A Plan, a Plan, My Kingdom for a Plan

January 9, 2006 | It's All About Writing

Writing is a business therefore it’s essential for a writer to have a business plan. Something like;

1. I want to write a novel
2. I want to publish this novel
3. I want to promote my published novel
4. I want to live the life of the rich and famous

If the above list is what you want, then baby, you’re in the wrong business to achieve number four.

So let’s eliminate four and concentrate on the other doable goals. We’ll take each item over the next six days and blog about how to succeed.

I Want to Write a Novel

Let’s do it! Grab your calendar and a block of paper. Cozy up in your favorite writing spot with a beverage, because we’re going to be here for awhile.

When I’m done with my edits this week I have to start on the sequel. The new book will be 50,000 plus words. It will be pounded out over a period of time, edited, added, deleted, edited, and the cycle continues until the manuscript is perfect to submit.

I need to finish this new work in five months. Seems a long time, doesn’t it? NOT. The fact is writing and real life never seems to work well together. UNLESS YOU PLAN.

Got yourself comfy? Here we go.

50,000 words divided by 10 weeks equal 5,000 words a week. For a serious writer this is an attainable goal because some weeks you’ll do more and some weeks you’ll do less. These words will construct sentences and scenes you’ll delete, move around, or wonder why the hell you ever wrote them.

Week One

1 – Characterization
Write your characterizations of the hero, heroine, and important secondary characters. It will probably take one full day. The writer must know the history of their characters. Their past events are what make them be the people they are today. It is what has driven them to be honest, strong, or steal. You won’t know why your hero runs into the burning building to save the heroine if you don’t understand his history.

So how do you so this? Very easy, but time consuming. Don’t fudge on this. It’s too important to writing a novel that will impress an editor.

The stars need an extensive characterization. Following is the process;

• Park yourself at your computer. Each characterization will take several hours so relax and enjoy.

• Choose one of the lead characters.

• Imagine you are that person. We’ll use the hero for the example.

• Just type. Bang out his life starting at boyhood. Write in his voice. It’s amazing how your phrases will alter as he ages. Bring him up to the starting point of your novel. Include every detail no matter how unimportant it may seem. Let your mind run on and you will be him, living the high points of his youth and what drove him to the man where your story begins. You’re in his point of view. Did he pee his pants in third grade? What really happened? What did he see, smell, and feel inside?

Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Just type. No one else will ever read your work.

Do this with your heroine as well.

You have finally finished your stars. It’s time to begin on your supporting cast. They’ll take much less time as they aren’t nearly as important. You don’t have to start in their childhood. Type up a brief bio, something similar to an obituary of a famous person.

2 – Outline the story
You don’t have to kill yourself over this but otherwise it’s like taking a road trip without a map. It also comes in handy when you write the synopsis.

You know there’s a beginning. Having done the characterizations will give you a head’s up on two important elements.

a. Starting your book at the important part, when your characters lives need to come together.
b. The ability to drop in back story at the appropriate times instead of flooding your reader with to much too soon. Drop Ins will actually move your story to the conclusion.

3 – Spiral Notebook
Buy a spiral notebook to record all the above info and also any great lines of scenes that spring into your mind. This is your daily log and it will keep everything together for reference.

On the inside back cover I’ve made columns as follows;
Chap # Wood Count 1st Edit Pgs

After my editor sends back the pages / scenes needing change I’ll add to the columns;
Chap # Word Count 1st Edit WC Pgs Final Edit WC Pgs

This practice helps me with the future books to keep my writing tight.

Starting from the back page and working in, I list all the high points in one line of the important characters back story for easy reference. Each character gets a page or two. I then write in the margin the page I’ve used that particular line of back story. You’ll be surprised at how much back story you don’t use because the characters actions will express it better than a cold fact.

Next is a section for lines or phrases to use somewhere. These are things I’ve overheard and am sure they’re too hot or cute to forget. All or none may be used in my WIP. The not used are moved into the notebook for a new story. When I do use one of these pearls, I write in the margin which page.

Leave two or so pages blank and begin your chapters. I write the chapter number and a heading for my personal reference on the notebook’s left-hand page. The heading helps me relocate a chapter if it’s not working in the original sequence. In the margin is the location. After the red line I write the events that must occur in that location. The right hand page is blank and saved for notes.

It looks like this;

Left-hand Page Right-hand Page
Bar John is alone at a table
Mary walks in & sits @ separate table
John is attracted & wants to meet Mary Increase tension/show what he sees-smells

My chapter section continues on until the outline is recorded. This procedure clearly shows me what’s crap and how to move the story forward.

