DO, a trade business title and the first in the Insight Labs Library that explores the origins of search in the digital age and how this tool has evolved through customer demands, business constraints, and the sheer volume of data being collected — with predictions on where search will take us next, to Erika Heilman at Bibliomotion, for publication in November 2014.

 Founder of the Women’s Institute of Negotiation (W.I.N.) Yasmin Davidds, PsyD, with Ann Bidou’s OWN YOUR GAME, teaching women how they can negotiate with power and grace to get what they deserve, in and out of the office, to Ellen Kadin at Amacom, by Linda Konner at Linda Konner Literary Agency.


 Alan Trabue’s A LIFE OF LIES AND SPIES: Tales of a CIA Covert Ops Polygraph Interrogator, about the author’s 38-year career testing foreign agents in 40 countries, including five years directing the CIA’s world-wide covert ops polygraph program, revealing the CIA’s use of polygraph and interrogation to validate recruited spies’ bona fides and information obtained through their acts of espionage, to Rob Kirkpatrick at Thomas Dunne Books, by Greg Aunapu at The Salkind Agency.

 Former U.S. Congressman and mental health advocate Patrick J. Kennedy, co-written with award-winning journalist Stephen Fried’s A COMMON STRUGGLE: A Very Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction, about his personal and political struggle with mental illness and addiction, including the real drama of passing the 2008 parity act amid his father Senator Edward Kennedy’s cancer, the collapse of the economy, and Obama’s victory, to David Rosenthal at Blue Rider Press, to be published in late 2015, by David Black of the David Black Literary Agency.

 Photographer, activist, and TED speaker iO Tillett Wright’s DARLING DAYS, the story of her coming of age in New York’s Lower East Side in the Eighties and Nineties – a place and time captured in the photographs of her godmother Nan Goldin — and an odyssey of identity, from living as a boy from the age of six to fourteen, to breaking free from her fiercely protective yet wildly negligent mother, and beyond, to Daniel Halpern at Ecco, by Bill Clegg at William Morris Endeavor.

 Head football coach of the Baylor Bears Art Briles with Don Yaeger’s BEATING GOLIATH, about the hottest and most creative coaches in the sport, to Marc Resnick at St. Martin’s, by Ian Kleinert at Objective Entertainment.

 ABC News anchor Elizabeth Vargas’s memoir, a no-holds-barred account of growing up with crippling anxiety and of turning to alcohol for relief, describing “the burden and the loneliness of the secret drinker,” with personal stories of her despair, her time in rehab, and, ultimately, her recovery process, to Gretchen Young at Grand Central, for publication in spring 2016, by CAA.

 13-time Grammy winning singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris’s memoirs, with the publisher calling here “life and music a fundamental part of American culture,” to David Rosenthal at Blue Rider Press, with Sarah Hochman editing, for publication in fall 2015, by Ken Levitan of Vector Management.

 Manal Al-Sharif’s DARING TO DRIVE: Growing Up Female in A Men-Only Kingdom, A Memoir of Saudi Arabia, about growing-up female in Saudi Arabia, describing how even the smallest aspects of everyday life are influenced by the country’s male guardianship system by one of the leaders of the movement to allow women to drive in the kingdom who was awarded the first Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent and named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World; it covers her arrest and imprisonment for driving as well as hitherto unknown details of her coming of age and her assessment of the kingdom’s future, to Priscilla Painton at Simon & Schuster, for publication in Fall 2015, by Peter Bernstein and Amy Bernstein at Bernstein Literary Agency.

 Author of A Thread of Sky Deanna Fei’s GIRL IN GLASS, about the mother-child bond at its most elemental, about her daughter born four months prematurely and the national controversy that erupted when her husband’s employer publicly blamed the cost of “distressed babies” for a cut in employee benefits, to Nancy Miller at Bloomsbury, by Lisa Bankoff at ICM.

 Former Vogue Editor, founder of OrphanAid Africa, and winner of 2012’s Clarins Most Dynamic Woman Prize Lisa Lovatt-Smith’s SOMEBODY’S CHILD, detailing her rise from poverty to the upper echelons of European fashion, her fateful trip to Ghana on a volunteer vacation with her adopted daughter, and her subsequent decision to give up her fabulous lifestyle to remain in Ghana and fight to reform a corrupt orphanage and care system, to Amanda Murray at Weinstein Books, for publication in October 2014, by Elizabeth Evans at the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.


Blaire Briody’s THE NEW WILD WEST: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown, a narrative account of a once-quiet Midwestern town which has suddenly become the new frontier of U.S. energy independence, told through the experiences of the families that have lived there for generations and the migrant laborers desperate to make a living, to Hannah Braaten at St. Martin’s, by Laura Yorke at Carol Mann Agency.

