Here’s an extract from my ebook on novel writing. Essentially it applies the Small Steps Method to planning a novel:
What does it take to write a novel?
Most novelists (those you can get to talk about it!) will tell you that writing a novel involves 7 main tasks:
- Finding inspiration, that is: practicing your craft, reading, observing.
- Planning, that is: deciding what to write, either in great detail or in an unformed way.
- Writing, that is: getting words down on the page.
- Editing, that is: playing around with your material until you have something you like.
- Proof-reading, that is: reading through the work to check for mechanical errors and consistency.
- Selling, that is: pitching the work to an agent and / or an editor.
- Marketing, that is: doing readings, writing a blog, creating a website, and doing everything you can to shift copies of your book.
They don’t all happen chronologically. I had no idea how to plan a novel when I wrote my first one. The bulk of the work was in the redrafting (editing). With the second, my publishers asked me about the cover (selling) before I’d written very much of it. This book is about the planning stage. If you want to find out about the other stages, I recommend some resources at the end.
So what’s it all about? The novel writing plan in this book is based on three main principles:
- You can keep breaking down your novel into smaller and smaller chunks.
- You can plan each part of your novel in the same way you plan the whole.
- You can use what we already know about classic story structure to plan your novel.
Why this novel writing plan works:
When we write a long piece of prose, we don’t write 50,000, 100,000 or 250,000 words. We write 1,000 words 50, 100 or 250 times, or we write 500 words 100, 200 or 500 times.
It is difficult to conceptualise a very long piece of writing. This plan allows you to conceptualise several short pieces of writing and join them together. You’ll end up with a scene-by-scene writing plan and you get to produce a list of manageable and imaginable writing tasks. Because the writing tasks it produces are very specific, this plan allows you to work out how long each stage will take. Also, the plan is flexible. Once you’ve completed your plan, I invite you to break the rules as much as possible!
Everything has a beginning, middle and end
A novel has a beginning, middle and end. So far, so easy to understand. We could express it – pretty straightforwardly – like this, even if we don’t know what we’re going to write about yet:
A novel has a beginning, middle and end and so does a scene. In fact, we could argue that in any kind of traditional storytelling everything must have a beginning, middle and end: the whole novel, each section of the novel (if applicable), each chapter, each scene, each paragraph and each sentence.
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