Structuring a novel isn’t easy. Some writer’s just let their writing plan connect up, but I’m not experienced enough to do that.
So I’m doing what I love, which is planning things out visually.
I tried this approach last year and never really followed through on it. I left it at half a plan (Akrasia, of course) and decided to create as I went along. This seems to be the way for lots of established authors. Their advice is to “Just start!” and that is absolutely great advice for starting a project or overcoming self doubt.
The distinction here is between:
1) the creative act of writing, which lots of us have and say “I write when I get the urge“
2) the routine of writing a novel, which is not the same as the above.
This is where I fell apart last year. To cut a long story short, I needed structure. Too much overwhelm, too much content, too many ideas and no serious writing structure to help mould the process.
The Year Two Writing Plan
In Year One, I made a pact about silence – silence from telling people about the story and I’m sticking to it this year too. It was honestly one of the most helpful things I did. So many previous projects got caught up in this rush of describing the book idea to anyone who showed a mild interest.
One important aspect of the planning is the inclusion of themes and beats in the structure, before I even start. I know my layout of the general story, but found that during the writing I was shifting backwards and forwards having to crowbar in bits and pieces as they cropped up. So, this is the move to eliminate that.
Themes, archetypes and characters
It’s a lot to balance and I’m breaking up the areas of the book (some already written last year and ready to be rewritten) and fleshing out what the actual word count should be.
- Themes are getting added in more as a reinforcement as I write – they are one of the more organic elements of the writing, but sometimes I felt way off course.
- Archetypes I’m talking about are the kind of overarching structures that we see in Seven Basic Plots – we can’t escape these story types and I’ve spent some time trying to ignore using them. They are naturally occurring, but I’m keen to give myself as much backbone information as I can. If the book comes out as rehearsed then that is how it is this draft, but the most important thing is that I work through and finish it. I need all the help I can get.
- Characters are my weakness. A lot of the planning this month will be directed towards fleshing the people in the narrative out so that their actions seem real and not just created on the fly for the scene. I know I’m critical of myself here, but I think it’s well founded.
So the next step this week is set all of this out, visually – post it notes / highlighters / coloured paper… hell maybe even some string, and see what I come out with. The ultimate aim is to have a summarised version of the novel, with a concrete set of scenes and character actions, leading from start to finish. With ten rough phases or areas to work on.
Then I’ll be working on these individual narrative sets (let’s say 10,000 words each… so there are 10 of them) as mini deadlines in order to help maintain momentum, energy and the desire to finish.
TL/DR (too long/didn’t read)
- Writing when you feel like it is not going to work.
- Don’t tell anyone about what you’re writing till you finish a draft.
- Planning the entire book is a good way to get an overview.
Thanks for reading!
ps – I’ve launched a mailing list to keep people up to date with progress, but also to send out short stories and other bits and bobs that would never hit the blog itself. So, if you’d like to keep pace with the One Book One Year project, plus extra insights, then please sign up below.*
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