Liquid Story Binder Tutorial Part 2a: Setting up to write for plotters

When you have completed as much of the brainstorming as you need to write the story, you need to set up LSB to suit your writing style.

This is where things get tricky; because there are a myriad of ways that you can turn your brainstorming into a list of book chapters.  This is both a positive and negative aspect of the program.  It allows you absolute freedom to work the way you want; but it also provides so many options that you can easily become overwhelmed.

In this tutorial, I am going to offer you a number of ways to work with the program, focusing on four different writing styles;

  1. The linear plotter (this is me)
  2. The non-linear plotter
  3. The linear pantser
  4. The non-linear pantser

I’ve had to split the tutorial up into two posts.  This post deals with plotters; Part 2b will deal with pantsers.

To begin, you want to close the Brainstorming and Scratchpad windows, leaving only the File list and scenes windows open.  Your layout should look like this:


This is not a complete list of scenes; I’m just using a few to illustrate how things work.  Don’t forget that you can get back to your brainstorming tools at any time by choosing Workspaces -> Brainstorming from the menu.

Your next step is to create a new storyboard using Create -> New Storyboard. Call it “Storyboard” or “Notecards” or something similar that makes sense to you.  You now have a storyboard with a blank scene card.


At this point, you want to save your workspace.  Go Workspaces -> Save Workspace and call it “Storyboarding”.  Now take a moment to flick between your workspaces; choose “Brainstorming” from the Workspaces menu, then choose “Storyboarding” to go back to our storyboard.  Very handy.

Hint: adding images to your folder

If you want to use images anywhere, whether for dossiers or storyboards, you first need to add them to the folder.  You do this in the Create -> New Image menu.  Once you have all of your images, you can then create galleries of images using Create -> Galleries.  You might have character portraits, locations, buildings, anything you want.  I uploaded three images that I am going to use in my storyboard.

Now to the storyboard.  We already have a blank card, and our list of scenes is open beside the storyboard.  Double click on the large blank square to add an image.  Then double click below that to add a title for the scene and a short description.


Notice that the scene in the scenes list and the card on the storyboard are both marked with red.  I do this to keep track of which scenes contain the inciting incidents of my story.  To add a colour to your card, double click the black line at the top of the card, choose the colour you want and click finished.  You can use colours to track locations, characters, anything you like where you need to be reminded of something.  I use a different colour for each POV character.

Now I’m going to add some more scene cards.  In the storyboard window, down the left hand side you can see a small menu.  The entries are, in order: Save, New, Move Left, Move Right, Move Up, Move Down, Delete.  So choose New and start adding your scene cards.

You’ll find that the scene cards will line up in a single row.  But you can set a certain number of columns instead.  For example, I only want three columns; one for each character.  So after creating the fourth card, I use the Move arrows to move the card down and to the left.


Unfortunately you will have to move the cards from the end of each row, as the program will automatically make new columns.  Once you have finished though, choose Edit -> Trim to get rid of any stray columns.

So now you have a completed storyboard of scenes for your book, and you’re ready to write.  Where to from here?

Well, this is where things get complicated.

1. The Linear Plotter

(Non-linear plotters go here.)

The linear plotter is someone who has an outline, and writes directly from the first scene to the last scene.  If you followed the previous tutorial, you will have a list of scenes ready to turn into your book.  (No idea how many scenes you need?  Try Holly Lisle’s technique.)

If you like to work with more than one scene per chapter, and you know which scenes will go in which chapters, try the following. From the Storyboard menu, choose File -> Convert -> To Builder… and call it “Completed Outline” or something equally meaningful to you.

You now have a builder will all of your scenes listed, in order.  Note that they retain the colours that you added, so you can still see the scenes you flagged.  Now close your original list of scenes and your storyboard.  Go into the Create menu and choose Create -> New Planner.

The planner can either be the first thing you create or the last.  The planner is essential; it’s from here that you build your completed manuscript.  You’ll see other ways to use it in future tutorials.  For now, you’re going to call it “First draft of (my book title)”.  Press F1 to get rid of the viewing pane.  Unfortunately LSB has an annoying habit of creating a blank chapter with the name of the planner.  Get rid of this.

Now you should only have three windows open: the file viewer, the Completed Outline and the First Draft of (my book) (the planner).  Move and resize them to make the most of your viewing area.  My layout is below.


At this point, save a new workspace called “Writing” or “Drafting” or similar.

