View Full Version : How do you plan out your novel?
July 12th, 2004, 09:53 AM
just a dumb question, how do you plan out your novel? do you have a basic idea and wing it, or do you follow a strict outline you created, full of detail and important steps? i was talking with someone, and was just curious how others planned out there novel. any other methods?
July 12th, 2004, 10:14 AM
I'm probably on the extreme end of the preparation scale. First, once I have the idea I make a list of everything that I think I'm going to need to research just to have a clue and then start cracking books.
When I get close to finishing the research I write an outline. My outlines are fairly vague except at two points - the beginning and the ending. I work up biographies of all the major characters, draw any necessary maps, timelines, etc..
When I'm ready to start the actual writing I write two paragraphs, the first one and the last one. I don't hold myself to the ending, but I still have it written down. I'm someone who has to write to a specific point. I have to know where I'm going before I ever get into the meat of the story or I'd just get lost in tangents.
My outlines always change, but their still usefull as reference points.
My next book has everything I mentioned before as well as a tech tree. It follows a penal colony on a remote planet. The tech tree will give me a reference for the level of technological growth for each chapter.
I probably won't even start writing that one until 2006.
July 12th, 2004, 10:22 AM
I write Sci-fi almost exclusively, so this example applies to that genre:
I generally come up with a basic concept, something at least a little bit original, which is hard enough in itself as sci-fi has already invented so much stuff, and then I try to throw a few twists onto it, to give it a more original feel. I roughly sketch out the main character and the world, and then immediately write the first chapter and see where it goes. After that I ink up a large, detailed outline, usually between 15-50 pages, so I have a reference for the world I created. I've found it helps avoid running into contradictions during your story if you have the world and timeline lightly sketched out at the beginning. I never, ever write sci-fi with the bulk of the story already planned out, as the writing loses its vibrancy and adventure. Unfortunately, this often means I can write myself into a corner and I have to throw away material or alter it heavily. I usually decide on the ending of the book before I even write the first page, so I have an end goal in mind and I can plan every character's action and motive accordingly.
Hope this was at least a little insightful. :)
July 12th, 2004, 10:44 AM
LoL. I'm going to be in a minority here. I don't really plan anything.
Basically, I get an idea. Just like a "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if....?", and I write that scene, intending it to be kind of a vignette. Then I think, "Well, before/after this...." and I write that chapter. I rarely write a work in full, front-to-back order. I write a collection of scenes and string them together. A novel to me is a collection of tightly-related short stories (aka, chapters), each of which should stand in some form on it's own.
For example, in Smack, which is clocking in so far at around 40k works (gonna be around 60 when I'm done), the first scene I wrote is 'The Event', which was around chapter 8. Then I threw in some more stuff in the beginning, worked on the end a bit, jumped back and added a new chapter 2, etc.
The problem with this approach is maintaining cohesion. I find that it creates a very strong story with a good narrative 'feel', but if you just go apeshit with it, you can lose cohesion and end up with a collection of stories instead of a novel. Every time you write, add, move or subtract anything, you have to always consider how it effects the total synergy of the novel you're working on.
July 12th, 2004, 10:45 AM
that was great. thank you. mine is slightly different. i work on my idea, for days, often, and build a world. then research like mad. i write out character sketches and the importance each character will have on the story. i'll write a vauge outline...not much, but just enough to know where im going. but i wont write the ending. i still have little idea on my ending, i know what i want to accomplish, but im not sure how it will play out yet...my characters and events often change like mad, the setting certainly does, so nothing is written in stone until my book is finished. ... well, so i'd guess...ive never actually finished my book.
July 12th, 2004, 11:28 AM
To me, the ending is the most important part of a book. I've read books that were just awesome, glorious reads, and then the ending basically ruined it all by either resolving nothing, rendering the entire story futile, or simply just copping out with a moronic "feel good" American cinema ending.
In my experience a great ending can make a good read a timeless classic, you just have to know how, and not be afraid to go all the way with something that might seem very nonconformist.
July 12th, 2004, 11:43 AM
yah...ever read the Legend of Nightfall? i liked the book alot...basic, run o' the mill fantasy...but it was good. but the ending.....i almost gagged it was so cheesy. i wish i had the perffect ending for mine....but i cant think of anything....yet....maybe i'll go through and read some of the endings im my books and whatever....that, and Flightless Falcon....i think Mickey Zucker Reichert likes cheesy endings.
July 12th, 2004, 12:05 PM
Rira, try something audacious and unpredictable. One of the worst things you can do in writing is to kill off an important character needlessly, but, done right, the death of a major character is one of the most powerful statements a novel can make.
July 12th, 2004, 12:45 PM
Depends what I am writing. All stories I find, even fooling around collab ones, do need some research, even if it is just glancing at a web page.
As to the two novels I have completed so far, the first I did intensive research as I went. I had my basic idea, a rough main character, but knew nothing of the skills I wanted him to have. So I began to research; as I did the story was started, binned, started again and so on. I found as soon as I got the information, the knowledge for one aspect of the work I needed more to create this characters world. It helped that I fell in love with the subject I was studying and studied it for its own sake.
This opened up so many doors in my life and put me in contact with people that I am honoured to call " net friends" Among them published authors, Hollywood stunt personal, historians, the list is endless..
The second was a mad cap idea which drew togather about three rough plotlines I had outlined. I found or created a character which drew them all together and it jelled. The research I had previous done was so helpful. In fact all the hard work provided me with a large basic resource for writing fantasy...
July 12th, 2004, 12:54 PM
I'm a sit and write the story kinda guy. I like to get the story written, then go back and fill in the blanks. To me, the story and the characters are the most important (for Fantasy anyway). I like to make sure they're fully developed first.
Of course, I had it pointed out to me (thanks chef) that I had some issues that I needed to research and after having done that, the book is coming along much better now. I do think that if you can't get the reader to like or at least relate to your characters you'll have a tough time getting them into your world or concept.
Before I started my first book, I wrote a two paragraph synopsis. I then wrote a chapter by chapter blow of the book and what I wanted to have happen. I then started at the begining and wrote through from begining to end. I feel all my books have a good start, strong characters, and a powerful finish.
I am writing a series, but each book is its own story, yet still part of the whole. I've plotted out (two - three paragraphs each) each book I'm going to do in the series. I've also chaptered out the next 3 books I'm going to do. I'm working on book 4 now (actually is't part 4, not book 4) and I'm giving part 2 a thorough going through now.
Having said all that and read the other responses, I'd have to say you need to find your own style and see what works for you. I've written a number of short stories and those I can do either by plotting and researching prior to writing or just sit down and go for it. The only way to know what works is to try and try and try and try. The biggest part is to keep trying until you find out what works and in what combination.
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