Tags:
  1. OnesieWrites

    OnesieWrites Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2017
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    14

    How do you plan your novels, even if you dont?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by OnesieWrites, Jun 14, 2017.

    So iv'e written a few pages of my novel and surprisingly i haven't scrapped this idea, so thankfully i have found a story i am willing to stick with after many sleepless nights of failure, but theirs a slight problem.

    When i started this story i legged it as fast as i could to get to the juicy parts so i wouldn't get bored and move onto another idea (and planning is extremely boring), but now that I've gotten some stuff written down i'm finding that i need to get organised with some sort of plan containing lore information, characters, world building, plot points etc.

    How do you plan your novels and if you don't plan, how do you keep track of everything in your book? I read somewhere that G.R.R.M didn't plan his first book but i have no idea how he could write something so huge and epic with no plan and there seems to be a million different ways to plan your novels.

    Thanks!
     
    pat jamerson likes this.
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,461
    Likes Received:
    11,685
    I think GRRM's lack of a plan may be the main reason it's been so damn long since his last book in the series... even as I was reading it I got the sense he'd totally lost control of his story and it was sprawling into an unmanageable mess.

    I think if you're writing a huge epic, with volume after volume and dozens of characters, some sort of plan must come in handy. I'd think something large, like a whiteboard with various arcs shown graphically, would be useful?

    But I don't generally plan. I write shorter books with fewer characters, so for me, I know where the characters start, I know where they end, and everything in between I figure out as I go.
     
    Tenderiser likes this.
  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    7,471
    Likes Received:
    10,216
    Location:
    London, UK
    Yeah, I think GRRM is an advert for why not everyone should wing it...

    I plan by character arcs. How does my main character change from the first page to the last? Then I plot out several points along her journey when she realises specific things or changes in small ways. They add up, like puzzle pieces, to form a complete arc. That gives me 4-6 plot points I need to reach, which creates a structure and a sequence of events.

    I only spend a few hours planning before I start writing, and find that the plan will change as I go and get better ideas or realise something I planned won't work.
     
  4. OnesieWrites

    OnesieWrites Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2017
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    14
    Thanks for the ideas!
     
  5. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2016
    Messages:
    285
    Likes Received:
    159
    Location:
    England, UK
    I usually go into a slightly insane level of detail in my plans. First of all, I write really briefly what I would like to happen. It's all the important stuff, really - just a paragraph that is probably what one person would say to another if they were trying to describe what happens in your book. Then I might up the detail a little bit to a few paragraphs. It tends to get a bit messy. Ideas come to me of something that I want to happen "somewhere" and I put them down.

    Next, I write the numbers 1-20 down on a big piece of paper. How the book opens goes at 1. How the book ends goes at 20. Then I try to fill the rest of the numbers in. I might fill in 19 with what I know will lead up to the big ending moment, and 18 with what I know leads up to that. Then I might go to 2 and write down what the opening will lead to. I might not know what comes at 3, but have an idea of what happens in the middle of the book, so I find roughly where I think it might be in the numbers (exactly where it is doesn't matter) and do that. Once what I can think of is filled in, I look at the gaps and ask myself, "So, how does the plot get from THIS happening at 2 to THIS happening at 8" or something. Or, "How does Character A go from liking Character B at 5 to hating them at 15?" I try to work it out and fill it in. You can always change your mind.

    Then I plan each chapter. They usually get about a paragraph each describing what will happen. Sometimes they even get a bit of direct speech if it jumps to mind, because I like to try and put myself in the scene (as if I was writing the book) while I plan. And with each scene I plan for, I ask myself, "Why do we need this scene?" It stops me from actually writing out a whole scene that doesn't further the plot or characters.

    Most people can't bear to plan to that extent, but I couldn't bear not to. And I find it fun. The way I do it, it's kind of like I'm actually writing my book - just without any detail at all. Still, what works for me might not work for you. You may think, for instance, that you would rather put pins in your eyes than try writing a chapter-by-chapter plan. But I do at least recommend you try the 1-20 thing.

    As for the world and characters, you can find lots of useful questions to help you online. I generally tend to craft a character profile for every character (with exceptions for people like "random waitress" etc) with my main characters having a detailed profile and my minor characters just having some of the basics written down. Again, you might only want to plan the basics for your main characters, too. What I count as the very basics you should know about your main characters are as follows. (I'm going to put it in a spoiler so that this post isn't a monster.)

    Full name:
    Nicknames:
    Gender:
    Age:
    Birthday:
    Family:
    Friends:
    Current location:
    Currently lives with:
    Occupation:
    Religion:
    Species: (Depending on your genre.)
    Sexuality:
    Full physical description:
    Personality:
    History:
    Other:

    That's what I fill in if I'm not being too detailed. And your reader might never know that Bob's birthday is the 18th March, or that Jane has a tiny scar on her ankle, or that Sally's favourite subject at school was English. Equally, these could all be details that are key to your story. Regardless of whether they are or not, you should know them, at least for the main characters. If you know your characters inside out, you will write them better. And your readers will definitely notice a difference.

