How to plan and finish your novel

One thing I struggled with for a long time was planning my books which ultimately meant I could never finish one. Ever since I was at school I always thought I was just ‘that type of writer’ who didn’t need to plan anything out because my ‘creativity wouldn’t be able to flow the same way’…. oh my, how wrong and naive could I be!
We all love a bit of freestyle writing but when it comes to a full length novel, I personally believe that it is pretty impossible to write one without planning, maybe not impossible but extremely difficult.
Think about it, in a novel there is so much that happens, so many twists and turns and subplots within subplots… surely it is impossible to keep up with them all right to the very end without ever sitting down and making a plan for how it all comes together?
If you can do that… bravo but if you’re like the rest of us, I hope that these next steps will help you with your planning process.

1. Use a whiteboard. Using a whiteboard is the single best idea I have ever had! Yes, my head is massive right now because as much as I know that there are bound to be other writers out there who use them… I am officially taking the credit because they are so fluffing awesome! I recommend hanging one on the wall in your writing space.
Whiteboards are brilliant for the planning process and those spur of the moment ideas.
For now, I am using mine for my storyline. It’s great for when the story takes a mind of its own and things need swapping and changing, a simple smudge of the finger does the trick.

2. Sticky notes.
Okay, here’s my big head floating into the picture again. I love sticky notes! Sticky notes decorate my wall like wallpaper because sticky notes are awesome!
Tying in with the next step, I use sticky notes to write down important questions about the book and one by one I will answer them.
It really helps with the writing process and is especially good when writer’s block rears its ugly head. When I’m finding it impossible to write I use the time to focus on the those sticky notes and honestly, you will be surprised at how productive my day actually is; even when suffering from writer's block.
3. Have a list of questions about your novel and do not start writing until you have answered every single one.
The biggest mistake 99% of wannabe writers make is writing a book that they know nothing about themselves. Yes, they create all these fantastic characters and story ideas but when they start to write and realise they have no idea why these characters are doing the things that they are doing or why what’s happening in the book is happening, the writing process starts to turn ugly.
A trick I use is Q&A. I ask questions like: What is the point of the book? Why are the protagonist and antagonist against each other? If the characters want to do this in the book, what is going to get in their way?
These are pretty basic questions that all writers should have answers to before they begin writing but you get my drift and after the basic questions are answered the questions become more in-depth. Why this setting? What does this character/action bring to the story? How will this action affect the reader/ the rest of the book? If I do this, what are the possible paths it could lead to?
Q&A is the single best way to plan your book and absolutely fantastic for planning those plot twists.

4. Journal your book. To check out my blog dedicated to journaling your book go to Overcoming Writers Block: Journal Your Book
Journaling will do wonders for your writing so it's definitely worth a read.

5. Know your characters. Write a back story for each character. If you don’t know them how do you expect your readers to?
Seriously guys? How can you write a book about characters you know nothing about? What are their likes/dislikes? What makes them tick? What was their life like before this story happened? What made them how they are now?
You want your readers to believe your characters are real so you have to make them real. Get to know your blinking characters!
Check out this post for a more in depth look at character creation and their backstories. 

6. Plan each chapter. Write a brief description of what happens in each chapter before your start writing. It will help to stop your writing spiralling off course and if the story changes somewhat you can always re-plan the chapters if needed.
Using sticky notes and a whiteboard will really help with this process.

7. Create a schedule. I believe I have mentioned this in every blog post so far along with writer's block - I’m sensing a theme. Scheduling is so important if you’re serious about writing so create a damn schedule and stick to it!
If you really want to finish your novel you have to create the time to do it.

So to sum up: Whiteboards and sticky notes = awesome! Scheduling, getting to know your characters and Q&A = Essential. Journaling and planning your chapters = makes your life a million times easier and a great way to overcome writer's block.

Happy writing.

J A Shaw

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