Writing a novel is like frying an egg.
You’re going to curse incessantly, get sweats from the heat, and create a whole lot of mess before you ever get it right.
The Concept Of Planning
There are many resources online that go into great detail about how you should plan your novel. Some say you should sit for three hundred days, mapping out every single detail of every single scene in so much depth that you might as well be writing the actual novel. Whereas others recommend going through each scene in a lighter format, covering only the key parts.
Us, on the other hand, recommend neither. At least not in the first instance.
To us, planning needn’t be complex or stress-inducing. There’s plenty enough of that when you’re actually writing. Planning is that magical phase in which you feel the butterflies whirling their way around your spinal column. The moment you lose that magic is the moment the stress begins. And stress should never come into the equation. Not this early, at least.
What’s The Alternative?
There are many ways to plan your book, and we’re not for one second saying that there’s a right or wrong way to go about it. What we do hope to do though, is give you something to think about. Because who knows, maybe minimalism is what your planning process has been missing all this time.
We believe in both long and short types of planning. In fact, we’d advise you to do both. The difference with us is that our preferred methods of short planning are incredibly short. One A4 sheet of paper is enough.
Now… we know what you’re thinking. You can’t possibly plan out a story on one single sheet of A4. Well, that’s where you’re wrong. It can in fact be done, and it will definitely cause you way less stress in the long run. You just need to know how to best go about it.
The Meat Of The Story
When planning in short form, the purpose of the process is to plan out nothing but the absolute necessities. Our recommended A4 style holds one purpose and one purpose only: to tell yourself the crucial parts of your story.
At the top of the page, you’re going to write the genre and subgenre of the story you’re going to write. If you don’t know those things, that’s the first thing you need to figure out. Once you’ve done that, you’re going to want to know the conventions of that genre, and most importantly, the must-have scenes.
For example: the must have scene in a horror story is the victim at the mercy of the monster scene. To learn more about genre conventions and must-have scenes, spend an hour on Google. It’s a magical place.
Executing Your Plan
You’re going to need to plan out the three sections of your novel (beginning, middle, and end) based on three different things. Each section has a scene that must take place (these vary for each genre. We’ll outline crime in our example to give you an idea).
Those must-haves are the first thing you’re going to put in each section, and they’re going to fall right in the middle of their respective box. The order the things go into the boxes is the order in which they’ll take place within the novel. So, if you want your book to start out with your protagonist in a gas station bathroom, staring at their naked self in the mirror (you should totally steal that, by the way), that goes in first.
Below is an example for a crime novel (we’ve included the must-haves and their respective names for each structural section in bold):
The protagonist is in a gas station bathroom in an induced state, staring at a blurred image of himself in the dirty mirror. The next day, he’s at his headquarters. Call comes in for new case. INCITING INCIDENT: He attends the scene. A female body is found – bloodied and bruised in the back of an abandoned truck. They identify the victim. The body is taken away for further testing. They canvass the scene, locate potential witnesses, and get down to the interviewing process.
The protagonist and his partner are left with the task of letting the victims single mother know that her daughter has been found dead. They suspect that it’s murder. Later that day, the protagonist is back at home when he sees a newsflash pop up about a second body. RED HERRING/NEAR MISS: They are pointed towards the killer from prints that were found on a note left with the second victim’s body. When they reach his apartment, it turns out that he’s victim number two’s boyfriend. He is also dead. There is a note there from the killer – he was just there and now he’s gone. Talk begins of a serial killer and the city’s people are on high alert. The protagonist and his partner spend the majority of their days being harassed by the media.
They eventually catch a break. They receive CCTV footage from an anonymous source who claims they tailed the killer from the boyfriend’s place. They now have an address. Search warrants are signed and off they go. HERO AT THE MERCY OF THE VILLAIN SCENE: When they arrive at the property and break in, it appears as though no one is home. But then a gunshot slices the silence. The protagonist is hit. The killer emerges from the shadows, letting everyone know that he sent the footage and led them right into his trap. The final showdown commences.
See where we were going with that? Don’t pay attention to the plot itself – that was completely made up on the spot – but pay close attention to the structure of that brief plan. The bold parts, as we said, are to do with the must have scenes and their respective place in the narrative’s structure. These are different for each genre, and that’s why you must learn them – they’re crucial in creating an effective plan.
We hope you find this strategy and the information within highly useful. We love creating and distributing these articles because they’re a great way to help writers with all of the intricacies of writing a novel – because yes, there are many.
Think of this particular method as you telling yourself the story first, before you even consider expanding it. This way, it’s clear in your mind and ready to be built upon. From this outline, you can craft more in-depth, scene-by-scene stuff in a much more effective way. That’s because you have a clear understanding of the meat of the story. That’s the important part.
If you understand the story from a professional standpoint (which is what this method will allow you to achieve), you’re going to be able to write it in a professional way. And in doing so, you’ll come out with some very satisfied readers.