Saturday 21 September 2013


When I first started to plan my current book I spent a fair amount of time planning it first. As a writer there are so many different and wonderful ways to plan a story, some of which I will mention in this blog, others you will learn about on your journey of writing. I have found ways that didn’t necessarily work for me, and I of course have found my favourite planning exercise. 

Exercise number 1; Write a synopsis for your story. This can be as long or as short as you’d like but for me, a chapter by chapter synopsis is the best. Set out the scenes and describe what you’d like to happen in each one. You don’t have to know ins and outs like character names or even where the story is based, just go back to basics and write really raw material, the beginning to your novels journey. 

Exercise number 2; Closely linking to the above produce a chapter by chapter synopsis using this method... Write numbers down the side of a page then space out incidents you want to happen in your story between the beginning and the start. For this exercise, again in my opinion, it’s best to fill in the start and the end with a twist first. Then go back to fill in the remaining chapters. Ask yourself questions to flesh out the story (background information). Then you can think about the actual storyline. On completing this exercise, having asked yourself ‘why?’, ‘what if?’ and ‘then what happens?’ you should have enough detailed material to rough out each chapter.

Exercise number 3; Write a pitch. Aim to describe your story in one gripping sentence. Explain in just a few words what the heart of the story is about. Think of the pitch as being the blurb on the back of a book - the reader must be left feeling intrigued, excited and wanting to know more. 

Exercise number 4; Character checklists. Write a long list of personality attributes, gestures and emotions. Then, for each character, work through the list and highlight or tick the traits you think your character has. (I will touch more on characters in a couple of weeks when this blog focuses on developing credible characters (watch this space)! Please see a photo to help you understand this exercise:

After that the story will just flow. I think I’ve mentioned this is every blog so far under the ‘writers tips’ tab but characters really do come to life and help you develop your story so even if you don’t think your plan is good enough, doesn’t have enough interesting twists, just start because majority of the time your characters will present you with some amazing ideas. 
Remember, the first draft is called a first draft for a reason. It’s not going to be the best it could be and you have to commit to spending time adapting it, modifying it to make it better. For more help with self discipline tips see my blog ‘Procrastination and Self-Discipline’. 

And that could be all you need to plan a best seller! But just in case I’ve missed anything I have one trusty author working with me today - Jonathan Lee. Lets see what he has to say about all this planning malarky:

Write in no more than three sentences what the entire story is about. 
Work out who the main character is. Write down their three main personality traits.
Who else joins them on his/her journey? Plan (in hierarchical order in terms of importance) the other protagonists. Write down their main personality traits  
Plan a punchy and intriguing opening to the story to get the reader interested. 
Consider how the lead character gets from the beginning to the end of the story.  Plan the major events.

The rest of it just simply flows, I don't get too bogged down with huge plans.  Events unfold as I write and as long as I have the basics I simply let the story and characters grow and develop as I go along. This is usually why I discard around 25% of my total word count at the edit stage.

To learn more about Jonathan Lee visit his webpage and read his fantastic blog:
Tweet him via @J0n4th4n_Lee 

I think Jonathan touches on another great tip when he discusses writing a punchy opening. It is vital that you keep your reader hungry for more, especially at the beginning of your story. Make the author question what’s happening, who that person is, what will happen next. 

Thank you readers, and until next time where the topic is ‘Setting’, enjoy your week and happy writing :) 

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