Monday, 17 June 2013

Planning A Novel

Hi friends/ people of the internet/ space aliens,

So in the time I've spent not blogging, I've also been not writing. And in that not writing time I saw the giant problems with 12 o'clock. So it has been shelved for a while. I'm putting it down to experience.

I've come up with a new concept, using the same characters and the same world. But I'm basically writing a new novel and I thought it'd be nice to find out how other people plan their novels, and to share my method.

So I've typed "how to plan a novel" into google and I've read up on different methods. Some people don't plan, and just go with the flow (I tried doing that.) Others plan in detail (I've also tried doing that.) There's no right way to plan. (Although I've tried finding one.) Whatever works for you, works for you.

For me, I find that I can be most productive when actually writing the novel if I know roughly what should happen in each chapter. I don't plan in great detail, because that takes away the fun (I like ordered chaos. And cheese. Just throwing that out there.) My personal best has been 1800 words in an hour. Now, I know it's all about quality and whatever, but for a first draft I really just want to get something on the paper. I'm in more of a mindset that I can revise later (i.e procrastinating even as I'm doing something productive. It's a gift.)

Generally, I brainstorm ideas for what should happen in each chapter. Just random ideas. For example:
- Meet new character
- Fly into space
- Ride a motorcycle

I come up with a whole load these and try to put them into a logical sequence of events. If they don't fit, I throw them out. If they're not necessary, I throw them out (I throw a lot of things out. For example, I keep coming back to the idea of a person sitting in an office, typing away, which has nothing to do with anything, especially since I'm trying to write a MG fantasy.) So I'm left with a basic outline of my novel. Then I add in a few more details for each situation, which is now a new chapter. For example:

Fly into space :
- Board train
- Explore train e.t.c

 I then have a rough idea of the sequence of events in my novel, and what should generally happen in each chapter. I try to have good moments and bad moments for the character, with the tension levels rising throughout, and rising most at the end (which is something I read on Nathan Bransford's site, and which really works.)

What about you guys? How do you plan a novel? Does the whole edge-of-your-seat way of writing work for you? Or are you a plan-ney freak? (I tried being a plan freak, because I thought it would be cool. Sadly, I got bored of planning halfway, because I just wanted to write, and ended up in the most enormous plot hole. I had to claw my way out, kicking and screaming, but it was fun :)


  1. I tend to start with one idea spark, usually an image of a scene or a piece of dialogue or a rough sketch of a character. Once I get that scene on paper, new ideas flood in to my head, and I start plotting out an outline. I have the ending and the beginning, for the most part, and I write chapter summaries (the main events that happen in the chapter) to help guide me along as I write. The big section in the middle of the novel is most difficult to wade through since I'm more of an idea person than a detail person (as in I know the theme I want to convey, and I know what I want my characters to learn, I just don't know how to get from Point A to Point B until I'm writing it). Then I write one chapter at a time, not always in order, just by the ones whose outline seems the most fleshed out or whose scenes appear to me fully in my head.

    Unlike you, I'm not a "I can revise this later" type of writer. Instead, I have to get a paragraph perfect (or as close to it as possible, yeah right) before I can move on. This lends itself to a totally different kind of procrastination!

    Quite a detailed process I just relayed to you, but hey, it's always nice to see a different perspective. :) Great post; it motivated me to get writing!

    1. You know, I've always wondered whether or not I should try writing chapters out of order. I used to always write the last chapter first, but that was more because I was lazy and not bothered to write the middle :D

      If I tried it that way I'd NEVER get anything written, although this time I'm going a lot slower and fixing plot holes as I see them.

      Thanks for your comment! It gave me a lot to think about!

  2. I am an extreme pantster. I do very little, if any, advance planning. Usually I start with a character or a situation and just start writing. I will have a very rough idea of where I'm going -- or, more precisely, where I *think* I'm going -- but I let things unfold as they come to me. Somewhere along the way I write the ending. Often before I get to the middle. There are actually one or two projects where the end was written before anything else. Then I connect the dots.

    Obviously not a method that will work for everyone. But if I do too much pre-planning and plotting I seem to lose enthusiasm for the piece.

    Great post & topic. It's always interesting to see how other writers approach the craft.

    1. I tried doing that, but I sort of fizzled out in the middle. Lately I've realized I need an exact plan, so I can get the most out of an hour. I guess I'm not good at thinking on my feet and being spontaneous :D

  3. I didn't plan the first draft of The Way North at all, mainly because I had no idea what I was doing when I started to write it or even if I would be able to finish it at all. This method (or lack thereof :) did lead to some problems though, because once I finished I realized that some parts of the plot just didn't make sense, so then I had to go back and figure out what needed to happen and then try to change all the parts in the manuscript that had some connection with that plot point, all of which got very confusing... and I still haven't been entirely successful with this, which is probably part of the reason for the vagueness that you noticed in parts of the manuscript. I think it would have helped if I could have planned out some aspects of the plot ahead of time, which is something that I've started to do with the second novel that I've just started writing. I'm not going to plan it out in detail, just make some notes of the larger ideas behind the plot so I can keep things straight as I write.

    For more detailed planning, I think I find it more useful to do that after the first draft. One thing that I've done with TWN lately is to make an outline of all the chapters and scenes and what happens in each of them. It really has been incredibly helpful for me to see what scenes can be cut or moved, and what I need to add.

    I'm sorry to hear you're shelving 12 o'clock, but I do think that the characters and dialogue were probably the part I liked best about it (Tory was awesome, I don't know if I said that earlier; I wish I knew someone like her in real life), so maybe starting from scratch will be just what you need!

    1. Thanks! That sounds like a good way to do it. The problem with me, is that even when I have a really detailed plan, I have an amazing talent of writing myself into a plot hole regardless. I think I like the drama of having to claw my way out! :D

  4. Great to have you back in the blogosphere for awhile, Ravena! :)

    It's cool reading about your process. For me, I always thought I was a pantser type - just sit down and write and see what comes. But I recently realized that I do plan - it's just in my head. I will plan out entire chapters and pages all in my head. It doesn't work if I try to do it on paper, I think because I need it to be really flexible. Like you, it doesn't work well for me if I feel too locked in. But I do have a general sense of where it's heading.

    Good luck with your new writing project - always exciting to try something new! :)

  5. What you suggest is pretty much the way I do it. Of course, "escape from building" can end up having three of four scenes in it, with lots of explosions... and cheese, so you never really know what will happen, even though you are thoroughly plotted. Great fun.

    1. And chocolate. And space aliens. And... we've actually just recounted the last scene that I wrote :D