    Finally, for the world building thing, I tend to ask myself these questions for each country. (I'm taking these from world building planning I've done myself, but some of the questions may have originally been taken from sites that I now can't remember.) Again, I'll put it in a spoiler so that this post isn't the size of a house.

    In what way does my universe differ from the mundane norm? (e.g. use of magic, presence of ghosts, presence of vampires or other fantastic creatures, etc.)
    What is the nature of the difference — how exactly will these special features manifest?
    List of some of the most common animals in this world.
    What are the rules by which my special physics operate? (If you have any.)
    What effects will these rules have on culture and story?
    What is the nature of the people who will use these rules? How do they differ from regular people?
    Do you have a map for your world? You need one.
    How is time measured?
    What are the cultures in this world, and how are they defined?
    Is it a peaceful world, without wars, anger, or violence? Or is it a world that's falling apart at the seams, with crime, mayhem, and battles?
    Are there multiple races, like fish lizards and sentient octopods wandering around? What conflicts occur between different races?
    Think about how much of the world is covered in the various environments. For example, it could be a desert planet, an ice asteroid belt, or forest moon. Or it could be more temperate, like our earth, but with different creatures and plants.
    Create the history of the world. Once you start getting an idea who your inhabitants are, and what they do, it's time to give them a past.
    Are there gods and/or goddesses, has evolution shaped things, or is it a combination of the two? Describe what your planet's cultures have done during their history. Have there been wars (civil, international)? Strife? Rebellions? Have they actually been quite peaceful?
    Decide the religion of your world.
    Roughly map out each country's daily life. What games do children play? Which countries are poor? Which ones are rich? Is it hard work or is there plenty of time for play?
    Give each country a capital city. Locate and name major cities, then the names of countries, provinces, continents, oceans, deserts, forests, etc.

    Not all of those questions may be relevant to your world. I never answer them all when I'm creating worlds. However, I do usually answer most of them. Like your characters, you need to know your world. Your readers will pick up on it if you don't. You need to be at ease with your world and know your way around it so that the readers can sense the magic. And also so that you don't create any inconsistencies in your work. Your capital city needs the same name throughout, for instance, unless it actually does change during the course of the story. I knew the capital cities of all the countries in my world (there were 5 of them) when writing my most recent story, even though I'm not sure all 5 countries were even mentioned (it was their continent that was important), let alone what they were like. But I knew it anyway so that I could navigate my world with confidence.

    However much detail you need or choose to go into, good luck. I hope this helped.
     
    pat jamerson likes this.
  6. Gidget

    Gidget Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2017
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Upstate NY
    For my first novel, I simply started writing and kept writing. Because the plot hinges on an accurate keeping of time, I had to go back and refigure what I had written so that it would fit into the allotted number of days, which I noted in a notebook. As a result, I needed to rework several scenes.

    When I began writing the sequel, I had my notebook beside me and used it as a guide. I will confess that I still let my writing get away from me. Once the brain and fingers get going, it can be hard to put on the breaks. So, I got to rework that one, too.

    An online friend shared with me some character development questions written by Dean Koontz. At first, my characters were so real in my head that the questions/outlines seemed a bit redundant. When I started my second manuscript, there were many more characters and , although each one was still real, there were many more details to remember. When I realized that I had changed the eye color of one of my characters, I learned how valuable those outlines could be.

    As far as story arcs and outlines and the such . . . For better or for worse, I struggle with them. I can see them in my head but, unlike the actual story, I struggle to get those things on paper.
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,922
    Likes Received:
    27,173
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    I don't plan. I regularly reread parts from earlier
    pages, or the prequel to keep things consistent
    in terms of continuity. Did the same for the first.

    I am not one to chase the never ending series
    and end up going so far off the rails that it is
    beyond help. Much more satisfying to me when
    I can read an ending, rather than wade through
    10-20 books to watch things go to pot in hurry.

    So simply keep track of the previous events,
    and reread often if you think you are deviating
    from the story you originally wanted.

    Currently having to up the ante from the first
    book in the sequel, as that is something one
    does in the type of book I am writing. And it
    is not the same exact story of the first in odd
    order. It is the continuation, and it will not
    be seen any differently.

    Since I am a pantser it takes me a bit longer
    to plod along with the plot. But then again
    better to get it the way you want, than write
    something just to fill it in.
     
  8. OnesieWrites

    OnesieWrites Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2017
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    14
    Thanks, i think ill do a summary and the 1-20 plot points as a guide for the writing as my book becomes more complex! :D
     
    pat jamerson and Seren like this.
  9. OnesieWrites

    OnesieWrites Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2017
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    14
    Would i need to do any sort of character planning for side characters who are there mostly to fill the scene, provide snippets of dialogue or who will likely die anyways?
     
    pat jamerson likes this.
  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    12,005
    Likes Received:
    19,617
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    I tend not to do much planning. I'll have an idea, a few characters, a handful of scenes, a gag or two to move things along, and (almost always) an ending. That's about it to start writing. I don't do outlines or flash cards or flow charts or character interviews or anything. Those things work well for others but they tend to trip me out and force the story in ways it might not want to go, just for the sake of staying "on track." I keep a notebook where I jot down random blurbs, quotes or lines that randomly jump into my head, usually while walking or hiking. It's a small notebook. I usually remember the important shit, but it's nice to have in case I flake out on something.

