Novel Planning For Beginners – R U A Plotter Or A Pantser?

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The Snowflake Method of Planning A Novel – Perfect For The Beginner

The Snowflake Method of Planning a Novel was developed by Randy Ingermanson, author of the book “Snowflake Method”. This is an outline technique that may be used to pre-plan a novel and it’s a great place for a beginner to start

You write one sentence and then expand it into five more sentences. Each subsequent sentence will branch off in a new direction and have its own set of 5 sentences.

For example, the first sentence might read: Elle Wilder wakes up in a strange house. The next sentences explain why Elle is there and who she is, while the next batch might be about where the house is located.

The Snowflake Method can also be used as a sub-plot planning tool. Most of the time, it is not necessary for a writer to know everything about a story before putting pen to paper, but it actually helps. The Snowflake Method allows the writer to attempt this.

The Snowflake Method allows writers who have never written before an easy way into the process of planning and writing a novel – try it!

Choose A Genre

What does genre mean?

Genre is the short-hand term used to define a type of book with a particular feel, tone or subject matter. If a writer sets out to write fiction for children, for instance, they are writing within a genre.

Genre can change over time as the market changes and readers demand something new or different. It’s not unusual for genre to overlap with sub-genre; e.g., Romantic Comedy can also be classified as chick lit or women’s fiction.

Planning and outlining your first novel

Genre is like the novel packaging, in which the author delivers the story.

There are many genres that form the backbone of book sales. Some examples are:

  • Crime,
  • Thriller,
  • Mystery,
  • Romance,
  • Thriller,
  • Historical Fiction,
  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction.

For several years now the romance genre has been the most popular genre in fiction books sold.

It’s a matter of author’s taste which genre they prefer. The theme of a book can be transmitted in almost any genre. Even if you are writing a horror book, there will be a certain element of romance in it – even though the two are very different.

The process of selecting genre can take some time. It’s a good idea to try each genre and see if you enjoy writing about that topic.

Choosing the setting

What is the setting in a novel?

The setting of a novel is the place where the story takes place. This can be a town, city, farm or castle. In general, the setting should give an indication of the time period and location; e.g., it might be medieval or early 19th century in England. It might also be a utopia or dystopia (good and bad) like Orwell’s 1984 (dystopian). In The Lord of the Rings , Tolkien creates an alternate world called Middle Earth that is not our own in time and space.

The setting should include clues to the plot and character; e.g., in the book of Ruth, it’s not just the setting that prepares us for the events but also hints at things to come.

A plot point is an element that leads to a particular outcome or resolution in the story.

Write down Your Idea or Plotline

What does plotline mean in literature?

Plotline is the main story line of a book, or the main storyline of a series.

In fiction writers refer to it as “the arc” or “the plot”, and in non-fiction it is referred to as “the big idea”. It’s important that the writer understand what their book will be about. Or, at least, they have to be sure that they have one idea in mind.

This is the acorn out of which the entire tree of the book will grow. The idea is what you believe the book will be about, and it is also what you want to convey.

Locate Your Theme or Message

What does theme mean in literature?

Theme is the general message or moral of a story. It’s like the tagline that you see on TV during the end credits. It’s almost always something that we already know, but it’s presented in an entertaining way.

For instance, books with theme “never give up” are presented as a thriller or a mystery to keep it fun and interesting.

The message can be a positive one or a negative one. It can be thought-provoking or it can just be entertaining. The message of the book is what will carry through to each reader, and it has to be something that the writer believes in with all his heart.

Outline your plot and know your theme
Get to know your characters with profiles

Gather Research Material

Once you have written down your genre, setting, theme and the main idea, then you need to research as much as you can about those topics you need to fully understand.

If the setting is historical, you’ll need to know about the time period. There’s plenty of reference materials on the Internet or in your local library to help you with that.

For example, I’ve written a book about the Black Death and how it affected Medieval Europe. I’ve had to learn a lot about what life was like for people during that period, and for that I had to research on my own. I read several books and visited many historical sites to find out more about it.

If you’re genre is Westerns, then you should know all about how cowboys lived, what was the life like there at that time and so on. If a sea drama, then you should know about ships, life on board a ship, sailing, etc.

You get the idea.

The research should be as extensive as possible to make your book unique and interesting. You should know enough about your setting to understand what’s going on in there. You don’t have to know everything, but the story will be more authentic if your research thoroughly.

