Planning is an extremely important part of the novel-writing process. Or even the writing process of just about anything. I say that seriously but not too seriously at the same time. After all, I was the person who went into NaNoWriMo 2011 completely oblivious to what I was going to write and I was still successful.

It’s just so important to do at least some planning though. I’m quite certain of this. I like to be able to have an idea of what I’m about to write instead of being completely blind. At the same time planning too much frustrates me, and many other authors, to no end. Writing is appealing because, like most creative acts, it is freeing. It’s hardly freeing to box yourself in the early stages of writing, let alone when you haven’t even started!

For a good plan you need at least some of the following, and in no particular order;

  • Basic idea
  • Setting
  • Genre
  • Themes
  • Character outlines
  • Scenes

Like I said, the order isn’t set in stone and I will bet that any of those things can change at any given moment during the novel-writing process. Any one of those things could have been what set the ball rolling for a writer so naturally the order in which one chooses to plan things is entirely up to them.

The basic idea refers to the simplest thought or idea you’ve had for the story and what your intentions are with it. The basic idea is exactly that; very basic. Typically this can take anywhere from two lines to two pages in your average notebook.

The setting is naturally the type of environment the novel is set in. This includes the time period. Having notes of your setting, points of research and descriptions can be incredibly useful when it comes to finally describing that new place, or having a list of adjectives that apply in order to give readers interesting detail during mentions.

The genre is simple but can also be complex depending on the writer and their blend of genres. These days people are quite free with genre which is highlighted by the themes used. Themes can also be considered keywords or topics for the story and these can be most important to have so that you can continue to have a clear picture of what you are intending in your story as time goes on and as things become more complex. Often enough, themes get added to the list and the genre can sometimes change too, believe it or not.

The basic idea for the story could have all started with a type of character. This is where character outlines are important. They’re also imperative for stories that are much more about character development, or character-driven, than plot-driven. If you have a story that is basically character-driven then you can easily have five pages worth of planning on your main character alone. Otherwise, the average is three pages for the main character/s and two pages for supporting characters. This varies depending on the characters importance. The reason your main character will always have more is because regardless of whether you will be writing in first person, third person or third person limited your information on your main character will help you form the tone that your writing in the story will have.

If your story was inspired of just a scene or you’re trying to plan your story out for the long haul like most are then listing your scenes in a simple manner would certainly help. Giving each scene a short title and a very brief description simply outline the story but don’t go into too much detail so as not to be backed into a corner. Have just the outline, your main scenes, and leave filling in the gaps for later on unless there is something immediate to take note of. Before writing a person can have a variety of amount of scenes; from as few as three or less, to twenty or more. Depending on how long the story is, some people even choose to list all their scenes. I can’t really put a number of pages for scenes since the detail of them varies. I also recommend using a program for scenes more than paper if they’re being planned in detail. This is because if you decide you want to move scenes around, changing order and detail, it’s a lot easier to do in a program like Microsoft Word, Open Office or Scrivener.

Extensive planning in at least two of these will help to build a more cohesive foundation for a novel and can help an author through some of the toughest hurdles in writing a story. Planning can be fun and when it makes writing a novel more rewarding, more cohesive and a little less strenuous than it’s worth the time to do it. For those about to tackle August’s Camp NaNoWriMo, or who are looking to begin their plans for NaNo in November then trying any of these out will be most helpful to you.

Good luck, dear writers! Happy planning!


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