    I'll do a lot more charting and planning after I've completed the first draft, but until then I like to find the connective tissue organically.
     
    Cave Troll and OnesieWrites like this.
  11. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2016
    Messages:
    1,392
    Likes Received:
    1,975
    Disclaimer: I am not a novelist nor have I ever been published in any sort of official capacity. I consider myself a storyteller, and all my works are merely for my & my friends' entertainment. So I'm not endorsing my methods for others, just sharing how it works for me.

    Now with that out of the way〜

    For me, I start with a character or several. I know who they are, I know who they think they are, I know how others perceive them, and I know a good amount of their idiosyncrasies & odd habits. I don't have to know a detailed backstory or all their relations or anything like that yet—that usually comes to me & unfolds the same way the story does.

    Then I throw the characters into various situations, and have them react in accordance to their characters. Sometimes they grow, sometimes they degenerate, sometimes it was just an adventure/misadventure that has no significant impact on them. Often the events or outcomes naturally lead to the next situation, sometimes I just want to see them again respond to something else.

    After a lot of these events, usually a certain sort pattern of a story progression unveils itself, and then I start to write with a more definite goal in mind. Sometimes I go back & tweak earlier bits to fit the overall story, and sometimes I exclude various scenes that are unnecessary and don't serve the ultimate direction or underlying message.

    So it seems my stories follow a sort of episodic format.
     
  12. OnesieWrites

    OnesieWrites Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2017
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    14
    Thanks! Episodic format seems nice, ill check it out! My planning is short atm with just some character notes!
     
  13. pat jamerson

    pat jamerson New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2017
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    2
    ----------

    I do it like an old master did their paintings.
    First I have a picture in mind to create.
    Next I prepare the canvas.
    Then I sketch out the picture.
    After that outline is done I erase and put in new light pencil lines as needed to ensure that everything fits correctly.
    Then I start the painting.

    Of course if you are doing modern art you can just sling some paint immediately and declare whatever you end up with as art.
    It might be harder doing that approach with a novel and convincing people that it is good.
     
    OnesieWrites likes this.
  14. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2016
    Messages:
    285
    Likes Received:
    159
    Location:
    England, UK
    It's up to you. I don't think it's as necessary (in my opinion, that is. Others do not think it necessary to plan any characters at all, so there is no hard and fast rule) to plan for side characters like that. For just filling the scene and providing some of the dialogue to move the story along, I probably wouldn't. But "just going to die anyway" is a different matter. Just because a character is going to die, it doesn't mean that they are not important. So...it would depend on the importance of the character to the story, for me.

    Something I didn't mention in my last post is that I do deviate from my plans. I do tweak the plot a little as I go along, and I do tweak the characters a little, so plans, however extensively or non-extensively you do them, from a few notes to a million pages, can be changed. It should never feel like they are restricting you. :)
     
    OnesieWrites likes this.
  15. OnesieWrites

    OnesieWrites Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2017
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    14
    Thanks alot, i plan on keeping the plan short and sweet so my imagination can flow and i can fill in any gaps later on in my plan as i go along to keep track! :D
     
    Seren likes this.
  16. Partridge

    Partridge Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2017
    Messages:
    244
    Likes Received:
    229
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire, UK
    This is how I plan now. I'm halfway through my novel, and so far it's been working like a charm.

    Write down the beginning, the middle and the end.

    Go for a long walk, and let it brew in your head. Let it happen.

    The write down what must happen chapter-by-chapter in order to move the plot forward in each sentence that you write.
    You might have to change it as you go along, notice a hole in your plot and make a note to go back it when you've finished the book.

    View the plot, or plan, as the skeleton that stops your work from becoming a shapeless, blobby mess.
     
    pat jamerson likes this.
  17. pat jamerson

    pat jamerson New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2017
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    2
    ------

    Do you ever try to fill in a few more checkpoints on that path from start to end ?

    I would try to fill in the gaps a few times more to make it easier to keep going in the correct direction without getting lost or taking side trips that will be cut later.
     
  18. pat jamerson

    pat jamerson New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2017
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    2
    ============

    I might do that when I got down to the actual scene planning. Or I might just wing it for minor stuff
    figuring that the big picture edit will probably change small details like that anyway.

    But first I make sure I have all the scenes in a logical order with nothing missing and nothing unnecessary cluttering up the road map to the end.
     
  19. Partridge

    Partridge Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2017
    Messages:
    244
    Likes Received:
    229
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire, UK
    Yes, the check points are the individual chapters. It's worked fine up to now, in terms of keeping me on track. I'm on 40k words.
    We'll see how it goes once I'm on about 70-80k, which is where I want to be wrapping up.

    If there is a snappy bit of dialogue I think of and like, or an action or event that must happen, that comes into my mind during the writing process, I make a note of it on a separate document.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice