Every book starts somewhere, usually as a bundle of nonsense in a writer’s head, but at some point, those words need to be put down on a page and a plan needs to be formed. Now, I know a lot of people may want to write without a plan, I know I was once one of these people because, of course, I already know everything that’ll happen in my story.
…No…no you don’t.
Story ideas sometimes don’t pan out as you envisioned, you will drop ideas and bring in new ones throughout because you didn’t think it through properly. Writing out a plan will help at least remind you of where you are going.
The planning technique I use is the snowflake method, which is essentially expanding and branching out from one sentence into a whole plan (like a snowflake).
Step 1: One sentence Summary
Write your elevator pitch, preferably less than 15 words which sums up your entire story.
Step 2: Expand into five sentences
Now expand that one sentence into five, covering the following story beats:
Sentence 1: Explain the setting and introduce the lead characters
Sentence 2: Explain the first quarter of the book, up to the first disaster, where the hero commits to the story
Sentence 3: Explain the second quarter of the book, up to the second disaster, where the hero changes his mode of operations
Sentence 4: Explain the third quarter of the book, up to the third disaster, which forces the hero to commit to the ending
Sentence 5: Explain the fourth quarter of the book, where the hero has the final confrontation, and either wins or loses or both
Step 3: Expand once more
For each of those sentences, expand them into a paragraph totaling about a page long, it doesn’t need to be completely detailed just yet.
Step 4: Starting to work on the characters
Now you have a good idea about your plot, we need to start work on your characters. Start putting down the basic for each of your major characters:
• The character’s name
• A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline
• The character’s motivation (Abstract)
• The character’s goal (Concrete)
• The character’s conflict
• The character’s epiphany
If at this point (or any point) you realise you need to revise over your plot outline to fit into your characters’ storylines better, you should do now. Better do it now while planning than later in edits.
Step 5: Expand on your characters
Write up a one-page description of each major characters and half a page on any character you consider relevant to do so for, these should be from the POV of the characters to show what they are going through and how they change.
Step 6: Take a break and come back
Take a week and let the plan rest. Now you have a clearer idea of where your characters are going you should now be able to write a longer plot synopsis hopefully around 4 pages long. Expand each paragraph into just less than a page essentially and it gives you a chance to fix any little things and work out any plot holes.
Step 7: Expand, expand and expand again
Go back to your characters and make character charts, you can easily find these online, but most importantly know how your characters will have changed from the start to the end of your story. Make sure everything is as long as it needs to be, and you’ve explained everything as fully as possible.
Step 8: Write out your scenes
You know where it’s going now, and this is when I like to write out the scenes that are going to take place, but this depends on how you write, a list of scenes maybe a waste of time if you work well enough from a synopsis.
By now you should have a fully-fledged plan, now all you need to do is write a first draft. Good luck Xx