Writing a novel – To Outline or Not to Outline

This post is the eighth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

You have developed believable, complex characters. You have selected your setting or built your world. And you have a plot idea riddled with conflict. Now it is time to write or is it? Nope. There is potentially more planning to do.

Some people like to sit down and just begin writing. They may have no clue where to begin and they want to start writing and see where the characters lead them. Or perhaps they start with a vague idea but either way, this method (often referred to as “pantser” since they are flying by the seat of their pants) can lead to more re-writing in the end as many of the scenes that don’t advance the story are deleted or re-written.

And then on the other end of the spectrum there are the real planners. These are the ones writing detailed outlines of where the story goes, sometimes even outlining each individual chapter. Actually, these “plotters” come in all different levels, and some may decide a one-page synopsis is enough.

There are, of course, numerous benefits for those who outline their novels.

1.) You create a well-developed plot/storyline

2.) You are never at a loss about what to write next.

3.) You can find problems with your plot or characters sooner (and correct them)

4.) Less rewriting

So, you decide you want to outline your novel before you write. How do you go about doing that?

Outlining methods

Snowflake method (aka Expanding Outline) – Here you start with a basic premise. (I found this example on another website.)

Jack and Jill get injured while climbing a hill trying to get water.

Then you expand on it.

Jack, the mayor’s son, is sent to fetch water. Jill comes with him. They get injured while trying to climb the hill where the well is located.

Then you expand on it some more.

Jack, who is the mayor’s son, is sent to fetch water for the town. His girlfriend Jill comes with him. At the top of the hill, where the well is located, the two are attacked. They attempt to escape but trip and fall down the hill. They are both injured.

You continue this process until every part of the story has the level of detail you want. This method can be very labor intensive. You can find out more about the method here.

Pure Summary/Narrative – On this method you write the story from beginning to end but in summary form. There are no descriptions or dialogues. You can pretty much do this one by bullet point, or you can just write it out almost as a synopsis.

  • Susan lives in the jungle.
  • She is struggling to survive with very few supplies.
  • Susan receives an unexpected visit from her daughter.
  • Susan decides to leave the jungle and live with her daughter in the city.

Headlight (or Flashlight) Outline – With this method, you plan out a few scenes or chapters. You plan just enough to get you writing. Once you have written that and reread it to see if you like where your story is going, then you do the next few chapters.

I write using this method. I find that it gives me some structure but also lets my characters dictate where the story is going. But I do have an end goal in mind – I just don’t have all the details planned in advanced.

Chapter by Chapter Breakdown – Some writers do a quick summary of what will happen in each chapter. Again, it can be almost like bullet points, or you can write even more as your guide.

These are really just a few of the methods, and as you can see some of the methods are very similar to others. Outlining had its benefits and if one of these methods doesn’t tickle your fancy, simple use Google and find other outlining methods that do.

And remember, if outlining a novel doesn’t work for you, don’t force it. There is nothing wrong with being a panster. There are many authors that plan and many who don’t. You just need to do what works for you. The most important thing is getting a comprehensive well written novel done.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

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The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

This post is the seventh in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

In my series, I recently listed three aspects of your story that you need to develop before writing – characters, setting and plot. I have already covered characters (and a second post on characters) and setting. Today, I want to focus on the plot.

I touched on plot in my earlier post in this series called “Developing your story idea and making sure it is “good enough.”

So, what is a plot? It is a sequence of linked events that revolve around an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal.

Basically, this means your protagonist (main character) wants something. She wants to fall in love. She wants to stop a war. He wants to escape an abusive relationship, or he needs to survive after his plane crashes in the mountains.

If whatever they want is easy to achieve, then there is no story. You cannot have a story without some sort of conflict. Your characters should not lead carefree, happy lives. They should face problems. They should search for something they cannot reach; they should strive for a goal but be prevented from reaching it.

Conflict is what compels the reader to keep reading to find out what happens next. Whether everything comes out right in the end or not, it is the chance things can go wrong that spurs readers to keep reading.

Since conflict is so essential to your plot, we are going to discuss first internal vs external conflict and then the five types of conflict.

Internal Conflict

An internal struggle is the part of the protagonist’s personality that prevents him from achieving whatever goal he is after. If he wishes to reconcile with his estranged father but feel his father should make the first move, his pride is the internal conflict. This type of conflict can reveal a lot about a character. Do they give up easily? Strive for what they want? How do they react when met with opposition?

External Conflict

An external conflict is something physical that gets in your protagonist’s way of reaching their goal. It could be the antagonist or an avalanche. When creating your antagonist, develop someone with just enough strength to present a solid challenge for your protagonist. Your hero might eventually figure out the bad guy’s flaws, but he is going to have to work to put all the pieces together. It is these plan disruptions that create the conflict in your story.

You don’t have to choose one or the other. There can be both internal and external conflict in your story.

Five Types of Conflict

Character struggles against another character

This type of conflict, also referred to as man vs. man, is the most obvious form of conflict. This is when a character struggles against another character in the story. This type of conflict can come in the form of arguments, conflicting desires, or opposing goals. The classic “good guy” vs. “bad guy” scenario is an excellent example of this type of conflict.

