“I would be very interested to know how you personally plan a book. I’m writing my first one and started in a very haphazard way. I’m normally quite good at holding information in my head but since I’ve started writing my book discovered I’m not as good as I thought I was. To begin with a wrote a few notes and launched straight in very quickly realizing I need a chapter plan, which I’ve done and revised a lot. By the second chapter I started losing track of my characters so I started writing character notes. To cut a long story short I now have maps, place notes and details of my magic system I’ve produced all these as I have progressed with the book, I’m getting close to 50k words. I now need a timeline as I found myself losing track where everyone is. I can’t help feeling I should have done this before I started writing!”
Good question… and I’m sorry to disappoint, but when I start writing, there is actually very little planning involved. See when I get an idea for a book, I either select character types from a ‘character bank’ I created with several different character personalities, or I make them up on the spot. Then I start writing.
I think you’re putting the cart before the horse a little bit here. There is such a thing as too much planning. If you put all your eggs into the plan basket, you’ll quickly run out of creative eggs.
Put your chapter structure and revisions on the back burner. Leave the plot flaws, misspellings et al for later. Now, you’ve got your story idea? START WRITING!!! Get your ideas down on paper before you do anything else. Write out your story ideas so that you have them etched in stone FIRST. When I first sit down to write, I don’t plan everything out. I don’t even necessarily write my scenes in order. If I have an awesome idea for a climax or an ending, I write those first. If I have a great idea for a romantic encounter, I’ll write that. Feel free to use placeholder character names if you haven’t decided on the characters yet. You can always fill in the blanks and change the names later.
Don’t be concerned with what it looks like or how coherent it is on the first run through. You’re not getting the first draft published. More than likely, you’re going to have at least 2 more drafts (sometimes as much as 6 for me) before you’re done. Once you have your ideas down and you’ve filled in the blanks, then go back and worry about chapter structure and fixing plot holes. Be sure to reread your story a couple of times as making sure the whole thing makes sense should be the priority. See my steps below:
How I write:
So now you’ve got your bare bones down. Your characters have a beginning, climax, and ending. Awesome! You may or may not have loosely decided where chapters go, but that doesn’t matter at this point.
Now add your subplots, character and location descriptions, developments, and character relationships. This is the meat that needs to be added to the bare bones to change it from a draft into an actual story. You’re getting there.
Now start separating the books into chapters and perspective change markers (if you use them). This is where you need to start planning the book structure.
By now you should be on your second or third draft. Be sure to reread your story a couple of times. This is where you fix plot holes and by the third or fourth read-through you should be fixing your run-ons and spelling/grammar errors.
So now you’ve got your story. If you’re trying to write a novel, it should be somewhere in the realm of 80k words (my rule). Anything less is a novella or short story. Now, have someone else read it. In fact, have 2-3 people read it. They’ll each catch plot holes or grammar errors that you may not have.
Once you’ve corrected their mistakes, do one more read through. Polish up anything that you feel is weak and put the final touches on. THIS IS NOT THE PLACE TO ADD SCENES OR SUBPLOTS! If you really must, you’re going to need to go through all that proofing again, so make sure your book is completely done before handing it off. At this point, you should only be fixing minor errors and weak points.
And… that’s it. Once the final revisions have been made, you’re done. You’re book should be complete and good to go.
Hope this helps Eric, and feel free to email me if you need me to elaborate on any of these points!
Readers, what do you think? Do you think Eric is planning way too much, too early, or is this a reasonable thing to do early on? Leave a comment below!
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.
Catch you on the flip side!