How to Write a Novel: Organizing

So you've got your story idea, now what? Organizing a book can seem like a daunting task, but really it's organizing your thoughts that's difficult. There are three ways to approach writing:

  1. By the seat of your pants. Pantsers approach writing with a free spirit. They do little to no planning. They sit and write. Simple as that. Most new writers take this approach because they don't know how else to do it. My early novels were written in this method, and they turned out well. But it's harder. More on that in a minute.
    • If you have a general plot idea in mind, you're ready to begin.
      • Tip: In order to gain some perspective, you may want to write a short synopsis and/or query letter to refer back to while writing. These will help you stay on track.
  1. Plot. Let's be honest, no one likes this part. No one wants to spend hours filling out worksheets and writing down scenes, but this extra prep work can save you hours of staring at a blank screen, not to mention the editing.
    • Download some plotting worksheets. A quick google search will lend you several blogs/websites that offer them for free. This is what I did when I began to plot. Also, you can look back at my posts on Plot, Theme, and Summary and Character Development for some additional help.
    • The best way I've found to build chapters is by writing down scenes as they come to mind on index cards. I can then play with their sequence and see what works best before writing. These cards become the chapters in the book. When I did this, I found that I didn't spend a lot of time staring blankly at the screen. I knew what was coming next because I had a card for it.
      • Tip: Another great resource I found when learning how to plot is Writers' Digest WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN 30 DAYS. It comes with several worksheets, not to mention loads of great advice for getting started.
  1. Somewhere in-between. This is probably where most of us fit.
    • Like to plot, but also want to allow yourself enough room for the creative process? Then this is probably for you. I write general ideas of chapters, but I don't detail them. I want the characters and story to fill in the details.
    • Also, people who fall in the category aren't married to their plotting worksheets. If the story takes a new direction, so be it. Rework the sheets and continue on.
      • Tip: Experiment and find what works for you. No one's watching over you. Art is the freedom of expression, so feel free to find your own way. I'm just presenting a few possibilities to you.
Homework: Figure out which way you think will work best for you. Don't limit yourself to one way. Try them all.

Come back next week to read what to do next.

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