Now, you want to build your first chapter.  In the builder (Completed Outline), ctrl-click all of the scenes in the first chapter.  I’m putting the first three scenes in mine.  Once you have the scenes selected, go into the Builder menu and choose Build Selected Items.  I called mine Chapter 1, but you can give it any name you like.  I recommend selecting “Build with document titles” at least.


This will open a new chapter, ready for you to start writing.  But before you do, we need to add the chapter to the planner.  Go to the planner menu and choose Items -> Add Titles.  Choose the title of your chapter.  The chapter is now visible in the planner and can be opened from there by double clicking.


Write the chapter, then rinse and repeat for the rest of the book.

2. The Non-Linear Plotter

The non-linear plotter is the person who constructs a detailed outline, but writes each scene as the inspiration hits, jumping about all over the book, and often writing the end before the beginning.  These writers think in scenes, rather than chapters.  So what we’re going to do is work directly from the storyboard, allowing you to jump about as necessary.  What this means is that you will be treating each scene as a chapter, but that won’t make a difference, except that you will have a lot of chapters.

So assuming you followed the tutorial, you have a storyboard and an outline.  Close the outline, move the storyboard to the left.  Now create a new planner by choosing Create -> New Planner and call it “First Draft of (my book title)”.  Arrange the windows on your screen, and create a new workspace by choosing Workspaces -> New Workspace.  Call it writing or first draft or similar.

Now you need to set up your storyboard to be your working document. In the Storyboard menu, choose Preferences -> Chapter Mode.


Now, whenever you double click on the title of a scene card, you will be asked if you want to open a new chapter.  When the chapter is complete, add it to the planner as described above. You can open a chapter at any time from your Storyboard. If you need to make changes to the Storyboard, choose Preferences -> Edit Mode.  You can now flick through your story and write whatever scene inspires you at the time.

The next tutorial will be Part 2b: Setting up to write for pantsers.  Part 3: Tools to use while writing, and how to deal with new ideas will be coming along soon.  Read the first tutorial: Liquid Story Binder Part 1: Setting up for brainstorming here.

31 thoughts on “Liquid Story Binder Tutorial Part 2a: Setting up to write for plotters

  1. Thanks for your tutorial. I came over here from the “pixie dust” blog. The official tutorials would make *no* sense at all if I hadn’t gone through your tutorial at all. I’ve glanced at the Scrivner tutorial and they make it so easy. It seems like LSB could too.

    I found three of your tutorials. Have you got more?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your comment! I’ve only three up at the moment, but there will be more in the future.

      I’ve never tried Scrivener, though I would if I had a Mac. I hope you enjoy LSB!

  2. I dont get the point of the Storyboard could you explain a bit more about why I would use a storyboard it seems like an awful lot of work finding images, adding images, are you doing it 1 per scene? why have images for scenes? not sure what the point of the storyboard is?

    • The storyboard is just another way to outline. I only have three images, one for each character, so adding new images isn’t an issue. But some people like that sort of thing. Just think of them as electronic notecards.

      • ok, so storyboard though is for images that you associate with a character, like i was looking at the image and it’s like you have tied a particular color to a particular character

  3. I would love to see you do a post on Scenes, and how you flesh out your scenes in this program. Like do you just the idea down then write as much as you can for each one?

  4. Bought LSB a few years back, but I’ve never quite grasped how to use it – till now. Your tutorials filled in the missing gaps. I appear to be part linear plotter, part linear pantser.

    Many thanks. Much appreciated.

  5. Thanks again for taking the time to share your experience with the program. Saved me lots of time in figuring out how to get going.

    • Awesome tutorial, Merilee. I was a pantser, which is more fun actually than being a plotter but I spent so much time with re-writing the pantser work that I decided I have to become a plotter.

      Thanks for writing your tutorial for both writers and more.

      What I appreciate is that you explain each detail. I printed your tutorials and use them while writing.

      Thanks a lot and keep up the good work.


  6. This was fantastic! I agree with the above commenter, in that this was much more helpful than the “official” tutorials. I’m a member of the yahoo group, and I’ll be sure to post a link to your blog. You’ve made it all so clear for me to fall in love with this program.

  7. Great minds think alike. I absolutely love your blog. The creative and instructional insights are priceless.

    I must admit, the scale of this program seems pretty extravagant.

  8. Bravo from considering the program from different writing personalities points of view. In a program of this size, it could have been easy just to consider the way you like to write and not consider other people.

    That’s the only coherent thought I have that doesn’t sound freaked out about the scope of this program. I don’t need a new system, but there’s a lot to admire about this one. :)

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