A Step by Step guide to Planning your Writing.

“The best time for planning a book is while you are doing the dishes.” – Agatha Christie.

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So, you want to write something. Perhaps it’s a novel or a short story. Regardless of what it is, writing it can sometimes seem overwhelming. This is why planning is key. It can keep you focused and help you grow your idea.

I am currently half way through my first draft and I don’t think I would have made it this far without planning. Planning has really helped me clarify my idea for my novel and made writing my first draft so much easier.

Here is my step by step guide for planning out your story or novel before you start writing.

  • The Idea

This is the core of your story, which is what it is so important. What is it that you want to write about? Jot down any ideas that you have and pick out your favourites. Think about what type of novel you want to write. Is there a genre you want to explore? It there a current or topical issue you want to write about? Decide what you want to write about and form the basic idea for your story.

  • The Pitch

Now that you have your idea you need to condense it. Write a maximum of four sentences which explains what your story is about. In this explain the concept and what happens. This will hep clarify your idea. Sometimes when you have a really great idea it can get lost as your plot gets more complicated. By condensing it to 4 sentences you can clarify what story you want to tell.

 

  • Characters

Now that you have your plot you will need to develop your characters. Often when characters seem flat and unrealistic in writing it is because they have not been fully thought out. To avoid this, do a mind map of your character. Write their name in the centre and then list their character traits around the edge. Sometimes it can also help to place them in a normal situation, such as ordering a coffee, to get a sense of how they behave. When you do this make sure you write out some dialogue scenes. Writing out their dialogue and how they speak before starting to write will also help give you characters a clear voice and keep them consistent throughout your writing.

 

  • World Building and Research.

This step is really important. If you want to convince your reader to get list in the world you are creating you need to have a clear idea of what that world is. If you are creating a fantasy world you need to work out what it looks like, what the people are like, draw maps ect. This will take you some time but it will be well worth it. If the setting of your story is more similar to real life than a fiction world you will need to so research on what you are talking about. For example, if for one scene your characters visit Scotland you will need to do some research into the area so that when you come to description, it sounds convincingly realistic. Research will extend to the plot as well as the setting. For example, if you are writing about an illness that a character has, make sure you know and understand the illness well enough to get it right. Research can be very boring and tedious when all you want to do is write, however if you skip this step your writing will seem flat and not thought out.

 

  • Scene by Scene

Before I start to write I like to plan exactly what is going to happen in each scene of my story. This helps me get a clear idea in my head of what I want to happen. It is also a really good tool for keeping writers block away as instead of sitting at my computer trying to think of what to write next I can look at my plan and use it as a guide. Although I like to do a really detailed scene by scene some people prefer to do a really broad plan that isn’t as detailed as planning instead. Nonetheless whether you do a detailed scene by scene or not, I would recommend that you do a bit of planning just to keep you on track.

Remember though, just because you made this plan at the start doesn’t mean you can’t re-do it later if you want your story to take a different course. If half way through writing, you believe that the plot or characters want to take you in a different direction then listen to them and adjust your plan.

 

  • Start writing

After all this planning you are now ready to start your first draft. Remember to have fun while you write and don’t get to hung up on writing a perfect first draft. Remember ‘Don’t get it right, get it written.’

 

How do you plan your novels and short stories? Do you even plan at all? Let me know in the comment below.

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4 Ways to Battle those First Draft Blues

“All good writing begins with terrible first efforts” – Anne Lamont.

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All writers have written very, very bad first drafts. I doubt that any author whether they be a literary geniuses or not have ever sat down at their computer and typed out a perfect manuscript without mistakes. You probably know this. You may have even already been through the process of writing something horrendously bad and saved it later with rigorous editing and rewriting. Yet still, you often sit with a blank page laid out in front of you terrified to write because you know it will be god damn awful. Eventually you write something. Decide its awful. Delete it immediately. Then a slow sense of dread begins to set in and you decide that you are a terrible writer who has no business putting anything down on paper. These are the first draft blues and they are the road block to finishing your first draft. Here are my four top tips that I currently implement in order to beat these first draft blues.

1.) Write something else

Sometimes you just need to take a break from your idea. If you are writing a long novel this tip can be especially helpful. Find some kind of writing prompt and make it fun. Write about what its like to be an alien or a puppy. Write about something that has made you laugh recently. Write about anything, but don’t edit it. Just write it and have fun. No one will ever have to read it and it doesn’t need to be good. Make it as silly and ridiculous as you can. This will help you remember how fun writing can be when you don’t hold back. Most importantly it will mean that you have started writing for that day so continuing to write your first draft won’t seem so intimidating.

2.) Music

I find that when I am struggling to focus or concentrate on finishing a piece of writing it helps to try and relax and shut out the real world so that I can get lost in the one I am creating. Music is a great way to accomplish this. I prefer to listen to classical as it has no lyrics that I can get carried away singing along to and can be very soothing. Playing relaxing music can also help you loosen up and feel more comfortable about writing your first draft.

3.) Don’t get it right, get it written.

A very talented script writing teacher once gave me this golden nugget of advice and I think it is the most important advice anyone writing their first draft needs to remember. Perfectionism is the enemy of a first draft. If you are constantly editing your work as you write you will defiantly end up feeling depressed about writing. You may even stop writing your fist draft altogether. So, don’t edit. It will only make it worse. Just except that what you are writing is bad and keep going. You can make it perfect later, that is what editing is for. Resist the urge to re-read and edit and just repeat the mantra “Don’t get it right, get it written.”

4.) Word limits.

The final way to beat those first draft blues is to set yourself a word limit. Some people advise that you could also set a time limit but if you struggle with writing first drafts I would not recommend this. I find that if I set a time limit, I end up staring at the clock stressing about how little I have written for the past hour. A word count is also better because it forces you to just write. You are rewarding yourself for the words you are putting down on the page and not the quality of them.  You can vary the amount of words you need to write each day dependent on how busy you are. Simply sit down, write whatever comes to mind until you reach your word limit and the don’t worry about what you have written. That is, until you come to edit it.

 

Do you have any tips on how to beat those first draft blues? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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