How to (Try to) Plan a Book

am writing

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a massive plotter and I’m at the stage of planning a new project, so I thought it might be fun to explore how my brain works in the planning process (spoiler alert: I’m stuck at step 16). I’m going off what I’m doing right now and what I’ve done for various projects in the past… some of which even turned into full length manuscripts… though some did not 😉 So, obviously, this is completely fool proof and there’s no way it could go wrong 😉 Without further ado, here is my definitive guide on how to (try to) plan a book:

lightbulb moment

Step 1: Have an idea *POP* into your head like magic- which seems makes it seem like all the hard work is over, right? WRONG!

dr-evil

Step 2: Decide that you are going to do the unthinkable and turn this idea into a book…

brainstorming ideas

Step 3: Time for some *brainstorming* to see if this idea has legs (NB step 3 can be step 1 for some people, because creative people are different, and not all ideas throw themselves in your face 😉)

hopscotch

Step 4: Keep repeating steps 1-3, jumping through the steps in any given order like you’re playing hopscotch.

simpsons ideas

Step 5: Spend a while (years) writing and compiling notes, adding characters, potentially world building and plenty of contradictory ideas. Make sure your notes aren’t logical at this point- you don’t want to make things easy for your future self!

gotta go to work

Step 6: Get on with your life for a bit, work on other creative projects and generally forget about this vaguely fleshed out idea.

grave robbing

Step 7: Dig up/stumble across whatever you’ve been working on (whether it’s in a notebook or some random files on your computer). Have the sudden dawning realisation that you actually want to write this book and decide it will be your *next project*. And that means taking said idea seriously from here on out! So at this stage, do you a) make a schedule for when you can fit in writing time and/or b) rough draft an outline to get the ball rolling…?

trick question

Step 8: Neither! That was a trick question! You print out the notes, making a BIG DEAL out of that and promising to be proactive about it from now on! (all the while not really breaking any new ground)

stare into space

Step 9: Stare at pages, trying to figure out how to write out a basic synopsis out of this contradictory mess (see, I told you it’d be helpful not to make it too logical!) Ah great- now you can either continue on with optional steps 10-11, or skip right ahead to 12…

aha

Step 10: Discover that you did in fact write a helpful synopsis you entirely forgot about…

this isnt right

Step 11: Read it and realise how different it is from the notes

bad writing gig

Step 12: *Weep*

highlighters

Step 13: Devise a complex strategy, involving highlighters, where you colour code notes to match up all the existing ideas. Perhaps even pick up a stack of post its! Maybe get funky with an excel spreadsheet! Whatever you do, make sure it looks organised, but has no functional purpose.

thinking monkey

Step 14: Try to make head or tail of your new notes

muses

Step 15: Wait around for the Muses to strike…

monkey typewriter

Step 16: Give up and write a blog post about planning a novel (…ooh getting meta…)

let's go to work

Step 17: Get your shit together and decide just to write out all your ideas in a new synopsis.

writing

Step 18: Type up into one great big messy document.

think pen write

Step 19: Pause to give chapter titles (this is a great step because while it is entirely unnecessary, it’ll make you feel like you’ve been super clever and productive).

read satisfied

 

Step 20: Readthrough it with satisfaction (ignoring the inner voice that tells you that this may have to be revised later) and shove it in a drawer to be ignored until you can carve out some time to actually write the damn thing.

congratulations

*Congratulations you have planned a novel*

(at least that’s the dream anyway 😉)

43 thoughts on “How to (Try to) Plan a Book

  1. I feel so attacked xD. So funny. I’m literally doing this now. I’m currently stuck on coming up with Fantasy names. I’ve always struggled with coming up with names. I have an outline that is currently 17 pages long (I haven’t even gotten to the halfway point yet), and I’m wondering how I can possibly get to the end. It’s SO MUCH FUN!! Maybe if I really persevere I can finish by the time my children are old enough to get their pensions. Fingers crossed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hehehe thank you! Ahh I understand! I vital step 😉 (actually one that I really enjoy 😉 ) Oh wow that’s *amazing*!! Honestly, I wish I had a proper synopsis/plan that went beyond a page at this point haha! So 17 pages is great- that gives you loads to go on! hahahah!! I’m sure you’ll be fine- good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OMG that’s so funny!! I’ve soooo been there with you! I’m seriously thinking about investing in Scrivener, if only to get all my notes, scrawls and ideas in one place. Then I can shuffle them around on my computer, rather than the floor. Good luck!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Apparently it’s really great at fixing the inevitable writers mess. I’ve had so many other writers recommend it to me. Writing a book is a mammoth thing – we need all the help we can get!

