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).


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5 Steps to Setting the Scene in a Novel or Story

Setting the Scene: Writing Wednesday

Setting is an important part of any story, but setting the scene can be even more important.

This week I thought I’d try something a bit different and give you my blog on the process of writing in video form!

Setting the Scene Key Points:

1. Know your characters. Be conscious of your characters’ personality traits and whether their actions in a scene are in line with their prior actions. If your character does something totally out of character, it can still work if there’s a reason for it. However, often times this can make the reader stumble. As a general rule, it’s usually good to make sure your characters act within predefined roles, even if those roles are kept secret from the reader. Hiding a character’s motives can make a character have depth, as long as the author, you, knows where the character’s true intentions lie.

2. Don’t waste time. Jump right into the action. There is such a thing as boring your reader to death. Some types of back story are great for the reader and really help with setting the scene, especially in epic fantasy stories and novels with a rich history. However, there’s a point where the reader just wants something to happen. Be cognizant of this while you’re writing and you’ll be doing your reader a service.

3. The first appearance. The first time any character is introduced is when you want to spend the most time describing it. At the end of the scene, you want your reader to come away with a picture in their head. Otherwise, when you reintroduce that character later on, your reader might be confused. Setting the scene from the get-go is important, and getting the initial description down is critical.

4. Setting. Going along with the first appearance, it’s also crucial to describe a place appropriately the first time a reader sees it. While it is recommended that enough description be given to give the reader a picture in their head, there’s something to be said for writing in a concise way. I say this because then every reader will be able to morph the words in their head and create their own picture, as long as you give them enough to go on. Some places are more important than others as far as description goes. If you’re never going to come back to a place, you probably want to get all of your description out at once. If you do plan on going there again, you might be able to get the basics out of the way the first time, and then add more nuances later on. This way, every time a reader sees the place they don’t get the same description, but something more in depth. Don’t play all of your cards at once.

5. The Senses. For me, it’s easier to add these details in later. Otherwise, one week I could be heavily focused on smell and another on taste. Instead, I like to save an entire read-through when I’m on my second draft for adding in different sensory details. This way I can make sure to get a fairly even assortment and avoid becoming repetitive. However, if it works within the confines of the scene and you can see during your rough draft that it will add something to the scene, go for it. Writing is not an exact science. If it were, reading would be very dull. That said, I hear at the dead center of every romance novel is a sex scene. If true, it must be a good formula because romance is the most popular genre in eBook form. I wonder if the readers know it’s formulaic? Thoughts?


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