You Can’t See the Woods for the Trees?

Here’s TEN tips for planning your next book. When I’m half-way through writing a new book, I’m already making notes and planning for my next book.

In this way, I’m working across two projects at once. When my book is with editors and going through the proof-reading process, I have a few weeks to kick into action in drafting my next masterpiece. Here’s how and I hope it helps you;

  1. I map out the primary plot-line on a single piece of paper. I consider what the essential premise of the story is about. Keep it very short and to the point. Great for an elevator pitch when talking about the published book.
  2. I take two large pieces of paper, tape them together, and this forms the basis of my planning for the story’s structure. I draw a large circle in the middle, and this is the main character and the central theme/genre-related. There’s software for this stuff, and I’ve tried some of those apps, but something in the creative process, with a pencil, eraser and paper brings the creative thinking alive, and I get more traction, more quickly doing this the old-fashioned way.
  3. I brainstorm (with myself!!) and draw with arrows leading from the central circle outwards, making sure each series of lines/arrows and other circles represent the action, barriers and subplots that will move the story forward. If you know mind-mapping, you’ll know what I mean.
  4. I draw up a list of characters and their relationships with critical traits. I usually name them at this stage too. I note their personalities, foibles and any weird tendencies. This brings them alive; again, this triggers the creative juices and helps unfold the new story-line.
  5. On another page, I roughly map out the story-line and chapters, ‘sketching’ in a few keywords of critical events in each chapter. This can be 5 to 20 keywords. I.e., A kills B and F falls in love with X, who has left the country. Does A follow X? Why?
  6. If the plot is more complex, I use post-it notes on a whiteboard with chapter headings and relevant notes. If I find I have a structural problem, I look at the board and move the post-its around to fix any glaring anomalies, allowing me to move chapters easily.
  7. When I get to the “sketching” of the last chapter – sometimes the last 2 or 3 chapters – I find I have a series of questions and options for endings. This is not set in stone, but it does help keep me on task during the drafting process. If I don’t have some idea of the end, I can go off in tangents and lose the original premise of the main story-line.
  8. I go back to my drafted chapters, which I have now transferred into a publishing template in word. I often leave gaps in the sequence with blank chapter headers as I expect more action to take place than I can think of at this point. It takes time with shuffling and re-working the structure and plot to ensure you have most vital elements in place.
  9. I write the first three or four chapters. I revise and rewrite these until I feel satisfied before continuing with the drafting of the rest of the book (usually 30 to 40 chapters)
  10. All of the above is fluid, so if I come up with a better character, stronger subplot, I will swap out and replace, or remove entirely. Once I started all over again.

Good luck and happy writing!