Novel planning - or, getting lost on Spotify

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Today I thought I would go through, step-by-step, how I plan my novels. I'll use my novel The Log House as an example as its freshest in my mind, but really this applies to anything I do. I hope it helps you on your own writing journeys!

I always like to start with a single idea, generally a What If? question. For The Log House it was the following -

If humanity had barricaded themselves away from a hidden danger in small makeshift towns, what would happen to someone who was exiled?

A What If question allows you to branch off more easily, leading you into the finer details of a story. A person was exiled? Who? Why? What happens next?

It's generally at this point that characters begin to form for me. What sort of person would be exiled? How about someone who had hurt someone else is some way. Who was hurt? What sort of person are they? Give your characters goals and obstacles to these goals in order to create tension. 

Once I have a few characters I work on a simple plot line. Generally this is just a list of bullet points that follow a basic story arc but as I write more ideas tend to occur to me. I think of ways to transition between plot events, and new events to stop my characters from reaching their goals. I keep going over the storyline, trying to make sure it all makes sense, until I have the bare bones for each chapter.

Now comes the part I find the most fun and the part I can find myself lost in. 

Collecting my "inspirations".

I have all sorts of websites I use to gather inspirational images and music. Seeing pictures of similar settings and atmospheres help me to create a clearer image in my head. Sometimes I even scan through hairstyle magazines to find my characters! I like to collect all these images in Pinterest and you can see my The Log House collection here. 

As for music, I use two websites - 8tracks and Spotify. 

8tracks is a great resource for finding ready made playlists on certain themes. You can find music inspired by character types, settings or even particular situations (such as being hunted by evil creatures). Once I have found a bunch of music that inspires me, I move on to Spotify. 

Generally I like to create two playlists - one for writing which is a playlist of purely instrumental music, and the other as an inspiration playlist to listen to between writing sessions. Music really helps to boost my creativity and I often find new ideas and character motivations coming to me by listening to the lyrics of a relevant song. Instrumental songs with the right atmosphere can help me get into the writing mood and to block out external distractions. 

You can listen to both of my playlists here and here.

Next I rewrite my chapter plan with any addictions brought on by the images and music. And then is the scary part. 

It's time to write.

I hope this post can help you out with your own planning. What planning methods do you use? Let me know in the comments below!

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Getting ready for print
Publication date: Autumn 2017
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