Novel Planning in 3 Easy Steps

Welcome to my guide on Novel Planning.  Stay tuned every Wednesday for tips on writing, social media, and the publishing industry.  If I can’t get around to a video, there will generally be a written blog on a new exciting subject!

I know some authors eschew the thought of video, so for those of you interested in reading the transcript rather than watch the video, read on!

“Hi everyone, I’m Trevor Schmidt, science fiction writer and general geek (General Geek). Today’s show is going to help you plan that novel you’ve been thinking about writing. So, break out that pen and paper and let’s get started.

These days it seems like everyone is writing a novel, but what sets apart the good from the bad? I’m willing to bet it’s planning. Today I’ve got a few tips to help you plan out that novel that will take your book to the next level. This will also have the benefit of helping to prevent writer’s block.

So, let’s get into it.

Step 1: The Synopsis:

The first thing I do when writing a story or novel is to write a one to two paragraph synopsis. This will help me later on as a quick reference guide. This also helps you if someone asks what your novel is about. Then you have a pre-made elevator speech ready to go.

Step 2: The Characters:

The next thing I do is write out a little bit about each character; just a short description and a little bit of backstory. This is something I often add to later because after I go through a novel I’ll be adding extra characteristics and then I’ll put it into that character description sheet so I can refer to it later on. Once you have your cast of characters sorted out it’s on to…

Step 3: The Breakdown:

One thing I’ve learned from experience is that I like to write about thirty chapters, give or take a few. For everyone else that might be a little different. One thing you can do is look at your favorite books or authors and see about how many chapters they write. Finding what’s right for you will be a little bit of a learning process. You don’t have to know exactly how many chapters you’re going to end up with, because this is just a starting point.

What I like to do with this is to write a paragraph for each chapter, and it’s just what happens. None of the technical details. The reason I do this is then I have a reference guide for when I write. Every day when I start writing, I can look back at where I left off and where I’m going. Having this quick reference guide is really helpful when you write yourself into a corner.

It is worth noting that I have never made it through a novel without changing this chapter breakdown. It is just a starting point. Sometimes not even this quick reference guide will help you. Sometimes you just have to write something sub-par and come back to it later with fresh eyes. That’s what the editing process is for. I’ve started every novel with these three steps and I’m currently on my sixth one.

Regardless of whether you want to use these reference guides later on, it’s a great exercise to help you really understand what your story is about and where you want to go with your novel. Sometimes just creating this reference guide is enough to give me insight into where I need to deviate from the plot in order to create a good twist.

I hope this short guide will help you as you plan out your novel. Subscribe to my channel for more videos in which I break down writing, social media, and that pesky publishing industry. I put out new videos every Wednesday so stay tuned for more tips.”

(Watch the end of the video for a special appearance by my cat, cringer. He’s a little shy).


If you found this guide on Novel Planning helpful, be sure to comment, like the video, and share it with your friends!

Science Sunday: Uber May Compete Against Google for Self-Driving Cars

Uber On The Move

This week Uber announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University researchers to develop an “Autonomous Taxi Fleet.”  Uber has been in the news a lot lately with controversy surrounding taxi companies and local ordinances that have ratcheted up taxes and fees on Uber drivers.  This play flies in the face of everything they’ve espoused so far.  Uber has built a following because it’s allowed unemployed or underemployed individuals make some extra cash on the side, some people even making a living being drivers.  However, getting into the autonomous car business wouldn’t immediately diminish their appeal in my opinion.  It will likely take years before they can even implement such a plan and once they do, they won’t immediately gain market share that threatens their own human drivers or those of taxi companies.  That said, withing 25 to 50 years I think almost all taxis will be autonomous.

Who remembers the “Johnny Cab,” from the beloved 1990 science fiction film Total Recall?  If not, check out this video:

I think the taxi cabs of the future will be a little more sophisticated than this, but for 25 years ago, it got a lot right.  If you want to go back further, Total Recall is based on the 1966 short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” by one of my favorite authors, Philip K. Dick.  While Johnny Cab might not have been in the short story, Philip K. Dick was one of those futurists who got a lot right. He was also known for his story which turned into the 2002 film of the same name, “Minority Report.

With autonomous vehicles a practical certainty at this point, I’m led to a point I’ve been thinking about for some time and which played a small role in some of my previous works.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 233,000 Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs in the United States alone.  This is only one area in which technology is shaping the future of jobs in the United States and the rest of the world.  If Uber and Google compete in the autonomous car business they will inevitably eat into these jobs, but replace them with more jobs for engineers and people to maintain the vehicle fleets. I think there will still be a net job loss, though, because the people who are driving the taxi cabs probably don’t have skills that translate to more technical work.

This is also being seen in banks, where there might only be one or two employees working in a branch with the rest being automated.  Is it a bad thing that we’re losing jobs that don’t require much training or technical skills? Maybe, but maybe not.  The world is getting more competitive every day, but I wonder what the job markets of the future will look like?  Will we all be repairing our robotic overlords until they can learn to repair themselves?  At that point they certainly wouldn’t need us anymore, as Elon Musk and several others have recently pointed out.  I’m going to approach this one with cautious optimism. It is likely that autonomous cars will drive down the cost of transportation, especially in big cities, and that will mean more people can afford to commute.  This would certainly be good for the overall job market.  Unless you are a Taxi driver that is.