Starting my next cop novel…how I plan a novel

Posted: January 22, 2015 in Posts on books and writing, Posts on life and stuff
Tags: , , , , , , ,

New Year – new novel.

I’m planning my next DCI Matt Proctor crime novel, number three in the series and I’d like to share my approach to “PLANNING A NOVEL”.

How do you put your novel together? Please let me know.

I’ll set out my approach in separate blogs – this is the FIRST. There are SEVEN in all. 

From the outset let me say say I’m more a ‘planner’ than a ‘pantser’- but please, you ‘pantsers’ out there, don’t tune out now – we can all learn from each other. (I wonder if there really are out and out ‘pantsers’ or ‘planners’ – or are most of us somewhere in between on a spectrum?)


PLANNERS                  IN-BETWEENERS               PANTSERS


I may be a planner but one who leaves space for the story to breathe, to bend and flex, change direction at times. Yet the CORE story line remains.

PLANNING A NOVEL

I need to know my story plot(s) in detail, understand the motivations, secrets and fears of my main characters before I can progress to writing my first draft. From my outline, I develop scenes and flesh out characters. The process is very much iterative, synergistic. I hop from one to another; adding to my character profiles, summarising a scene in a brief heading, modifying and reordering the outline chronology using a ‘scene order’ grid, to get a visual overview of the book.

LUMIA - kINVER, JANE, MY DESK 2014 077

‘SCENE’ TAB OPEN – SCENE ‘HEADS’ ON RIGHT – MAIN PLOT/SUB-PLOTS COLOUR CODED

A great tool for doing this is Microsoft OneNote. Some swear by Scrivener, Ywriter; another good tool is Hiveword. There are others. I think writers need to experiment to find out what suits them best. Two factors influencing my choice are a), the ability to write the book content within the planning tool, and b), to work offline sometimes – I may be on holiday and want a hour or so of ‘writing therapy’ but might not want to go on-line, or have available on-line access.

By giving me an overview and instant access to the components of my story on a single screen, I get control of the project and so I find the process of drilling down into the ‘core’ of my story easier, more efficient and fulfilling. Certainly much less frustrating than switching from one screen to another, hunting down folders and files, hopping back and forth from page to page on websites and between different websites.   ARRRGH…

LUMIA - kINVER, JANE, MY DESK 2014 076

CHARACTER TAB OPEN – SELECT CHARACTER ON RIGHT – DETAILS LEFT

  • In planning my novel I use seven COMPONENTS.  They are not written in a strict chronology – that’s important. They have synergy, they feed off each other. Maybe it’s like bringing up a family – you don’t focus all your energy on one child and when that job’s done, move on to the next. Oh, no, – you don’t bring kids up like that. You juggle, you compromise, negotiate, discipline, encourage, motivate, and so on. You spread your attention, your focus, your love. (OK, OK, we didn’t have seven children but you get the picture!). Now – please let me show you in specific terms how all this works (and for me it definitely does) in practice.

THE SEVEN COMPONENTS OF ‘PLANNING A NOVEL’

  1. CORE – Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!
  2. OUTLINE – Two pages max. Written in present tense, with a start, middle and end. Split into key scenes with short headings. Leave room for the story to evolve.
  3. MAIN PLOT – Spine of the story, the heart of the MC’s journey. Sub-plots add complexity and richness. The main plot (and sub-plots) summaries need only be a sentence or two.
  4. SCENES – Scenes are the building blocks of the novel. These are where the action is. As you write scenes you are writing your book.
  5. CHARACTERS – Absolutely critical. The reader must care about these people.
  6. SETTINGS – Give ‘colour’, atmosphere, they complement characterisation, add credibility and context whether real or fictional places.
  7. SYNOPSIS – Comes at the end because a synopsis is a ‘selling’ tool; your book summary. You write a synopsis when you’ve finished your book. (I include it as part of planning because you’ll need it for submissions).

COMPONENTS

in this first blog in the series, I’ll focus on my starting COMPONENT in PLANNING A NOVEL, namely the CORE of my story. 

 1 (of 7). CORE – a basic idea.

  • CORE – Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!

Q.  What is in that CORE as a novel writing idea?

A.  Main Character with a Goal, facing tough Opponents, hitting Insurmountable Obstacles, and under threat, using their Sole Abilities to win through.

Here’s the CORE of my novel IN IT FOR THE MONEY.

‘DCI Matt Proctor fights to break an  international ‘match-fixing’ gambling syndicate and becomes their kill target when he gets too close. Serbian Mafia boss Petrovic hunts him – yet real power lies in sports boardrooms, directors’ boxes and wheeler-dealer agents. Matt Proctor is a marked man.’

Think of an apple, a pear. The core is where that fruit started. In that core are seeds. And in the core of your novel are the seeds that will grow your novel. Define that core in no more than 50 words – keep those words in front of you – and then let the seeds grow.

Coming up NEXT. What’s the future gig?

COMPONENT NUMBER 2

2 (OF 7) OUTLINE

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Amazing post.. I am half and half really but I keep far too much in my head, and of course on scraps of paper and in my ‘phone.

    I do also have notebooks but I really must branch out and set something more reliable up.. Yes.. I really must..x

    • Thanks for your comment, the lavender field, glad you found it useful. There is no ‘one right way’, we all have our personal approaches. However, I find having everything in one place and at my fingertips helps me a lot. Good luck with your forthcoming book.

  2. Thanks Kristina,
    I still follow Farley’s adventures – and your useful tips on writing.
    Don’t be deceived by the photo – what you saw is a pic of my 10 in. laptop screen! Pleased you found it helpful.
    Tom

  3. Great blog. First, I’m jealous. I write on a laptop, so when I say your monitor, I almost fainted. Lucky you. Now, I got past that and read the words, and I’m going to add some of this to my spreadsheet that I use. The “core” example is very helpful. Thanks.

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s