Wednesday, January 25, 2017

5 Tips For Planning Your Novel

One of the things that readers and friends ask my advice of the most is how to begin the novel writing process.  They have a good story idea but feel as though actually writing it is a daunting beast of uncertainty.  I've given them pointers and tips that they felt really helped inspire them to get started.  These are all based on my personal experience and process and will hopefully help you out as well!


Let's jump into this assuming that you already have an idea for your novel.  Get a notebook because it will be your best friend (besides your characters) through this entire process.  First, write down what the theme of your story will be.  Is there a social message you're trying to convey?  Is it a coming of age tale?  A slow burn romance?  A post-apocalyptic adventure?  Whatever it is, jot it down.  Next to that, include a few short descriptions of the general tone or genre you'd like your story to fall under.  This will help you to keep everything feeling fluid and connected with purpose.

Now, let's talk about that plot.  Sometimes writers like to begin a story without knowing at all where it will go.  This is actually completely acceptable and, even if you do know where your story is headed, typically you will consider new ideas along the way and want to incorporate them.  Other times you will know exactly where your story is headed before you start.  So, whichever route you've decided to take, go ahead and write a paragraph or two down explaining to yourself what you want the story to be about or how it is intended to conclude.  Forcing yourself to put these ideas into words will help you to begin to actualize the story; which, in turn, helps tame that daunting beast you felt so uncertain about.

In other words, you now have a reliable foundation.  If you confuse or overwhelm yourself along the way, you can always refer back to this first page of your notebook where you've stated your intent.  It's less likely that you'll wander off your path if you have a map.


I could write an entire post on this one process alone and, honestly, I plan to.  So, for now, we'll just focus on the basics. 

Assign Roles - Protagonists, villains, minor characters.  Decide what roles you need to bring this story to life and then you can begin to get to know them.

Nice To Meet You - There are several things you can do to initially create your characters.  They are NOT naming them or deciding what they look like.  Just as in real life, you don't want to form an opinion about someone based on their name or their appearance.  Start by giving your characters simple personalities (Don't worry, they will become far more complex once you start allowing them to have dialogue and interact.), strengths, weaknesses, quirks, motivations, and fears.  Once you've established these core elements then you've got yourself an actual character!  Say "Hi" to them, give them a hug, talk with them; you are now connected for life.  The writing process feels a lot like hanging out with your best friends.  They just happen to be fictional.

Names & Faces - Now feel free to name them.  You'll find that establishing personality traits has already caused you to begin imagining what they might look like.  Picture them in various situations and think about what mannerisms they might have or the expressions they might make.  You'll find that you know exactly what they look like very quickly.  A lot of times, they might remind you of one of your favorite actors or actresses.  That's great too because now you have an easy reference if you need it.


This step might not always be necessary but most of the time it is.  You have your characters, you know your story, so now you just need to feel confident writing about the material.  This generally happens if you are writing science fiction, historical fiction, or horror novels.  There are time periods, places, concepts, etc. that might need further exploration and understanding before you begin to incorporate and describe them in your story.  Take as much time as you need for this.  Save as many resources to refer back to as possible.  And, please, at least try to be organized.  You'll save a lot of time and thank yourself later.


Refer back to that short plot description.  Now you need to do one of two things (or both).  Either choose to write a timeline of events for your story to follow or go ahead and write a quick paragraph explaining what you intend to happen for each chapter.  Remember that none of this is final.  You can, and will, change it numerous times.  Always be flexible with your story because it will begin to flourish and develop along the way as you write your first draft.  However, taking the time to write a general outline like this is just another way to keep you focused and your story on track.  The more references you have to look back on while writing, the better.


You're all ready now!  You will also inevitably feel anxious about putting that opening line down.  Just do it.  Write from the heart, trust your gut, and listen to your characters.  If you don't like it, you can always go back and change it.  Nothing is seen by the world until you're ready for it to be.  So take the time to play around with a few different openings and see which one feels strongest to you.

Now you've done it.  You're writing a novel.

I hope you found these tips helpful!

Thanks for reading!,

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