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  3. Every plan needs some wiggle-room. Blueprints for houses never remain as they began. Recipes can be adapted to suit the local ingredients.
    Storytelling isn’t a fixed mode. Planning for a story needs points of flexibility – let it play a bit, let it go wild, let the creative juices free. When it’s done, leave it for a while and then come back to edit for the big things: shape, theme, arcs. When that’s done, the bones and structure are sound and the other design elements come to the fore – interior and exterior, action and motivation, direction and desire.
    Then look at how the sentences shape the journey for the reader – is it strong in the right places?
    The last phase is to check grammar and spelling. Maybe a few read-throughs by beta-readers while you get on with a new ‘plan’.
    Simple, but oh, so hard to do.
    Luck!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Structure in its simplest form is what happens next and why. The big points are the middle, where the main character meets himself at his darkest internal moment, and the two decision points – the first one, called the first plot point for some reason, is the decision the main character makes to step across the invisible line knowing there’s no way back once that step is taken, and the second one is the decision to take on the opposite/antagonist in a do or die showdown. It may not be that dramatic, but even the softest forms of story have the three main ‘what happens where and why’ points situated in those places because readers have come to expect that the story will grow from a question, to a decision, to a self-assessment, to the next decision, to the final push to achieve the objective/achieve victory.
        Or something along those lines.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. LOL I love this post so much. Makes me laugh ahhaha. I can totally relate to step 10 (writing a detailed description of one part of the plot and then realizing that I’ve written one already!! and it usually turns out to be really different than what i’ve written before LOL.)

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  5. I started a story back in NaNo time, and I guess I wasn’t really in love with it, so it’s got just over 1,000 words and is sitting in my folder waiting to be revisited…maybe. HOWEVER. I did have a random idea hit me whilst in a coffeeshop just before COVID took over our lives, and I’m actually a bit obsessed with it??? Like I’ve still been thinking about it even though school has completely dominated my life at this point??? Strange. But very exciting because I honestly never thought that would happen for me! So, I’ve decided to be a planner as much as possible until NaNo later this year, and then I’ll get down to writing. My only hope is to at least have one big rough draft by the time that’s over :’) We shall see, I guess. I enjoyed this post so much!!!! The gif for step 19 (and step 19 itself ofc) caused me to chuckle, soooo funny omg

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  6. This is a great post! I used to be a pantser and the project I’m currently working on is the first one I’ve tried planning (even if it’s only a collection of crudely drawn characters and scribbled ideas), and it’s working surprisingly well. I’m just really glad I’m close to finishing something at long last! As for the quality… there’s always room for improvement, I guess? These are actually good steps for an amateur planner like me and it’s a good laugh too, thanks for sharing!

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  7. Great post. This definitely rings true for me. I have so many character bios, synopses and other world building bits and pieces lying about but I either can’t find them or don’t think to look at them when I’m actually writing. By the time I remember to check them, my novel’s gone in completely the wrong direction and, as a result, the plot has more holes than a cheese grater!

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  8. I love this. Have been through all these steps, especially #12. But I’ve written 5 complete adult books, 3 kids’ books, working on 2 more. Now ask me how many I’ve published. Bupkes fits #21 for me. Thanks for the belly laughs and the reminder to write more, even if none ever see the light beyond my computer screen.

    BTW, only if you’d like, here’s my take on sending a query:
    https://sharonboninpratt.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/dear-mr-or-ms-agent/
    You’ll be able to tell immediately why my book wasn’t picked by Mr. or Ms. Agent. Enjoy the guffaws.

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  9. Lol! This is wonderful, you always make me chuckle. Funnily enough I was persuaded to join Camp NaNoWriMo this month to co-plan a short story/novel with a friend. I don’t have any notion of EVER publishing a book but I wanted to get hands-on experience of the writing process.
    Keep these posts coming! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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