Think of the Characters

With what characters will you tell the story? What will their names be? What do they look like and how are they described? (Remember, choose characters that your readers will want to follow.)

The most important thing about a character is that you feel them. You have to make them real to your readers. When you know what they’re like, then you’ll be able to write from their perspective and tell the story from their point of view.

When you wrote about the hero or heroine in your preliminary notes, he or she was just an outline with features and physical description. Now it’s time to get into his/her head and understand what the person is thinking.

Creating Character Profiles

How to create character profiles for a novel

To begin with make a list about the attributes of each character.

First, make a list of the most important, defining features of each of them and then go over it again, making sure that you have enough information, so that you can effectively describe them.

Consider how many different people your character interacts with during the story and list their individual attributes. Then make a list of personality traits and emotional states. This is also a very good place to put information about past events that may cause some sensitivity or shock reactions in each character from time to time.

The idea is that you know your characters so well that you know how they would react to almost any situation. You have to know everything that affected or shaped their lives, their previous relationships, and the events surrounding that.

You should develop a plan for each character and how they will react in different situations.

This is a very important step. If you don’t know exactly how your characters would react to something then it will be difficult to create believable situations to challenge them effectively.

Write an Outline For Your Story

All novels need an outline, although some authors don’t outline their novels or don’t plan in advance.

But the majority of authors need an outline in order to develop their story, and character developments that fit with the plot. This can be achieved by formulating questions, forming sentences from them, then drawing up a detailed outline on paper. This is a much quicker method than creating your plot mindlessly.

With an outline you’re filling in the blanks for your characters and story so that you can then find these answers within yourself when writing your novel.

How to create character profiles for a novel
Writing the first draft doesn’t include editing!

Write the First Draft

At last you’re ready to write the first draft. This should be done quickly, without thinking about spelling errors, grammar or typos.

Some people write first and edit later. Others plan out the novel in detail before they start writing it. Both methods are effective, but for most writers the first method is easier for them.

You’re looking for the ‘flow’ and how your story progresses. Does your plot hang together? Are the characters behaving the way that you expected them to behave?

Therefore, the first draft is done almost like a form of diary or journal. You just write and try to get the story down on paper as quickly as possible. This is where many writers get stuck because they’re not sure how to proceed.

Once you have written your first draft, sit down and think about what you’ve written. This can be a great time to have a second reader take a look over what you have written and give you suggestions on how to improve it.

This is the point where you will find out if your story has a good flow or not. You’ll also find out if it’s realistic and believable, but also whether it’s original enough to keep people interested and read.

Revise Your Draft

Leave it alone for some days or weeks and then go back to it. Once you have done this you can go through it with a fine tooth comb, looking for flaws and other things that could be changed, added or deleted.

It’s a good idea to rewrite your draft as many times as necessary until you’re happy with its flow and its content. This doesn’t mean going over every single sentence but over each individual paragraph and each page to find details that should be changed or deleted.

Polishing Your Piece – editing

Editing is a tedious buy necessary step. It’s usually done by other people and once you’ve finished your draft, you’ll need to have it edited. The aim here is to make the novel sound professional and make sure that the text makes sense.

There are many levels of editing that you can do on your book including copy editing (checking for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes), line editing (making sure words are capitalized correctly, names are spelled correctly etc.), proofreading (checking for typos and grammar mistakes) and advice from a professional editor.

Any good editor will point out or plot points that need improving for your novel to be successful.

Marketing Yourself and Your Writing

The traditional way to try to publish a book is by joining a literary agency and approaching publishing houses. This is a long, often expensive process that can be done successfully for some people but is not for everyone.

In the age of the Internet it’s now much easier to find a publisher yourself. Publishing agents are still needed if you want to be published in the traditional way. It’s possible to self-publish your book from home if you’re prepared – and actually confident – about it and have enough knowledge about the process behind it.

Marketing is crucial if you want your novel to be read by lots of people. You have to find a way to market your book, meaning that you have to let people know about it. This can be done through the Internet, radio, television and so on.

If you try to do all the marketing yourself, it can be very time consuming but also expensive. Most authors will use some sort of marketing service or hire someone else to do it for them. Of course, this needs a considerable budget and isn’t for everyone.

The Internet has been a goldmine for authors who want to promote their publication, and the easiest way to find readers is through social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. It’s also possible to use online book retailers such as Amazon which will sell your book to people who are interested in buying them.