The front inside cover is listed with my Rules. Such as;
a. Never use a comma before ‘and’, ‘but’, or ‘or.
b. Remember the tome of the characters and the book. If the character is light and funny from the beginning, keep it so. If the character is morbid or droll, I can’t have them start joking from page ninety on.
c. Keep the sexual tension high.
d. H/H can’t be apart for more then one chapter. They must think about each other in the ‘apart’ chapter.

Starting with page one in the notebook, create a daily log such as;
Today I want to write 1,000 on Amy’s conflict on her boyfriend dumping her.
By noting your day’s goal in the permanent ledger it keeps you focused. It’s also possible to track your accomplishments.

4 – Note on your calendar what needs to be accomplished daily. Remember it will be necessary for you to work around real life. You can always advance your progress if the world is being kind.
Write your daily to-do list so you can work on what’s important for that day. You can always change around the schedule if ideas are gushing forth. Flexibility is important.

Tomorrow we’ll take the actual writing of the novel in several steps.

Happy writing,

Add A Comment

14 Responses to “A Plan, a Plan, My Kingdom for a Plan”

  1. Sherrill Quinn Says:

    Oh, Sloane. You’re my hero. This is perfect.

  2. Sloane Says:

    Thankee, Sweet Thing. Sure hope it works as well for you as it does for me.

    I flounder for a looooong time until I hit on a short version of this method in an article. It has been adapted to suit me and make a world of difference in my procratination because I could see an end and the road through the quagmire.

  3. Lauren Says:

    Hi Sloane,

    I like your idea of a daily writing log. Right now I just keep a daily tally of how many words I write each day. I think the journal is a good idea because not only does it give you a place where you can write down what goals you were striving for and what you achieved each day, but I think it could also give you space to vent about your story or ruminate about a problem you’re having with it.

    How do you work your writing into your day? I know you have a fulltime job as well as loved ones to care for. How do you schedule in your writing time?


  4. Yasmine Says:

    Well Sloane, this is fantastic. I’m already using some of your plan, as it has shown me, by your own writing, that is truly words. I can’t wait for you to give a workshop next fall at Love Designers!!

  5. Sloane Says:

    Lauren, tomorrow is on scheduling time to reach your dream. Actually, it’s a lot easier than you think! I used do just keep a daily count and found I was typing in anything to get a good word count. This way I’m more honest with my writing.

    Yasmine, I am looking forward to doing a conference and will have to get with Nancy pretty quick. I’m also glad the system works for you.

  6. Lauren Says:

    If I’m truly honest with myself, I’ll admit to what you said, Sloane, that you sometimes just typed for word count and didn’t consider content. This year I’m not allowing myself that fudging. I think the daily log for the WIP will be a good way to keep my feet to the fire. It can’t hurt at any rate! Thanks for the tip.

    By the way, I saw on Sue Grafton’s website that she, too, keeps a notebook/log for her Kinsey Milhone series. And, Elizabeth George does as well. You’re in great company! 🙂

  7. Sloane Says:

    Man, I’m honored!! Never thought my little logical brain could play with the Big Girls.

  8. Yasmine Says:

    I use a three ring notebook instead of the spiral, that way I can insert pictures of my characters for visualization, pull out pages and don’t feel so confined. We’ve discussed at Beth’s the easiest most efficient way for all of us. Plus, there are such pretty binders out there, I love getting different colors. I also use one HUGE binder for a section on story ideas, publishers, agents, workshops, tennis clothes (well the last one kinda counts)

  9. Sloane Says:

    The binder is an excellent idea. My problem is I tend to wear out the rings and the damned things never stay closed.

    The other items you mentioned, story ideas, pubs, etc. i have separate files in a cabinet where I continually stuff notes.

    It all amounts to the same thing. ORGANIZATION.

    Back to editing before I slash my wrists!

  10. Jenna Howard Says:

    Dang woman! Just…dang. There’s some great stuff in here.

  11. For The Trees Says:

    Deepest thanks for the guide. You truly are organized!

  12. Maya Reynolds Says:

    Sloane, darling, you’re a wonder. I’m so impressed. Talk about discipline and organization. Good for you.

  13. Yasmine Says:

    I forgot one good reason for not counting words. My book Sunday had 75.322 words when I finished working on it, rewriting a scene, taking out words like ‘that’, I ended up with 75,310 words. I was kinda freaked, is it possible after all the work I did, I only eliminated 12 words? No, not really, I had added and deleted and came up with a better chapter. So, I go by chapter and story goals.

  14. Sloane Says:

    Jenna, Maya, and Forrest, thanks for your praise but I have to admit I’m anal, compulsive, and looking more like Felix Unger every day. YUK.

    It just doesn’t seem to work for me if things are helter-skelter. Unfortunately, it took years to figure it out.

    Yasmine, I retract my earlier offer to line edit your book. LOL. How many words were you striving for? If you’re way over Beth will tighten it up. LOL.

    At your stage in your work chapter/story goals are the right road.