 NYT reporter Nathaniel Popper’s MAKING MONEY: Bitcoin and the Digital Gold Rush, a narrative account of the rise of the controversial digital currency, featuring an international cast of characters and their complicated relationships with Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and governments and prosecutors around the world, to Tim Duggan at Harper, by Andrew Wylie at The Wylie Agency.

 Michelle Kuo’s READING WITH PATRICK, about her years with Teach for America in the Mississippi Delta and the special bond she formed through books with one of her most promising students who would be arrested for murder not long after Michelle left the Delta to attend Harvard Law School; Michelle eventually returned to the Delta for more than half a year to visit Patrick in county jail almost daily to continue to read books and poetry together, an experience that would point both toward their futures, to David Ebershoff at Random House, by Sam Stoloff of the Frances Goldin Literary Agency (NA).



Family therapist and author of Pills Are Not For Preschoolers Marilyn Wedge’s expose of the ADHD epidemic in the United States — through the lenses of the DSM, the psychiatric community, the education system and other countries — for a full picture of what this diagnosis means in a larger context, including tools for parents, based on her Psychology Today article “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD,” to Lauren Marino at Avery, by Susan Lee Cohen of Riverside Literary Agency.

 Psychotherapist, parent, and former stand-up comedian Sean Grover’s THE BULLIED PARENT, a guide that gives parents tools necessary for successful relationships — uniquely addressing the behavior of both child and parent(s), since bullying actually stems from the insecurities of both, to Ellen Kadin at Amacom, by Carol Mann at the Carol Mann Agency.


Brandon Stanton’s follow-up to his New York Times bestseller HUMANS OF NEW YORK, a collection of striking photographs and heartfelt, funny, and inspiring stories, to Yaniv Soha at St. Martin’s, for publication in Fall 2015, by Brian DeFiore of DeFiore and Company.

 Elijah Wald’s DARKNESS AT THE BREAK OF NOON: Bob Dylan at Newport, putting the moment Bob Dylan “went electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival in a context significantly broader than a simple declaration of rock ‘n’ roll independence, explaining why that moment became instantly iconic and still has such resonance today, to Denise Oswald at Dey Street Books, by Sarah Lazin at Sarah Lazin Books.

 Shea Serrano’s THE HISTORY OF RAP, an in-depth look at the songs that have changed rap music over the last 35 years, to Samantha Weiner at Abrams Image, for publication in Fall 2015, by Marc Gerald at The Agency Group.


 Emma Mildon’s THE SOUL SEARCHER’S HANDBOOK, a modern day bohemian’s guide to spiritual and soulful living, to Anna Noak at Beyond Words, for publication in 2015, by Marilyn Allen on Allen O’Shea Literary Agency.

 Keith Miller’s SUBURBAN CHRISTIANITY: Finding Faithfulness Amidst NcMansions and Minivans, an Evangelical defense of suburban churches, to Randall Payleitner at Moody, in a nice deal, for publication in Spring 2015.

 President of American Atheists David Silverman’s untitled look at why public discourse about Atheism must remain vocal and aggressive, referencing his own personal experiences and that of other atheists, to Rob Kirkpatrick at Thomas Dunne Books, by Jane Dystel at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

 Be inspired!

What the Editors Bought Recently: Fiction

Happy April Fools Day– Note:  This  is NOT an April Fool’s joke: This is a popular post– we are fascinated to see what editors selected out of the thousands of submissions before them. Enjoy — be inspired!


Andy Abramowitz’s TREMBLE, pitched in the tradition of Jonathan Tropper and Nick Hornby about the former lead singer of a one-hit wonder nineties band who reunites his fellow members for one more swing at the fences but finds redemption in the unlikeliest of places, to Sally Kim at Touchstone, for publication in spring 2015, by Caryn Karmatz Rudy at DeFiore and Company.


Winner of the Scott Prize for short fiction, Kirsty Logan’s THE GRACEKEEPERS, set in a world that is mostly covered with water, leaving only small archipelagoes of islands and dividing its inhabitants between “landlockers” and “damplings,” where two young women find their destinies intertwined, to Alexis Washam at Crown, by Kathleen Nishimoto on behalf of Cathryn Summerhayes at William Morris Endeavor.

Jason Miller’s DOWN DON’T BOTHER ME, a witty novel of murder in the mining country of Little Egypt, Illinois, to Cal Morgan at Bourbon Street Books, by Anthony Mattero and Yfat Reiss Gendell at Foundry Literary + Media .


