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!


Obligation vs Ambition

There are very few things that are truly important in life. Even so, there’s always a conflict between what needs to be done and what is desired to be done.

I, just like everybody else, have this same struggle.

I’m still a student with more than sixty hours a week put into her school and its work. On the other hand, I see myself as a writer who loves what she does and who really doesn’t enjoy putting all those hours into school. Honestly speaking, I would much rather add those sixty hours to the fifty or so hours I spend in a week working on novels and stories. Then there are the other obligations related to social activities; time with family, friends and attending events or social functions.

Of course, then there are necessities; eating, bathing, sleeping… It’s a little bit difficult to write without ever eating. It’s a little bit difficult to do anything when you’re a little bit dead so I suppose those obligations are important enough for me to need to do them.

I do tend to deal with my obligations first, even though I often consider anything that I am ambitious about to be something more important than anything else.

But speaking generally I do tend to do my obligations first thing and I do them with as much determination as I do the things I am ambitious about. Why? Because being ambitious about getting obligations done with leads to having time freed up for the things that I really want to do. It’s not easy and sometimes my writing ends up taking the back seat as I try to deal with all my school work and social events.

Still, it is an incredibly effective way of working. There’s nothing more pleasing than having completely free time to work on the things you really love and without having other things nagging on your mind, making you feel any bit guilty.

I most certainly believe that it’s possible to balance the things you need to do and the things you really love to do. I know this because I have been doing it for quite some time now. My advice is to plan out all your work properly and to get things done with, always to the best of your ability because instead of doing it once you may end up having to do it twice or more, and then do the things you enjoy guilt free!

Writing Tools – Back to Basics

People frequently ask me what it takes for me to really begin planning out a novel and they’re not just referring to ideas and inspiration.

Nope! People are usually referring to the actual tools that help to put the novel together.

I often have a smile on my face when faced with this. I always ask them, “Do you really think I will give you a fantastic answer?” They don’t know what to say to that so I usually press with, “Do you think you will be satisfied with the answer I give you?”

For me, the answer is as simple as ‘ideas’ and ‘inspiration’.

“The answer is really the simplest and one you will never expect!” I tell them. They get a little excited here, albeit a little nervous for having missed something that is apparently so obvious.

“It’s a good pen and a lot of paper.”

Really. Don’t laugh; it’s the truth.

When I first want to start penning something new I do just that; I use a pen and scribble it out on some paper. It could be something as vague as a quote, a short scene, the description of a character or a concept.

This means that basically, on these scraps of paper I can scribble out just about anything.

Numerous other writers like to pen their ideas and works in beautiful diaries that make them feel cosy and at home but, to be quite honest, for the amount of scribbling I do to put a novel together I think those beautifully-crafted diaries would be a waste of a perfectly good diary and a waste of much-needed money.

My simple writing and planning tools on a desk of inspiration.

A pen that is easy on the eyes and that doesn’t give me hassles is also a must. I want something that can help me get things down in the fastest possible manner, without unsightly blurring smudges that makes it even more difficult to decipher my scratchy handwriting.

The effective thing about this simple tool is that I’m able to use it anywhere and everywhere; never do I have to worry about needing electricity, or having to pack it away in a hurry. There’s also something very personal about writing something in your own hand-writing first and taking a good look at it. Since we usually type a lot faster than we write we usually keep up with the words in our head a lot better by typing. This can be really useful but sometimes we tend not to think about our words enough when they’re escaping us so fast.

Any aspect of the writing process can take place in a suitable space, quiet or filled with music of your choice, a good pen and paper and your inspiration.