Plotting and planning is the only way I can get a story completely written. If I’ve finished the draft, then I’ve had a plan. To me, book planning is an important part of the writing process, but it doesn’t have to be rigid or stop you from having those creative epiphanies as you write.
Look. I know not everyone is a plotter. I’m a hardcore one, though.
Do I have a database full of information about a series I’ve started writing? Yes.
Is it EXTREME? Yeah. A little.
Do I think everyone should do the same? Nope.The Key to Book Planning Like a Pro Click To Tweet
For me, the purpose of book planning is so I don’t get stuck or plot myself into a corner. There’s a whole internet conspiracy about why George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished Game of Thrones, and it revolves around a plot hole that has been published into the series that I he can’t get out of. (Google Meereenese knot if you wanna know more.)
This is not to knock Martin. That man has made some cash with his writing, and his story is loved by a lot of people.
But it is to say that I’m writing a series with more books, and also not great at thinking ahead. So without my database, there would likely be huge plot holes and corners I’ve backed myself into in each book.
That’s why planning is crucial to me. But how does someone get started?
Think Like a Story Planner
When I say think like a story planner, I mean that you simply need to think about the important bits of a story. Think of the story beats. Think of the scenes you want in the chapters. Think about the overall flow of the story and where the highs and lows will fall.
This can be a lot, so break it down.
I recommend starting with a pen and paper, and then mind mapping your way through it, or using index cards to get each individual idea out. Then, move the index cards around or draw lines between ideas in the mind map. This can help you see where stuff needs to go.
You can also try a story planner software if you’d like. Scrivener has the notecard function, and I’ve heard great things about Plottr. I’ve been using Airtable to create my database, and that seems to be the method that’s working best for me.
The main reason I story plan is for momentum. It’s hard to keep going when you don’t know what to write next. So, I don’t use a short story planner, simply because I have a general idea of what’d I’d like to say in the short story, and I don’t have as much space to get lost like I do with a novel.
Thinking like a story planner has been crucial for me to finish projects. And it’s helped me stay excited about the story I’m working on in the long run.Thinking like a story planner has been crucial for me to finish projects. And it's helped me stay excited about the story I'm working on in the long run. Click To Tweet
Book Planning Like a Pro
Maybe I haven’t convinced you yet, and that’s okay. Let’s talk about how book planning can help you as a writer.
001: You can sit down and just write.
I absolutely hate to have a writing session where I don’t know what’s going on. When I write, I want to write. So I need to know what I’ll be writing.
The outline or book plan keeps me on track. I’ve already thought about the story, and it means that I don’t have to sit and think about the story for as long before diving in.
This may seem silly, but the easier it is for me to dive into the actual writing part of writing, the easier it is for me to keep showing up to the project I’m working on.
Yes, I like to daydream and stare out the window and create playlists for characters. But I do that in the pre-writing stage. That’s part of planning. And once I’ve done that, I can easily dive into writing.
002: Editing becomes easier.
If you think about the story beforehand and know what you want to do with it, then you’re less likely to spend time figuring out the story as you go. That means you won’t have to cut as many chunks of the story or make big changes later when you finally figure out where the story is going.
Sure, you will still have to edit. You will always have edits.
But the editing becomes easier when you’re writing to a plan because you weren’t figuring out the story as you went. You were writing the story you already figured out.
003: There are fewer blocks.
Everyone gets writer’s block. For me, it’s usually from external factors and I just need to step away to clear my head before I come back.
But if you don’t have a writing plan, a lot of the blocks you experience may come from the story itself. You may have written 50,000 words only to realize that you need to go back to chapter one and let the story branch off in another direction.
And, to be sure, I’m not saying that book planning can eliminate that 100%.
But it can make you more likely to see where the story needs to go before you start writing.
004: It keeps your flow on track.
Keeping my flow on track is important because if I know where I’m going, I can stay in that flow state without stopping. I don’t have to pause the momentum and stop what I’m doing to figure out the story.
This is also why I’m always telling everyone to write first, edit later. Keeping my fingers on the keys and moving forward is important to me.
005: You can focus your epiphanies.
So, I don’t know every story element as I go. I have an idea, but there are still moments of creative discovery as I’m writing. (Getting into the flow state helps with that a lot.)
Having a story outline or a book plan can keep those epiphanies on track. You’re not having a moment of brilliance that you add to the story, only to cut later because it just won’t fit with the story. You’re already in a place where you know what will fit with the story, so you can stay on track a lot more easily.The best part about book planning? Hitting the flow state and focused epiphanies. Click To Tweet
Create Your Book Planning Template
So, hopefully I’ve convinced you to plan your next novel writing project. And if so, here are some resources to help you out.
- How to Outline a Novel with Tarot Cards: If you like dipping into your intuition when you write, you may enjoy planning a book using tarot cards.
- Creating a Romance Novel Outline Using Romancing the Beat: Story beats are the best way for me to stay on track with my writing. I love Romancing the Beat, since I read and write romance, and this post is all about how I modified it a bit for the story world I created.
- The 90-Day Novel Planner: If you like using a paper planner to work through stuff, you can use this planner to figure out the 3-act structure of your novel, as well as the chapter-by-chapter outline, character profiles, and settings. Plus, it helps you track your writing and how far along you are.
Are You a Book Planner?
Do you ever plan the stories you write? What’s your favorite method for planning a series? Have you ever created a book series database?