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!

How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Staring at a blank page can put a real damper on completing your Great American Novel, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  All you need is a little planning and forethought and you can fly through those pages.  Let me explain.

When I wrote my first novel I too stared at a screen for countless hours waiting for inspiration to strike.  Too often, it didn’t.  Because of this, I developed a method that helped me know exactly what I was going to write when I sat down each day.

First, I write a one page synopsis of the book.  It doesn’t have to be perfect because no one but you will ever see it.  Above all else, this one page should answer the “so what” question; or, why the reader should care about your characters and your book.  It should have a fairly clear beginning, middle, and end.

Second, I decide how long the book is going to be.  Generally, I’m not one of those authors that let stories get away from me.  I know what I’m going to say, I know what the story will accomplish, and I deliver it to the reader with a neat bow on top.  That said, tangents do happen and I give every novel about a 5,000 word cushion.  I keep all of my novels around a 50,000 to 55,000 word count for several reasons, none of them monetary related.  First and foremost, a work of that length would translate perfectly to a feature film, which is often how I envision the story as I’m writing.

Third, I make a word file and plot out thirty chapters worth of action.  Thirty is the perfect number for me based on my expected word count and ten pages per chapter (in Courier New).  I use Courier New because the pages add up faster and it provides me with a sense that the book is growing faster than it is.  It makes it just a little bit more fun for me.  It’s also easily changed back to Times New Roman when I’m finished.  Now, while I write out all thirty chapters, I know somewhere along the line I’ll have a stroke of brilliance and the plot will vector.  It’s important for me to go back and alter my outline when that happens to reflect the changes.  That way, I open up my outline each day and I can say, “Oh right, I’m writing this scene today,” and I already have the vision in my head.

Because of these three steps, I’ve been able to cut down the time it takes me to write a novel from about 5-6 months to 2-3.  Also, it gives me more time to go back and edit, and edit, and edit again without taking forever to do it.  Please bear in mind your results may vary as I’m slightly hyperactive and my mind refuses to rest.  Everyone is going to have their own method of writing, but this is mine.  If you’re struggling with finding your own method or want to try something new and different, I suggest you give mine a whirl.

Do any other authors out there have advice for those just starting out?  I’d be interested to hear if anyone has any similar quirks and how it works out for them.  Sound off in the comments below!

Also, if you have a moment, please check out my newest release: The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key.  The Azure Key is the first in a series I hope to be producing for quite some time.  The second installment, Nightstalkers, is coming in March 2015.  Stay tuned for updates!