HOW TO PLAN YOUR NEXT BOOK
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A lot of newbie writers get a story idea, pull up a Word doc, and start writing! Then they wonder why it all fell apart. It’s ’cause you didn't plan anything, ya big bag of beans! Planning a novel quite often saves the writing experience. It's only a couple of weeks or months of organization, and yet it could be a major factor in getting your book done. Thus, I'm teaching you how I plan my novels in 10 easy steps!
Speaking of novel organization, please note I am going to be covering these steps in the rough order in which they should occur. However, some of these steps can and should occur simultaneously. On to the tips in three, two, one, go!
This video is sponsored by Milanote. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Number 1: Find Your Inspiration
Every writer has something that triggers their inspiration. Find your thing, and milk it! For some writers, it's nature. For others, it's reading or other forms of media, like TV or movies. For me, it's music. I listen to music while I plan my novel to help the ideas flow. I actually have several writing playlists for the sole purpose of visualizing my characters and scenes.
In my opinion, this is the most important time to utilize outside resources for inspiration, because once you have that bud of an idea, you can rely on your own imagination and creativity in order to make it blossom and grow. Tap into whatever art form helps stimulate your mind, and let her loose!
Number 2: Simplify!
Before I do any heavy lifting, I like to nail down a general idea of what my book is going to be about. Note, I said general. We are not getting into specifics like the entire cast of characters, or the entire world you plan to create. We are just creating a generic concept to build off of.
For example, my general concept for The Savior's Champion was a man enters a gladiatorial-style tournament where he fights to stay alive and falls in love. For The Savior's Sister, my general concept was a queen fights to prevent her own assassination and also falls in love. These ideas are super simple and that's what you want. You want something that you can expand and grow. It's a lot easier to create a detailed, layered story when you start small and work your way up.
Number 3: Thought Dump
This is my favorite part of the planning phase, because one, it’s easy, and two, it's entirely creative. This is your opportunity to write down any and all ideas you have about your story. World-building, characters, plot points, plot twists, arcs, physical descriptions, whatever! Any idea you have, write it down! It could be streams of dialogue, full-on conversations, or hell, sex scenes! Do you.
It doesn't matter if the ideas suck, nor do they have to be in sequential order. You can worry about that later! The point is to put all of your ideas in one place so you can analyze them at a later date. For now, ignore your inhibitions and let the ideas flow freely, my child.
Number 4: Chronology
Remember that later date I mentioned, where you were going to analyze your thought dump and see if it sucked? The time is now! Go through your thought dump and put your ideas in the order in which you would like them to occur in the story. Again, the content doesn't have to be perfect, but now's the time to at least organize that big mess of ideas.
If your thought dump is relatively small, you can organize it within the Word doc itself. Or, if you're a visual learner like myself, you can create a board on Milanote. That way you can arrange the ideas however you'd like. You can color code and label them. You can highlight them. And of course, if they suck, you can delete ’em! The next three steps I'm about to cover can and should be done at the same time.
Number 5: Outline
An outline is the blueprint of your novel, letting you know where the story is going. If you want to pants your story, that's fine–you’re entitled to your wrong opinion. But an outline will save you from extensive rewrites, multiple overhauls, and of course, writer's block.
How you outline your story is completely up to you. I have several videos about my outlining process. You can yoink my idea, or you can do something entirely different. Some people prefer a bare-bones outline. Some like the snowflake method. Some like the three-act structure. This is where it's going to come down to research paired with personal preference and experimentation. But ultimately the goal is to take the chronological order you created and fine-tune it into an easy-to-follow outline that works for you and your process.
Number 6: Character Profile
A character profile is a detailed look at each of your characters from their physical appearance, to their backstory, to their personality. It's kinda like a social media page, except it actually tells the truth about them. If you're not sure where to start, I have a video all about the character profile process. You can also find sample profiles all over the internet.
This is your opportunity to create fully fleshed-out, well-rounded characters before you start writing them, which will make the drafting process so much easier. The reason it's a good idea to create your character profiles while you're outlining is that your main characters and the plot have a direct effect on one another.
For example, in The Savior's Sister, the main character kills a lot of people, so not only did I have to account for this in my outline, but I also had to account for it in her character profile. How did she learn to fight? Why is she fighting? How does she feel about killing people? All of these facets are relevant to one another, which is why it's a good idea to build them side by side.
Number 7: World-Building
If you're writing a contemporary story, then the odds are you'll be able to skip this step. But if you're writing genre fiction–for example, sci-fi, paranormal, or fantasy–the odds are this is going to be a pivotal part of your planning process. Check out that alliteration!
This is another situation where it's going to come down to personal preference. Some people like to spreadsheet their worlds. Other people like to create world profiles similar to character profiles. Again, you can find lists of world-building facets here on my channel, and again, you should also build your world alongside the character profiles and the outline.
Say one of your plot points involves traveling through a magical forest. You're gonna have to build that bad boy in order to make sure the scene is transportive. Say one of your characters is a prince. You're going to need to know how royalty works in your world, which again ties in character profiles and world-building.
Number 8: Organize
It's time to take all of your hard work and organize it into something that's easy to manage and reference. Once you've created multiple documents that will dictate the course of your novel, it helps to keep them in one organized location so they're easy to reference at the same time. And also so you don't lose ’em . . . Guess who's lost entire documents before? This bitch!
You guys already know I'm organizing my current work in progress on Milanote. I've got my word documents available for safekeeping, as well as any visuals I need. My character portraits are there. I got a list of everything I want to make sure I don't forget. It's all available in one board! You can organize your story however you please, just make sure your work is all readily available in one location and is conducive to your writing and creative process.
Number 9: Hole Check
Sounds really awkward out of context . . . Once you have your story outlined, your world created, and your characters profiled, it's time to check for holes. Plot holes. Go through your organized plan several times and check to see if there are any stones left unturned. I promise you, there will be.
The idea once again is to make sure the drafting process goes as smoothly as possible. You are guaranteed to find issues throughout the writing process because we're all flawed creatures–let’s be real. But the goal is to have as few issues as possible. So check your organized board once, twice, or 10 times. If you find a plot hole, inconsistency, or any other hurdle, tinker with that sucker until it's fixed. Your future self will thank you!
Number 10: WRITE!
You did it! You planned an entire novel! Now it's time to write that sucker.
I said do it! This is the part that a lot of writers struggle with. They'll think of any excuse to stay in the planning phase forever. I've already checked for plot holes one hundred times, what's a hundred more? Fast forward a decade, and they're still building that world. Because it's necessary, right?
Hello! You're delaying the inevitable because you're scared, but that fear is never going to go away. At the end of the day, you're hurting no one but yourself. You're preventing your own dream from coming true. Bite the bullet, clench those butt cheeks, and start writing!
So that's all I've got for you today!
If you’ve been wanting to know how to plan your next book, this article ought to give you everything you need to pick up the pen (or the computer) and get to work!
How do you plan your novel? I wanna hear all about it!
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