Novel writing is hard work and for many it doesn’t “just happen.” I know more writers who will plan their novel before they construct their first official pages than writers who start a story and continue writing said story off the top of their head, in fact I was once a firm believer in not planning a story at all. Now, though, I have many materials I use to help me write and many ways to stay organized in both work space and my within my novel before I begin my first pages. Not all of you may agree with my methods and that’s perfectly fine with me, but I do hope this may help some of you.
In the time I wrote my stories without any forethought, my stories did well. Ideas flowed and my writing was okay, but I noticed that I never finished a project that way and lost many of the great thoughts I had for the story because I didn’t write them out and explore them. Finally, I decided to at least write my ideas down, and that soon developed into my writing methods I use today.
In some ways I’m all over the place when it come to how I plan my novel, but when it comes to what I use to plan and write my novel I tend to stick with what I have found that works for me. For planning and writing my novels I use pen and paper. Everything I write out by hand, such as, character bios, scenes, conversations, names… anything that gives me an idea of what my story is or will become.
I have a Vaultz clipboard container that I keep my paper, written chapters, journal and other odds and ends in as well. I tried keeping it all in a manila filling folder, but it wore out pretty fast. I keep handy a large pencil bag full of pens, pencils, highlighters, paper clips and other necessities.
Even thought I write everything by hand, I need my computer for my writing music and of course the writing software, Scrivener, for when I eventually type everything up.
I have indeed become an outliner for my novels, but even as I outline I leave room for the story to deviate from the path I’ve set for it. Along with my materials I also have a series of ways I keep notes on what I’m outlining, writing and other thoughts and ideas that plague my along the way. In one of those above pictures of my Vaultz case you may have seen a small, red book? Well, that is a journal I keep with all my notes inside, as well I keep a stack of sticky notes for when I’m in the middle of writing a scene and need something to jot a quick note on.
In my journal I keep a daily record of self progression, meaning I write to myself on all that I thought went well for my writing session and everything that didn’t go quite as planned. Aside from that I write out certain points of history in the world my stories are based in and other happenings that will never quite make it into the story. I call these, Outside Events, and writing them takes time away from the story, yes, but they help me better understand the world my characters will be living in and sometimes helps me better understand many of the characters that do land a role in the novel.
The way I outline is pretty extensive and never ceases. I outline enough to have my thoughts organized and then I start the story at the same time the outlining continues. What I tend to do first is brain storm. This part of the process is done solely in my head. I picture people, places, characters, scenes, anything and everything to help me find the main plot point of the story.
Once I feel I have enough material floating around in my mind to work with i create a world map. These two steps usually happen rapid fire as you don’t want to wait in between brain storming and starting a map for fear of losing your material. I have confessed this before and I shall do so again, I. Have. No. Drawing. Skills. But I draw out my maps all the same. I draw the main area of the map and write down places, and draw borders. I add in areas that characters will live. Then when I believe I have places where I want them… areas named off, I redraw the whole thing and usually even more details are added and removed from the map during that time as well.
Once that is complete, a process that could take several hours to several days I conjure up a list of main plot points, an outline form I like to call my Map Traveled. This is by no means the last thing I do for my planning process, but this shall be the last I will share with you for today. My Map Traveled is a very tiring process.
Back in the brain storming process I always imagine an end for the story and some of the major middle parts. Those get written down in bullet point format. From there I organize them chronologically and then I fill in from beginning to middle and from middle to end with major plot points. I go over this page again and again adding and taking away points until I have all the major plot points that I believe could happen within my story. This set is comprised of over 43 points.
After that, as I’m sure you can see, I try to divide the points as evenly as possible by number and by what I know might happen within each, into three main parts. Then I divide parts I, II, and III, into a beginning, middle, and end. I write out the over all goal and what I want the main idea to be at the end of each section. Once I’ve done all that I go into more detail with what I like to call a Map Traveled Outline, but more on that another time.
I know this was a lot to take in and probably understand, but this is my process, part of my process, and it works for me. Try all and any form to find what works for you and then switch it up.