Mary Lawrence’s A MATRON’S BANE, set in Tudor London, in which the daughter of an infamous alchemist must prove her innocence in a friend’s murder and uncover its connection to a threatening pestilence before she is arrested and London succumbs to plague, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington,in a three-book deal, by Fred Tribuzzo and Maryann Karinch at The Rudy Agency.

Rick Skwiot’s FAIL, while tracking down the missing husband of the mayor’s press secretary, a disgraced St. Louis Police Lieutenant uncovers a morass of corruption, educational malpractice, and greed that consigns thousands of at-risk students to the mean streets of America’s erstwhile murder capital, to Kristina Blank Makansi at Blank Slate Press, for publication in October 2014.

Stephen Kelly’s THE LANGUAGE OF THE DEAD, the first in a projected series of crime novels set in a small English village during World War II, pitched as inspired by true events, to Maia Larson at Pegasus Crime, for publication in 2015, by Joelle Delbourgo at Joelle Delbourgo Associates.

New Adult
NYT bestselling author J.A. Redmerski’s THE MOMENT OF LETTING GO, which follows a young photographer to Hawaii where she meets a seemingly carefree surfer with a secret she’s determined to uncover, to Megha Parekh at Forever, by Jane Dystel at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

NYT bestselling author Omar Tyree’s THE SNEAKER KINGS, the first novel of his new high-concept New Adult contemporary trilogy about the insane world of SNEAKERHEADS, which features a team of young sneaker fanatics who hustle their way to legendary status through national shoe conventions, events and savvy marketing, to Joe Coccaro at Koehler Books, for publication in 2014, by Leticia Gomez of Savvy Literary Services in association with Ascendant Group.

USA Today bestselling author Tiffany King’s A SHATTERED MOMENT, in which one night changes everything for a college sophomore who, after losing her closest high school friends in an accident to Kate Seaver at Berkley, by Kevan Lyon at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Author of the NYT bestselling Kingkiller Chronicle novels Patrick Rothfuss’s THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS, a companion novella to the series where the brightest minds work to unravel the mysteries of enlightened sciences, such as artificing and alchemy, to Elizabeth Wollheim at Daw, to be published in November 2014, by Matt Bialer of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

NYT bestselling author Keri Arthur’s CITY OF LIGHT, the first novel in a new series about a genetically engineered courtesan assassin, to Danielle Perez at NAL, in a two-book deal, by Miriam Kriss at the Irene Goodman Agency.


NYT bestselling author Catherine Coulter’s next two books in her BRIT IN THE FBI series, co-authored with J.T. Ellison, which expands her FBI books with the addition of the UK-bred hero Nicholas Drummond of Scotland Yard, to Ivan Held at Putnam,by Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media Group.

Giller Prize-nominated author Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s debut literary thriller THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, in which a murderer’s arrest rings too close to home for a rookie reporter, bringing haunting memories of her childhood best friend’s unsolved murder – and a stalker – right to her doorstep, to Sally Kim at Touchstone, by Samantha Haywood of Transatlantic Literary Agency.

V.R. Barkowsky’s BLOOD UNDER WILL, where a copycat ritual murder and a tenuous alliance with a cop and former friend leads a girl into a world of blood ritual and dark obsession; and A TWIST OF HATE, where a security consultant must travel through the secrets of his family’€™s past, a journey that leads from German-occupied France to betrayal to find a stolen painting, to Tiffany Schofield at Five Star,  by Christine Witthohn at Book Cents Literary Agency.


ONE DAY author David Nicholls’s US, about a long marriage coming to an end, and of a husband’s plan, over the course of one last long summer holiday — a road trip with their college-bound son across the capitals and cultural attractions of Europe — to win back his wife’s love and repair the damage in his troubled relationship with his son, to Claire Wachtel and Jonathan Burnham at Harper by Deborah Schneider of Gelfman Schneider/ICM on behalf of Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown in London.

Vanessa Lafaye’s debut SUMMERTIME, pitched as The Help meets The Perfect Storm, set in 1935 in a small community in the Florida Keys, already weighed down with secrets when a vicious attack on a white woman casts suspicion on the veterans brought to town to build a bridge, as a devastating storm based on a real hurricane bears down, to Shana Drehs at Sourcebooks, by Mitchell Waters at Curtis Brown.

Award-winning journalist and author of THE CURIOSITY Stephen Kiernan’s new novel about a dedicated Oregon hospice worker who, to save her cherished marriage, must deal with the needs of her husband, a traumatized sharpshooter just home from his 3rd deployment to Iraq, while simultaneously caring for cancer patient professor whose career as a World War II historian enables him to share stories, including a long buried secret, that prepare him for dying and may help her husband find peace, to in a 2-book deal, again to Jennifer Brehl at William Morrow, in a two-book deal, by Ellen Levine at Trident Media Group.

NYT bestselling author of Rhett Butler’s People Donald McCaig’s RUTH’S JOURNEY: The Story of Mammy from Gone with the Wind, the first-ever authorized prequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind recounts the story of Mammy, one of literature’s greatest supporting characters, chronicling her life from her infancy in Haiti as it is ablaze with revolution, to her time as a slavegirl and young married woman in Savannah and Charleston, up to her years raising ScarlettO’Hara at Tara, to Peter Borland at Atria, by Mel Berger of William Morris Endeavor representing the Mitchell Estate and GWTW Partners and Kris Dahl of ICM representing McCaig.

NYT bestselling author Marie Bostwick’s THE SECOND SISTER, the story of two siblings, one who couldn’t bring herself to leave home, the other who couldn’t bring herself to stay, to Martin Biro at Kensington, in a two-book deal, by Liza Dawson of Liza Dawson Associates.

BIRDS OF A LESSER PARADISE author Megan Mayhew Bergman’s ALMOST FAMOUS WOMEN, a collection of stories about the imagined lives of real artists, writers, heiresses, actresses, singers, motorcycle racers and more, from the early 1800s and into the future, to Kara Watson at Scribner,  by Julie Barer at Barer Literary.

Author of Monarch BeachMarket Street and Lake Como, Anita Hughes’ FRENCH COAST and ROME IN LOVE, to Hilary Rubin Teeman at St. Martin’s, by Melissa Flashman at Trident Media Group (World English).

Author of THE MISTRESS OF SPICES, ARRANGED MARRIAGE, and most recently OLEANDER GIRL, Chitra Divakaruni’s next novel, about three generations of woman in an Indian/Indian-American family, exploring love and loss, different times and different cultures, and how women find the strength to move past heartbreak, again to Millicent Bennett at Simon & Schuster, by Sandra Dijkstra at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency .

Lissa Evans’s CROOKED HEART, set in England in World War II, which brings together a young orphan, with his seemingly flint-hearted foster-carer, to Jennifer Barth at Harper, by Georgia Garrett at Rogers, Coleridge & White.

Children’s: Middle grade

Adam Shaughnessy’s debut THE ENTIRELY TRUE STORY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB, an epic tale of gods and mythic creatures loose in a small New England town, and the unlikely pair of kids caught in their midst, to Elise Howard at Algonquin Young Readers, in a two-book deal, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Jess Bright’s SISTER, SISTER the story of a girl whose sister is seriously ill and needs a bone marrow transplant to survive, to Clare Whitston at Oxford University Press Children’s, for publication in 2015, by Charlie Viney at The Viney Agency (World).

Children’s: Young Adult
NYT bestselling author of SEX WITH KINGS Eleanor Herman’s debut LEGACY series, an epic historical fantasy saga based on the young life of Alexander the Great, full of dark magic, political maneuvering, and high drama, to Annie Stone at Harlequin Teen, in a four-book deal, by Stephen Barbara at Foundry Literary + Media on behalf of Paper Lantern Lit .

Kali Wallace’s SHALLOW GRAVES, about a murdered girl who finds herself resurrected and must reconcile her old, happy memories with the magical underworld of creatures to which she now belongs, a story which pulls from international folklore of monsters terrorizing children, avenging murderers, and consuming the dead, to Anica Rissi at Katherine Tegen Books, in a two-book deal, by Adriann Ranta at Wolf Literary Services .

Melissa Lander’s STARFLIGHT, pitched as “Overboard” meets “Firefly,” in which an orphan indentures herself to a wealthy, arrogant man in exchange for passage to a new world; but when an accident erases his memory, she convinces him that their roles are reversed and leads him on a series of intergalactic misadventures, to Laura Schreiber at Disney-Hyperion, by Nicole Resciniti at The Seymour Agency.

Sean McGinty’s THE FUN TRIP, narrated by a glitch-prone, new social gaming technology addict who begins an unexpected journey in search of hidden treasure, during which he repeatedly fails, falls in love, and ultimately experiences a spiritual epiphany as only a seventeen year old can, to Tracey Keevan at Disney-Hyperion, by Jennifer Carlson of Dunow, Carlson & Lerner .

Tim Floreen’s WILLFUL MACHINES, centered on the closeted son of an ultra-conservative president, who loves science, robots and possibly, the Shakespeare-obsessed new boy at school, but when a sentient computer program turns into a terrorist threat, his life and secrets are in danger, to Michael Strother at Simon Pulse, in a two-book deal, by Quinlan Lee at Adams Literary .