It is not November, which is when NaNoWriMo officially begins. So what am I doing?
Planning, that's what. Oh, the planning process! So much to do, so little time. Let me tell you a little about my Planning Process.
Step One: Get a Vague Idea
It can be the vision of a certain scene, a character sketch, a picture in your head of some random but somewhat important object, and around that the story will bloom. It doesn't have to all come to you at once. In fact, one of the most fun parts about writing is discovering you plot. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Step Two: Discovering Your Plot
This step is one of my favorites. I get to sit down and think about a story that no one else in the world has ever told. I get to, in a way, discover it. Unearth it.
How do I do this? Two words: Plot Vomit. Excuse the graphic imagery, but that is really the only way to describe it. Sit down and either longhand or typed, write out everything that comes to mind in a big, sloppy synopsis. Just get it out as quickly as possible, without looking over what you have written, even to spell check. You can do that later, I promise. Just write. And write. Plot Vomit until you have nothing left. And that leads to:
Step Three: Plotting Your Plot
After you have gotten the horrible jumbled mess on paper (whether tangible or virtual), it is time to look over what you heaved up.
Clean it up.
Read it again.
Now do it again.
Step Four: Theme
I cannot stress enough how important theme is to a story. Theme is to a book what thesis is to an essay. You can't have one without the other and have something meaningful. You need a theme.
This one may be a little trickier to work out, but be patient and you'll get it. And you will benefit from it so so so much.
Theme should affect every aspect of your story, from overarching change to the smallest of details. (To learn more about Theme and how to develop it, go here. )
Step Five: Outline
The Outline is a step that I very often skip early on and always wish I hadn't later. It is a step-by-step, play-by-play telling of your story in brief snippets. I usually do mine in timeline form; i.e., I plan out everything that happens chronologically, even if they may not happen exactly that way in the storytelling. (For instance, if someone commits a murder, I put the crime in when it happens, rather than when the police find out about it. But I also add when the police find out about it, too. This makes for a longer outline, but also a clearer one.) I write my outlines out on 3x5 cards, one snippet at a time, but there are various ways to outline: on Post-Its on the wall, in a text document using either numbers or bullet points, or using Scrivener's outlining system. Whatever works for you.
Step Six: Outline Revisions
It is never too late to revise your outline (unless your book is already published; it may be a tad late then). Read over your outline. Did you find a sagging middle, plot hole, or something that was just a bit off? Well, now is the time to fix it. Better fix all of those problems now then when you elbow deep in your manuscript and wondering what went wrong?
Step Seven: Write! (Or, if you're ready, but it's still October, wait for November.)
Congratulations! You have planned a novel! Now all you have to do is change that outline from an outline into a novel. Hopefully, with all the planning under your belt, that will be more fun than difficult. But don't be fooled; writing is hard, no matter how much you plan. But don't give up! You can now move out of the majority of “writers” who want to write, to one who actually wrote. Have at it!
Or, if you're doing NaNoWriMo, just sit back for a minute a take a deep breath before the plunge; you have quite a challenge set before you. Have fun!
And, Happy Writing!