Step 1 – Know what kind of book you want to write
The first step to planning your novel is figuring out what kind of book you want to write. Literary fiction, romance, thriller, fantasy, Young Adult, New Adult, and science fiction. The genres go on and on, as do the possibilities of each. The best way to figure this out is to think about what books you love reading. In all likelihood, the books you enjoy reading will be those you also enjoy writing. Once you’ve got a general idea of the kind of book you want to write, you need to ask yourself these questions:
· Are you the best person to write this book?
· Can you see yourself working all those hours to finish it?
· Once you’ve finished it, is there a market for it?
While these are difficult questions to answer so early on in the process, you may find that the answers surprise you, and if so – you may need to reconsider your decision to write this book.
Step 2 – Describe the story
Now you need to expand the sentence you just created into a paragraph of about five sentences. A popular way to structure novels is to have a three-act structure:
Use the beginning (the first act) to lead your reader in, introducing the main characters, setting up the main conflict, and confirming the time of the book.
Use the middle (the second act) to develop your themes and reveal more about the main characters. But, make sure you have enough conflict and tension here or it can start to drag.
In the end section (the third act), the story needs to go up a gear; this is where it should reach a climax. Eventually, you should tie up most of the loose ends, but there’s nothing like a few unresolved problems to get your readers demanding a sequel!
Step 3 – Get to know your characters.
Start by making a list of major and minor characters. For each one, note down their name, age, family history, physical appearance, political and religious beliefs, traits, and quirks. What does your protagonist carry around with them in their handbag/pockets? What drink would your antagonist order in a bar? How did each spend their last birthday? What will they regret on their death beds? Then outline what their roles are in the book. What do they want and why do they want it? What’s stopping them from achieving their aims? What will they learn during the novel? Plotting will be much easier if you have a clear understanding of your characters, their perspectives, and the journey you want to take them on.
Step 4 – Expanding
Now you should expand each of the five sentences you’ve created for Step 2 into a paragraph. By the time you’ve completed this, you should have a one-page description of your book – it’ll still only be the bare bones but it will give you a good idea as to whether the story works or not. If not, you can change it now, before your start writing in earnest.
Step 5 – Bringing characters to life
The one-page character synopsis can now be expanded into full-fledged character charts including the minutiae of their lives, such as:
· birth dates
· description i.e. hair color, height, weight, etc
· likes and dislikes
But, most importantly, you should decide how the character will change throughout the story. This teaches you more about your characters and the role they have to play in the story. Make sure each is a living, breathing character, not a two-dimensional stereotype.
Step 6 – How will you structure your story?
Does it span one day or several years? Are you going to write it in the first person or third? Will your narrator recall events from the future or is the story unraveling in the present? Do you need more than one voice?
Once you have a rough idea of the structure you can begin plotting out the events, e.g. what happens and when does it happen? If you’re working with a three-act structure you will want to set out the main conflict and what’s at stake, in the beginning, use the middle to complicate the story and develop tension, and build towards an exciting climax before resolving any loose ends.
Step 7 – Start writing your novel
By now, you’ll have oodles of notes, timeframes, and character profiles to use as reference material for when you decide you’re ready to start writing, so here’s some final advice:
· There is such a thing as too much planning. Don’t allow yourself to procrastinate from the actual writing for too long, and don’t plan so much that there’s no spontaneity in your writing – where would the fun be in that?
· Don’t be afraid to change your mind. As we mentioned earlier, this planning stage is just to help get your mind around the elements of a novel you’ll need to include. It doesn’t mean your ideas have to be set in stone.
· The most important thing is that you find out what methods work for you. Once you’ve got that down pat, you’ve got yourself a golden ticket.