Plan, plan then plan some more

I might have mentioned previously that I’m firmly in the planning camp.

I even host a series of Guest Posters who give us their methods in writing a novel. Some of them fall into the planning camp, some the pantser camp and some sit on the fence, don’t they Michelle!

When I say, I’m a planner that doesn’t mean I don’t let the story go where it wants to, that I don’t let the characters wander off and do their own thing. I’m not in charge. They do whatever they want to do. I use my plan to steer them back into the story.

The WIP I wrote as part of Camp NaNo, A Scream In The Woods was planned out in Scrivener. The first 7 chapters and the last two were mapped before I started work. When I hit chapter 5 things had already changed. A turn of events forced me down a different road, but the overall plan didn’t change.

I mentioned previously in my Just Do It post, that people have often said they’ve had a great idea for a novel, but don’t take it any further. Part of that is probably not knowing what to write, or at least, how to write it.

That’s where I think a plan is a good guide to set things in motion.

Write an outline. Might only be a couple of paragraphs about your plot, who your main protagonist is and what their motivation is to tell the story. Let the idea settle for a while, might keep popping into your mind. Use a notebook to keep writing down these thoughts.

Then, maybe write a longer outline. Maybe a couple of pages about the story, flesh out the other characters. You are going to have more than one character aren’t you?

I then turn the outline into three parts. Your beginning, middle and end phase. I always start with a 30 chapter plan. Roughly 10 pages a chapter leading to a 300 page book. A nice length for a novel, not too short, not too long.

Through planning and the outline, I step through the three stages and make a few notes. This might only be something like Main Protagonist goes for a drive into the village. Interacts with strange man with a cactus. It might be more detailed a couple of paragraphs or more.

I like to have an ending in mind though that doesn’t mean I will stick to it. My brain needs to have the ending to know the twists and turns I want the reader to go through to take them there.

When I have enough to work with, I can start. I’ll plan the rest as I go and the more time I spend with the characters, the rest sort of fills in as we tell their story. So planning helps me get the story off the ground and we go from there.

How much do you plan your novels?



This is my P post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. A list of all my A to Z Blogging Challenge posts are to be found here.

Today’s photographs are two from Pickering and our Golden Post Box thanks to Jessica Ennis. All the Gold Medalists from London 2012 were given a Post Box make-over. The usually red box painted Gold. Nice touch.


Gold. Jessica Ennis won the medal at the Olympics and here’s the post box to prove it!

A lovely area to sit and watch the world go by in Pickering

A lovely area to sit and watch the world go by in Pickering

The quaint Pickering train station

The quaint Pickering train station

About Pete Denton

I'm a writer working my way through the redrafts of a British crime novel. I also write short stories, flash fiction and some screen writing. Check out my blog for more.
This entry was posted in A to Z Blogging Challenge, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Plan, plan then plan some more

  1. Kourtney Heintz says:

    Wow, you really are a planner. πŸ™‚ But i like how you use it as a road map and allow short detours and meanderings as needed. Sometimes I have a sense of chapter count, but sometimes it totally takes me by surprise.

    • Pete Denton says:

      I really am πŸ˜€

      I do like to be flexible about things and sometimes what I plan to be chapter 3 becomes chapter 8 as so much more happens that I wasn’t expecting. When I sit down to write I like to know roughly what’s going to happen. Otherwise I know I won’t start writing.

      I never finish on 30 chapters or have 10 pages a chapter, but I always feel like it’s a good place to start. I’m a stats geek at heart πŸ™‚

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    When the next idea hits me, I’m going to try a minimal outline to start, something beyond the “rough idea” in my head. Or I’ll at least jot down notes about the idea first. Who knows? Maybe those steps will lead me to a more formal outline. Maybe. I am a pantser, after all. πŸ˜‰

    • Pete Denton says:

      I only tried the pantsing approach once and stopped at 30 pages. I’m recycling that opening as the start to my next NaNo project, fully planned of course πŸ™‚

      Good luck with your next project. I do admire the pantser approach.

  3. Planning is key! I don’t get super detailed, though, before I do any writing. I usually start with a short outline, a general direction, then make a scene-by scene plan for the first quarter. Then I write the first quarter and make a scene-by-scene of the second quarter, then write the second quarter, etc.

  4. noelleg44 says:

    You are really a planner! I spent my life as a scientist planning everything out in great detail, including papers. I’m enjoying NOT planning my books – I just enjoy where my mind takes me. I do have ideas written down and a general organization in my head, and we’ll see how it worked for this first book.

    • Pete Denton says:

      The beauty about writing is finding how it works best for you. Interesting your other work leads such an organised existence and you’re going with the opposite approach in your book. Happy writing!

  5. EllaDee says:

    Pickering looks like a storybook place. I love that you took a picture of the train station. I love trains and old stations.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Pickering is a lovely place. We only ever stop off there for a couple of hours driving to and from Whitby as it’s a nice place to park up and eat lunch. They do have a very nice train station. I don’t think my pictures did it justice, but that’s all I had for P πŸ™‚

  6. Elisa says:

    I guess I fail on the planning stages then, or the follow through once I start planning πŸ™‚ Love the pictures!

  7. Subtlekate says:

    I get so excited about an idea that I tend to jump in and then get to that terrible place where I don’t know whether to go left or right. Then I go back and plan.
    I need a planning camp

  8. You make it sound so easy, now where’s my pen…

    • Pete Denton says:

      I wish it were easy. I’ve not done any writing for the last two weeks. I’ll be glad when the A to Z Challenge is put to bed for the year and I can look forward to finishing my draft. End of April is now going to be end of May. Focus πŸ™‚

  9. cassmob says:

    Lovely train station at Pickering! I admire your strategies for writing including the planning. I think the advice to let it simmer sub-consciously is also a good one.

  10. Pingback: So, what did I do in 2015? | Pete Denton - Writer

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