The Planning Process

Welcome to the first chapter of my installment on the writing process

Most people tend to think of planning as something that happens before they start writing a book, but as I explained in my post on getting organized and getting started, alternate cycles of planning, drafting, and revising occur frequently throughout the course of a writing a novel.

Now sometimes a good scene will get drafted without being extensively planned out ahead of time. And it is true that more planning tends to happen near the start of a novel, while the end phase is heavy on cycles of revision. However, familiarizing yourself and then taking advantage of the planning tools and exercises provided in this section will prove valuable not only at the start of your project, but at every stage along the way.

I don’t intend to rehash the classic planner vs. panster debate here, but I will suggest that each of the topics below are vital to the completion of a successful novel, regardless of how you internalize and approach each component. Furthermore, you will want to devote some time to pondering and making each of these concepts your own, whether or not you prefer to draft some early scenes before tackling planning in depth. As such, I sincerely believe that many of these exercises should prove useful for anyone, regardless of how much they prefer to draft by the seat of their pants or how much prior writing experience they have under their belt.

With that out of the way, welcome once again to my guide on the planning process. Check out the following sections to get started on planning out your novel today!

1) Finding ideas

To get started on planning and then drafting your novel, you are going to need to come up with some promising ideas first. This section contains advice and exercises for inventing and developing key aspects of your characters, settings, and plot, as well as some general advice on how to capture your ideas while they are still fresh in your mind.

2) Crafting compelling characters

No novel would be compete without a cast of engaging characters. This section will first help you to come up with preliminary character sketches. Then I will provide some tools to enhance these rough-hewn individuals by adding additional details and backstories, granting breadth and depth to your protagonist and other important members of your cast.

3) More than just a pretty place: The power of a vibrant setting

Now that you have a few characters in the works and have begun to round and flesh them out, it’s time to take a look at a second fundamental narrative component, setting. Vibrant settings are vital to creating an immersive and engaging novel. This section will help you to develop your settings as well as generate some of the early descriptions that you will incorporating into your novel.

4) Plotting big and small: The art of structuring novels

Now it’s time for the most labor intensive stage in planning out your novel, deciding on the structure of your story and then organizing key events in your plot. This section will help you to understand and then choose from a number of classic plot structures, providng you with the tools you will need to customize them for your own story. It will also cover key concepts such as tension, conflict, and how to set up the climax of you novel.

5) Developing core themes

With characters, settings, and plot out of the way, it’s time to take a look at the final fundamental narrative component of storytelling, theme. Theme can be a bit tricky to wrap your brain around at first, but this section will help you to understand the concept as well as provide exercises intend to develop core themes for use in your novel.

6) Culminating exercise: Plotlines and timelines

Welcome to the end of the planning phase and our culminating exercise. This is the last thing you will need to do before you are ready to begin drafting in earnest. These exercises will help you to generate and map out your plot as well as to add background details to your world and its history. Included within are a variety of tools that will assist with plotting, pacing, and organizing your story.

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