When you’ve got a novel idea, the planning and pre-writing phase can equip you with the necessary tools to face that first blank page head on. Many writers skip this phase and opt for a creative flow, letting the story tell them what to write; but if you are having trouble with getting all your ideas in where you want them, even just a little planning can go a long way.
The following techniques and tools are listed in my overview of the writing process, and below I will be going over them more in depth down below.
- Outlining and Plotting; There are many different types of outlines you create for your writing project. This is where you put down the major ideas and events that you want to have in your book. Perhaps you only have an ending , writing that down and back tracking can be a helpful way to figure out where things have to start in order to get to the ending you want. Or vice versa you only have a beginning, outlining can lay everything out in a way to make sure that you don’t end up writing a whole lot of words without any meaningful endpoint.
- Character Profiling; Character profiling before you start writing major parts of your story helps you to set clear personalities for your characters early on. This is a good way to make sure you know who your story is about, and it keeps you accountable for your characters. So when you get to parts where your characters have to make decisions and plot driving choices you have a reason for them within their motivation. Like if you have ever been reading a story and the character does something that not only you would never do, there isn’t an appropriate amount of explanation about their personality or why they are making the choices they are other than to drive the plot. It also makes sure that you don’t have any unnecessary characters that could confuse your reader later on.
- Researching; Gathering information that is helpful to your story in this stage is advised so that you don’t spend an egregious amount of time in the middle of your first draft to do so. First drafts should go quickly to keep you motivated to finish them, and so try and set yourself up to be able to speed through that first draft by having your research done beforehand. This stage is also a great way to fill in some of the bigger holes in your outline and plotting areas as well as in your character profiles. Want to write about a character that has a mental or physical illness, it would be advised to research on that topic before you start writing so that you can provide an accurate and insightful portrayal of your characters. Already have all that covered, great research is still advised if you are writing about anything other than your own personal experience, because as writers we have to put ourselves into the the minds and shoes of those who we are writing for, and to do so without first being prepared from the most informed position is a disservice to your book and those you are writing about. Even when writing about fantasy or fictional places and people, because finding roots in real things will help you to describe those things to readers that can’t see inside your mind the way you can.
- World Building; Where does your story take place, in what ways could the environment influence your story, characters, plot, etc. What things do your readers need to know about your world, planning this out beforehand can help reduce the amount of plot holes you will inevitably end up having to go back and fix in later stages and ultimately end up saving you time. Not to mention, for me at least this is the fun part and it is easy to get caught up in. So be advised you should plan out all of these things before you start writing, but don’t spend too much time in this stage, or any planning stage for that matter. Get to the good stuff asap.
- Society and Systems Planning; This can be thought of as part of world building, but because of how in depth it is I am counting it as its own thing. (I wasn’t kidding when I said world-building is my favorite part of the whole pre-writing phase, I get detailed with it) Do you have a magic system, or diverse races in your novel that need their own social structures and laws, this is the time to figure out what defining parts of those things you want in your book. Like with the world-building, if you are like me at least, this is a good stage to check yourself to make sure you aren’t spending to much time here. Try to keep in mind how much is crucial for your audience to know in order to advance your story and stick to that.
There are many other ways to plan and prepare for your writing project. Such as making a master schedule and setting defined writing goals for when you want to complete certain parts of your projects. This can be helpful with time management.
the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.DEFINITION FROM OXFORD
Setting attainable goals on a schedule for example, is a great way to check yourself. Making sure you are getting everything done. The key is to set reasonable goals. If you struggle with this, like I do, starting from your end goal and working backwards in small bites can be a big help to figure out what to do next.
If the big goal is to write the book, start there and backtrack. Ask yourself what do you need to do to get to that point, or what would be a step before that step that you would need to do. Repeat this until you have several manageable steps laid out before you.
The other important thing to remember when setting your goals, is that you will not meet every single one in the given time that you want to, and if you are meeting every goal ask yourself could you be pushing even just a little harder.
I say this a someone who advocates for self love and healing through writing. You don’t need to put yourself through the abuses of life for art. Developing a healthy relationship with the writing process is key to having a healthy writing life style.
Not all writers pre-write or plan, but participating in this step of the writing process can create the foundation for a healthier writing project. Not just for you but also for your work.
Some writers, affectionately termed “pantsers” within the writing community, forgo plotting. The idea is that knowing what you are going to write could come across as forced or planed, as it is planned when you spend time planning it out before you start writing. Instead this breed of writer prefers to skip straight to the unadulterated flow of creative writing, following where the story takes them instead of telling the story where it should go.
For me I like a balance of pre-writing, planning and spontaneousness. So I will spend time drafting an outline and doing character profiles and all the rest before I start writing, but I might not go as in depth as other writer would.
I do this because of my personality and from personal experience. When I tried to skip the planning stage all together and jump straight into my first book, it went horribly wrong and I ended up rewriting much of it all over again. This was very time consuming, (like several years of time). So I now am an advocate for pre-writing and planning as it helps me to write the best that I can.
This wraps up the planning and pre-writing phase of our writing process series for now. I will be going back and covering the techniques I mentioned in this post soon. So if I left anything out or you would like to have me cover something specific leave a comment down below, or head over to the About/Contact page and write me a message.