Today is a good day to talk about novel planning, don’t you think? I think so.
Because I love writing and am addicted to NaNoWriMo’s forums, I’ve been reading a lot of people talking about saving ideas for the next National Novel Writing Month and working on planning them with vigor for months at a time. So I figured I’d take a poll.
Feel free to answer the following questions in a comment:
1. Have you written a novel? (If no, thanks for taking the poll, and get on that novel writing!)
2. When did you begin planning your novel?
3. How did you plan your novel?
4. Just for fun, how long did it take you to finish writing your novel?
And now I’ll tell you how I planned the novel that is begging to be edited for content and grammar.
I started planning Fire and Ice Bound in October 2009. Now I have to admit I got the idea for it about a year before that and had a few illustrations made by Desteni, who was kind enough to give me one that I tucked away for future use. When I began thinking about NaNo2009, I remembered my random fantasy story idea and dug out those illustrations from among the pile of bank statements, university papers, and other odds and ends.
The illustrations are really what reminded me how interested I was in the story. So I waited until October when I was beginning to gear up for NaNo to work on my planning. And then it came, and I had four glorious weeks of planning.
So what did I do? I spent hours thinking about who my characters were, where they lived, how they acted, and what they did. I devised big plots concerning entire countries and small subplots that would last only half a page but have important consequences. And throughout the planning process, I daily added notes to my master outline.
It’s kind of a lame term, but I call it that because it wasn’t so much an outline as the basis for everything I wrote in my story. Within this one 12-page document, I wrote down every name of every character, mentioned or not, that was important to my story. I grouped them according to where they fell (student, teacher, parent, electorate representative, townsperson, etc.) in my story. Then I wrote a number of pages of what I termed plot points: those things that needed to happen in order to move from Point A to Point B in the story.
What else did I put in my master outline? I put the obvious: the progression from beginning to end. Though I didn’t really have much of an ending when I first began planning. I also put some random things in. I wrote facts and figures about the three main countries. I detailed where the countries were located and what the governments were like. I wrote a page on the three different creation theories plugged by different groups as well as the different religions that had risen out of these theories. And none of the religions come into play in the actual story.
By the end of October, I’d started a character profiles document as well. I put in the names of every character, even the ones that weren’t referenced in the book, as well as their vital statistics. I recorded eye color, hair color, height, weight, age, and some other random information. Most of that wasn’t important in the actual book, but it makes all the difference to me in making my characters come alive. The character profile document was at least 5 pages long, so it was still a pretty hefty document.
I think the best thing I learned about planning my novel, though, came as I was writing it. Like most people participating in NaNo, I began writing at midnight on November 1. I wrote like a madwoman throughout the month, but as I referenced my notes I noticed two important things. First: my planning brought the story together in a way I never expected and allowed me to write freely without worrying too much about what would happen next. Second: planning doesn’t end when the writing begins.
Planning is an integral part of writing a novel for me. Knowing the steps to getting to the end of the novel was a huge part of my writing, but when I finally got around to writing the end of the novel, I realized I hadn’t planned for a few of the things that had managed to worm their way into the novel. So a few chapters out, I was planning once again, trying to figure out how best to end the story.
Personally I can definitely see the advantages of planning a story. What about you? Let me know and feel free to answer my questions as well. I’m kind of curious.
Next up should be a book review. Then I’m not sure what will come after that, but hopefully I’ll find something interesting. 😉 Hope you’re all doing well, and I promise I’ll be getting my rhythm back soon!