With NaNoWriMo less than three weeks away (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH) I am currently right in the middle of outlining my novel, and so it seems like the perfect time to talk about my planning process!
I am definitely not one of those people who can just open a blank document on November 1st and write a novel. I have loads of respect for anyone who can, but without my outline and detailed character profiles and world map and specifically created playlist I am completely lost. I normally spend at least a month or two planning before writing a book, and although the process obviously varies for each novel this is the general one I use.
DISCLAIMER: This is in no way a comprehensive guide to novel planning. It's just what works for me. Honestly, I don't even stick to it half the time anyway.
STEP ONE - THE INITIAL IDEA
This is simple enough.
I think of a concept, I write it down and then I leave it alone until I finish whatever project I'm working on. Normally at this stage I'll write down some more general ideas of what might happen in the story, and if I'm very excited about the concept I might create a pinterest board (I am not kidding when I say pinterest is the most important part of my writing process, by the way), but mostly I just leave it until I have time to work.
STEP TWO - THE BRAINSTORM
About two months before I'm planning to start writing (or whenever I finish that other thing I was working on) I'll start actively thinking of ideas for how this book could turn out. First I buy a notebook specifically for the novel, which is extremely exciting to me, and then I start to brainstorm. Normally I'll just sit down with some music on and my new notebook open and write down everything that comes to my mind until I have pages of really random, unrelated ideas. Once I think I have enough to write with I just filter through to find what might work, by which point I'll generally have a pretty good idea of the direction I'm going to take the idea in.
STEP THREE - THE BASICS:
I have a story! Well, kind of. After I've sorted through all my possible ideas for the novel I start organising them into a basic story, characters and world. By the end of this I've chosen a setting, a main character and a vague plotline, so all that's left to do is to expand it into something I can write a hundred thousand words on. This is harder than it sounds.
STEP FOUR - THE CHARACTERS:
Creating characters is my favourite part of writing- aside from the bit where I have an excuse to go out and buy tonnes of stationary- so that's normally what I do first. I always leave the soul crushingly stressful bit until last. First I'll write out a list of all the characters I need for the story to work (the protagonist, the love interest, their families etc.) and a small summary of what their purpose is, then I take each character in turn and give them a personality and an appearance and a name. I use charahub for this, and I basically just fill out all the categories until my characters seem like real people in my head. I spend way too long on choosing their Hogwarts houses because, as everybody knows, that is the most important thing about any character and the decision should not be taken lightly.
|Charahub profile for Briony, the protagonist of this upcoming novel. She's a ravenclaw and I love her.|
STEP FIVE - THE WORLD:
I'll admit, world building is not my forte. I actually hate it and I'll do as little as I possibly can, but since I write fantasy it's kind of impossible to avoid. All I do is write summaries on the Government, climate, geography etc. (I've normally thought of all of that in brainstorming anyway), do some world building questionnaire things created by people much more talented than me and then make a really crap map. There's a reason I dropped geography. I REALLY need to start improving this...
STEP SIX - THE OUTLINE:
By this point I generally I have characters I care about more than my real life family, a pretty well developed concept, and a killer pinterest board I've been adding to throughout the process. All I need now is a plot! This is a process in itself and I could definitely write a separate post, but I'll try and keep this quick. First I make list of every single story line and side plot in the novel. There's normally one for each character, each love story and each individual aspect of the story. Then I take them one at time and write down the key scenes in that story lines. These scenes go onto individual cards in padlet (which is basically just an online pinboard that gives me the freedom to move individual scenes around without having paper everywhere) and are eventually arranged in an order that makes sense. I add in any scenes that are needed to complete the story and then...well, I'm ready to write!
|My full outline from NaNo last year, created in padlet and conveniently blurred so you can't copy my terrible ideas.|
Thanks for reading, and sorry this got so long! I should get back to this outline...