Back to the Drawing Board


I have this series that I’ve been writing for – literally – years. They’re probably some of the most promising material I’ve ever produced for a novel (which makes sense considering the time invested in them). But so far they haven’t made it past editing. The truth is this year I got tired of sitting back and saying “some day”. I made a vow to myself that I would finish the things I started, and that included finishing a book.

In my last blog I mentioned how I was inspired to start fiddling with my old fantasy novel called The Royal Rogue. I’ve desperately wanted to finish this thing since high school. The only problem was I had invested so many years into these characters and this novel that I had too much information floating in my head. By now almost every one of my characters has a life story. They have histories, struggles, quirks and material worthy of more subplots than any book should ever dare to take on.

So when I finally looked back at the story Sunday to refresh my mind I realized I needed to go back and sacrifice some of its rich detail. So I did what I’ve never actually done before.

I made a story chart.

I know this is an incredibly basic step that I should’ve done years ago. Before I would just scribble out a rough timeline telling me a beginning, middle and end. This time around I decided to go in depth. I’m not very Word savvy, so I began with a premade template for planning a paragraph and toyed around with it until it was big enough to house the skeleton of a novel. The result? A twenty chapter breakdown of a novel that now has clear direction and minimal subplots.

This little series of boxes and chapter breakdowns works for me better than anything I’ve ever tried before.

So what about you all? How do you go about planning/writing a novel?

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2 thoughts on “Back to the Drawing Board

  1. ha ha that diagram looks way more organised than anything I’ve ever made out, but I definitely find keeping a folder full of random ‘planning’ Word documents definitely helps – they seem to vary from book to book, whether I add notes to pages based on certain themes or characters, or whether I just make a word document which paragraph by paragraph outlines the book as a whole. I’ve definitely adopted a working method that it like being an English literature student in reverse – instead of tracing the images and themes, I actively threat them through like a weaver, and once the first draft is finished I try to approach character development etc as if I am an objective student reading the work
    C-C xx

  2. You are much more organized than I am! lol I usually formulate a basic premise in my mind and then jump in without any preplanning at all. My justification is that it gives me the freedom to let my characters write the story themselves, but they often do stuff that takes the story off on a tangent, and then it’s a lot of work for me to pull it all back together (lots of rewriting!).

    One planning technique I have used in the past is the character interview. I ask my characters questions to get a feel for their personalities, such as “If you found out you only had 6 months to live, would you continue to floss?” and “Tell me about your first love.” This is not something I would ever include in the novel, of course, but it helps to get to know my characters better.

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