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How to Plan a Novel

So I have a few ideas bumping around my head for my NaNoWriMo project this year and I have tried being a 'panster' with my writing a few times and it just doesn't work for me.  This year I am going to be writing a comprehensive plan which will include all my plot points, any sub plots and all my characters and their relationships to the story.

I have done a lot of research on the best way to plan a novel and they all seem to be a variation of the same process.  So I have my variation below, this is what I am going to be following and what I feel is going to work for me.

Step 1 - Start with a sentence

Start with just one sentence that is going to summarise the plot of your story.  Ignore character names and just focus on what the main story line is.  For example, a police detective's world is turned upside when a convict breaks out of prison and seeks revenge.

Step 2 - Expand to a paragraph

Take your sentence summary and expand this to a paragraph by thinking about your story structure.  Most stories will have a beginning, middle and end.  Think what you want to happen in each of these and turn that into a paragraph.  Each sentence in your paragraph should be a different point in the story as we will use these later to develop the plot again.

Step 3 - Characters

This is the most fun part of the plot creation for me, I love creating characters and developing them through interesting plot lines.  I start with character interviews for each of the main characters in my story, if you haven't done a character interview before, stay tuned as I'll be posting one here in a couple of days.

I try to keep these to one page with a closing paragraph for each character summarising the journey I want them to take.

Step 4 - Expand to a page

Now that you have your main characters outlines you can take these and really start to beef out your plot line.  In this stage we will take the paragraph from Stage 2 and turn this in to a page of about five paragraphs.  I work through this by taking each sentence and developing that in to a paragraph of its own.

Step 5 - Characters

At this point you should have a good idea of where your plot is going and what the characters are likely to face on their journey.  Take the character summary from each of your character pages from Step 3 and turn each one in to a page that details that character's journey.

Step 6 - Finalise the plot

So by this point you should be pretty comfortable with the direction that your story is going in.  What I do at this stage is really flesh out the page from Step 4 and add some of the more important bits of information, place names, timelines, the inciting incident and the resolution etc.  You should have all the information on these pages to give you direction to your novel, their shouldn't be any plot holes once this stage has been completed.

Step 7 - Set the scene

By using the finalised plot from Step 6 make a list of all the scenes that you need to create to get your characters from the beginning to the end.  Turn each point on the list in to a paragraph or a page.  Think about the tone of the scene, what happens, which characters are involved, tension points to engage the reader etc.

Then, you write like you're running out of time...

So this is my plan to writing my Nano novel.  What do you think?  Do you do anything differently when it comes to planning a novel?  Let me know in the comments below.

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