Planning Your Book

“I would be very interested to know how you personally plan a book. I’m writing my first one and started in a very haphazard way. I’m normally quite good at holding information in my head but since I’ve started writing my book discovered I’m not as good as I thought I was. To begin with a wrote a few notes and launched straight in very quickly realizing I need a chapter plan, which I’ve done and revised a lot. By the second chapter I started losing track of my characters so I started writing character notes. To cut a long story short I now have maps, place notes and details of my magic system I’ve produced all these as I have progressed with the book, I’m getting close to 50k words. I now need a timeline as I found myself losing track where everyone is. I can’t help feeling I should have done this before I started writing!”

Eric Klingenberg

Hi Eric,

Good question… and I’m sorry to disappoint, but when I start writing, there is actually very little planning involved. See when I get an idea for a book, I either select character types from a ‘character bank’ I created with several different character personalities, or I make them up on the spot. Then I start writing.
I think you’re putting the cart before the horse a little bit here. There is such a thing as too much planning. If you put all your eggs into the plan basket, you’ll quickly run out of creative eggs.

Try this:
Put your chapter structure and revisions on the back burner. Leave the plot flaws, misspellings et al for later. Now, you’ve got your story idea? START WRITING!!! Get your ideas down on paper before you do anything else. Write out your story ideas so that you have them etched in stone FIRST. When I first sit down to write, I don’t plan everything out. I don’t even necessarily write my scenes in order. If I have an awesome idea for a climax or an ending, I write those first. If I have a great idea for a romantic encounter, I’ll write that. Feel free to use placeholder character names if you haven’t decided on the characters yet. You can always fill in the blanks and change the names later.

Don’t be concerned with what it looks like or how coherent it is on the first run through. You’re not getting the first draft published. More than likely, you’re going to have at least 2 more drafts (sometimes as much as 6 for me) before you’re done. Once you have your ideas down and you’ve filled in the blanks, then go back and worry about chapter structure and fixing plot holes. Be sure to reread your story a couple of times as making sure the whole thing makes sense should be the priority. See my steps below:

How I write:

So now you’ve got your bare bones down. Your characters have a beginning, climax, and ending. Awesome! You may or may not have loosely decided where chapters go, but that doesn’t matter at this point.

Now add your subplots, character and location descriptions, developments, and character relationships. This is the meat that needs to be added to the bare bones to change it from a draft into an actual story. You’re getting there.

Now start separating the books into chapters and perspective change markers (if you use them). This is where you need to start planning the book structure.

By now you should be on your second or third draft. Be sure to reread your story a couple of times. This is where you fix plot holes and by the third or fourth read-through you should be fixing your run-ons and spelling/grammar errors.

So now you’ve got your story. If you’re trying to write a novel, it should be somewhere in the realm of 80k words (my rule). Anything less is a novella or short story. Now, have someone else read it. In fact, have 2-3 people read it. They’ll each catch plot holes or grammar errors that you may not have.

Once you’ve corrected their mistakes, do one more read through. Polish up anything that you feel is weak and put the final touches on. THIS IS NOT THE PLACE TO ADD SCENES OR SUBPLOTS! If you really must, you’re going to need to go through all that proofing again, so make sure your book is completely done before handing it off. At this point, you should only be fixing minor errors and weak points.

And… that’s it. Once the final revisions have been made, you’re done. You’re book should be complete and good to go.

Hope this helps Eric, and feel free to email me if you need me to elaborate on any of these points!

Readers, what do you think? Do you think Eric is planning way too much, too early, or is this a reasonable thing to do early on? Leave a comment below!


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

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11 thoughts on “Planning Your Book

  1. Jin Okubo says:

    Reblogged this on Jin Okubo and commented:
    Great advice

    Like

  2. That’s not the answer I was expecting! I shall take your advise and plough on with the first draft – thanks.

    Like

  3. resili0 says:

    This is great and so well timed, I have planned myself into a blank page and this has reaffirmed that I need to just write!

    Like

  4. I actually plot like crazy. I’ve found for me anyway, thinking of everything off the top of my head, usually lead to disaster. But every writer is different, you’ve got to find what works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. LOL, and here I thought I was doing it wrong. I tend to get caught up in just writing! No maps. No chapters. This makes me feel tons better! I thought I was jacked up because I didn’t have character backgrounds or plot flow charts or anything! I just sit and write and feel like I’m not measuring up somehow. Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Planning a novel is like planning every minute detail of a vacation: it takes away the excitement! I get up in the morning very excited to find out what’s going to happen next. Possibly this is why none of my writing has ever been published!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Kentucky Mountain Girl News and commented:
    KMGN: Good advice.

    Like

  8. […] However, in the spirit of this, I’ve decided to share a little about how I plan a work.  Inspired, in no small part, by a recent post by the ineffably helpful Jim. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Igrain Novem says:

    Planning is important. I don’t know how one can go without at least some form of planning/outline.

    Like

  10. I mix both methods, problems, characters and whatnots are written in my notes. Then I write until I run out of steam or need to add to my notes. Really good post.

    Like

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