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Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Getting Started: Planning a Novel

There are two things I really enjoy in the writing process: preparation and revising. Actually writing the draft, not so much.

But there are some things I can do in the preparation stage that really help me when I'm writing the first draft. First of all, I've started using Scrivener, and I'm loving it. It helps me write my novel in small, manageable chunks.

Before we get to that, though, I have to put my novel into chunks. How do I do that? I outline. I keep my outlines very brief and vague so that there's plenty of room for creativity and flexibility. Like this:

IX. Deceived
   a. Dana acts strangely
   b. mad at Jayne for keeping the secret
   c. Finds box of old letters
   d. Mother says grandmother was a witch

I do this for each chapter. Then when I sit down to write, I'm just writing about 500 words for each chapter scene (usually four to a chapter). My brief descriptions give me enough idea of where the chapter is going that very rarely do I experience writer's block (writer's laziness is another issue). But it also still allows my creative juices to flow.

And of course I have a file for my characters, where I include basic stats (age, full name, birthday) and also personal information. This part is so much fun that I often forget I'm supposed to be writing! That would be my one piece of advice to you. Stop your planning and start writing. Just do it.

26 comments:

Hillary said...

Tamara you are amazing and I'm going to look up scrivener now. You love it enough I need to go find out about it!

Ann Best said...

That looks like a great way to do it! Thanks for posting this, Tamara. (Re: comment from Boycott American Women: I don't mind something like this if it's interesting. If it's lewd: to the trash!)

GryphonFledgling said...

Ha, this is exactly the reason why I don't plan things. If I do, I get so caught up in the shininess of the planning process, and making it all organized, and going down to the very last details, that I suck the soul out of the story and never actually get it written.

Francine Howarth said...

Hi,

Another very organised young lady!

Me neither plotter or pantster.

best
F

Shallee said...

Thanks for sharing some of your process! I'm similar in my outlining-- it's often vague, but gives me enough structure that I don't get stuck. :)

Summer Ross said...

My outlining tends to be very brief really, like you, giving plenty of room for creativity.

Margo Kelly said...

I have a character file, too! :) And, ick to the boycott American women.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Interesting idea, listing events per chapter. Also interesting, I think in scenes instead of chapters, I even divide many of the chapters after the rough draft is done. Your way seems much more organized :)

M Pax said...

Excellent ideas. I enjoyed reading. Have added to my notes.

Kari Marie said...

I like the idea of writing 500 words on a chapter. I might have to try that. Thanks for sharing your process.

LeishaMaw said...

I've been hearing good things about scrivener. I may have to go check it out. Thanks.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I am going to look up Scrivener now. Have heard lots about it. Thanks for sharing. I too jot down points about each and every character.

Elena Solodow said...

Good advice. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the planning details, but words on page is all important!

Christine Danek said...

I plan out my characters in a similar way. Interesting process. Thanks for sharing.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Hi Tamara
I think your system is very like mine - I do very brief statements in my planning grid. And I have character file for my characters : picture with basic details and their personal journey.
It was interesting to hear how alike our planning is. I do reach the point where I have to tell myself enough-is-enough it is time to write.
Cheers
Elaine

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

LOL, sounds like we all have very similar processes! Now I need to check out all of your processes!

Cheree said...

Great system, Tamara. I keep bios of each character, but not much else in the planning stage besides the occasional mindmap of events that I want to happen.

SariBelle said...

I'm jealous of the no writer's block thing. I think for my next WIP I'll have to steel some of the plotters' skills and make myself do a bit of preplanning. See if I can get it to work for me. (Writer's laziness is something I know about all too well).

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

ha ha, SariBelle! Yeah.Not a very validating excuse.

Lynda Young said...

I'm a planner as well, though my outlines are more detailed.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Hillary, Scrivener really is one of those "you have to try it to get it" sort of things. I think they have a month free trial for the Mac. Give it a try!

Christopher said...

I'll have to give scrivener a look. I'm actually the opposite of you. I like the writing of the draft, everything else? Not so much.

Plamena Schmidt said...

My outlines sound a lot like that, too :P I'll have to check out Scrivener.

Michelle said...

I like how you wrote about 500 words per chapter. I did that, too, on my first draft. What advantages does Scrivener provide?

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Hi Michelle! Scrivener puts your outline on a sidebar,so you can always see it while you are writing. You can drag and drop scenes if you want to rearrange. It breaks your novel into small chunks so goals are easily met.

Marieke said...

I'm a week late, but catching up on this blogfest now after I finally put my own entry up =)

Scrivener looks so pretty! But for now I'll stick to Word I think :)

The 500 words per chapter idea is great too :)

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