Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How Do I Plan My Book?

This week, 25 Ways to Beat Writer's Block is free on the Kindle. To celebrate that fact, we're going to look at some of the basic questions new writers ask. Previously, we looked at whether you should plan your book. If you're going to, let's now look at how you might do that.

How do I plan my book?

While I have a whole book on this topic - I'm that much of a fan of planning a book before writing it - this post can serve as a short master class for beginners. This practice works for more than just novels, too. All we're going to do is break down your book into scenes.

Step 1, figure out some key events in your book. These are the ones you most likely thought of when you were thinking about your book. Before I plan a book, I can already see some scenes in my head, like two characters meeting for the first time, or (as is the case with many short stories I write) a setting that sticks out because of how unusual it is.

How many key events you can imagine depends on how many ideas you've had for your book before this point. Don't worry, we're going to fill in the gaps soon. What we need before we do that, though, are a beginning, and an ending.

Your book will fill in the events between what happens at the very start, and what happens at the very end. If you're planning to write a series, it helps to know how the whole thing will end before you begin, and how many books you want to write. 

Say, for example, you're writing a trilogy. You need three powerful scenes to end each of your books on, that are natural endings to each part of the story, as well as concluding the individual tale contained in the book.

When you have your beginning and your ending(s), then we can move on to Step 2: filling in the gaps. Start with the scenes you have already. What needs to happen for your story to progress from one scene to another. For example, in the first Harry Potter book, we begin at Privet Drive, and later find Harry at Hogwarts. If we took those two key events/scenes to begin with, we then need to figure out what happens between each point.

Do that with each scene or idea you have, jotting down briefly what sort of event would lead to the next scene. Harry needs to get his invite to the school, so that has to happen. But, because we know the Dursleys don't want him to be a wizard, they'll try to keep the letter from him. To deal with that, the invitations keep coming, pushing the family away from the house, to the cabin where we meet Hagrid. You get the idea: each time you decide what needs to happen next, figure out what other steps need to be taken to keep the story moving from one scene to the next.

By the time you reach the end of your book, you should have a lot to work with. Break it up into chapters - use the larger events as a guide to where the chapter breaks will be.

Step 3: write it out neatly, and add in more detail if needed. I usually write out a paragraph for each scene in the book, but that's up to you.

If you want more information on planning a book, you can check out my ebook Planning Before Writing.

You can also find 25 Ways to Beat Writer's Block on Amazon, currently available for free download while the promotion lasts. Read more about it below.

Have you ever struggled with writer’s block? Have you sat at your desk, looking at your work in progress, wondering what to do with a character who just won’t budge, or a poem that just won’t take form, or an article that just won’t work for you? Have you ever joined thousands of authors in the search for a way to beat writer’s block?

From the author of Planning Before Writing comes a solution to the problem of writer’s block: 25 ways to tackle one of the biggest issues facing writers, each with an exercise to help you to develop as an author and improve your writing skills.

With exercises to suit every writer, and drawing on over ten years’ experience in the craft, 25 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block is a must-have reference for your collection.

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