Character struggles internally

Sometimes you don’t need an outside force to provide the drama and tension in your story. Your character can struggle internally with their choices. This is also known as man vs. self. This is where your character faces moral dilemmas and emotional challenges. They can be facing a fear or deciding between an impossible set of choices. This could be a moral conflict of having to choose between honoring family verses ones own desires. It is an internal conflict with your character’s conscience.

Character struggles against nature

Sometimes there isn’t a bad guy in the story. Sometimes the struggle is to overcome nature. This type of conflict, also referred to as man vs. nature, is all about dealing things outside our control, whether it is the weather or a virus threatening to wipe people out. Stories about the triumph of human spirit over adversity never go out of fashion.

Examples of this could be your character is stuck in a desolate place (mountainside with no shelter, deserted island) or being attacked by wild dogs, birds or insects. They could be dealing with a plague, famine or virus outbreak. This is anything where your character struggles to survive.

Character struggles against society

When someone’s beliefs go against the societal norms, there will be conflict. It could be discrimination or being repressed by societal pressure. In this type of conflict, known as man vs. society, a character or a group of characters fight against the society in which they live. Examples of this could be fighting for your freedom or rights, which are being denied by society. It could be a struggle with poverty, political revolution, or social convention.

Character struggles against the supernatural

This one is usually found in certain genres such as fantasy, horror and science fiction. This is where the character struggles against poltergeists, robots, aliens, magic, or supernatural villains. The main character must have the strength (either internal or external) to defeat the fantastic enemy confronting him or her. Included in this area would be man vs. technology (such as computers or machines) and man vs. fate (fighting against destiny).

Now your story can have more than one type of conflict in it. Your main character may have an internal conflict on whether they should fight against their adversary. Just remember you need some type of conflict to move the story forward and to give tension to the plot. With no conflict, there is no story.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

Developing the Setting for your Novel

This post is the sixth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

In my series, I recently listed three aspects of your story that you need to develop before writing – characters, setting and plot. The past two weeks have covered characters so today I will address setting.

The setting is the location where the events of a story or scene take place. This could be New York, a National forest, a pool hall, the White House, in space, on another world or any of a million different places.

Every situation, every story is different and will have different setting demands. Some stories only work in a fictional setting (think Lord of the Rings, the Wizard of Oz, Star Wars). And some benefit from real-world settings. And then there are some – such as romance – that could work in either location.

Real vs. Fictional Settings

Real SettingIn this case you are setting your story in a real place such as Las Vegas or London.

Pros –

  • There is typically less research when using a real location as your setting. This is especially true if you write about a place you know well. You know how it smells, how the morning air feels, how the people move and talk. You will know the layout of the city. You won’t have to research the setting as you already know it, and hopefully that knowledge will come out in your writing.
  • Readers already know some of these places so you can spend less time establishing your setting. When you mention the Manhattan skyline or the Washington monument, people will know what you are talking about.
  • The history, folklore and local stories can be woven into your story and give it authenticity.

Cons –

  • You have to know the place you are writing about well especially if it is a popular place like New York or Las Vegas. If you get something wrong about where something is located, or how long it takes to travel from one place to another, then those readers who know this place will be irritated, and these inaccuracies will chip away at your novel’s authenticity. If you are writing about a well-known real place, no amount of research on the Internet will replace actually going to the location.
  • Using a real place in a fantasy setting can actually sometimes make it harder for the reader to believe what is happening. They doubt things that contradict what they believe to be true. In this case, a pure fantasy world actually might work better.

Fictional Setting This means setting your story in a place that does not exist. You will need to develop enough information to make your reader believe that this is a “real” place.

Pros –

  • You get to create a whole new city/country/world. Everything is the way you want it. You pick customs, government, the local law enforcement, where the hospital is located as well as where the forests, mountains and beaches are located. (For tips on naming places in your fantasy novel, click here.)
  • If you are creating your own world, no one can tell you that your society is wrong. It is your creation and yours alone. If you want two moons or for people to live in pods, it is all up to your imagination.

Cons –

  • Creating your own city or world can be time consuming. You are starting with a blank canvas, and you need to fully develop your setting for your characters to work and live in it. The type of city or world you create will determine the reactions and behavior of your characters.
  • There is no immediate connection with your reader. When you mention the Las Vegas strip or the Grand Canyon, readers can visualize the place. In your fictional world, you will need to add more descriptions to make this place come alive for the reader and be believable.

And no one said you can’t do a little of both. You can set your novel in a real city but have your protagonist live on a fictional street or subdivision. Or you can start in a real place like London and ended up at a fictional magical school. You just need to pick a setting in whatever location will work best for your story.

If you need more help deciding on your setting, check out this post on 9 Questions to Consider When Choosing your Novel’s Setting.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

This post is the fifth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I gave a quick overview of ways to delve into naming your characters as well as establishing their backgrounds and characteristics. Most of what I wrote pertains to your major characters. You do not need to do as much (or sometimes any) work on minor characters.

Major Characters

Major characters include your protagonist, your protagonist’s sidekick and your antagonist (and perhaps his sidekick/major underling).

These are the people that are clearly going to impact your plot. These are the characters you will need to develop fully. You will need to know beyond their physical characteristics and personality traits and flaws. You will need to know their history and what happened to make them the way they are at the beginning of your story.

Sidekicks

Batman has Robin. Harry Potter has Ronald Weasley. Fred has Barney, while Frodo Baggins has Samwise Gamgee. And who could forget, Han Solo and Chewbacca. Yep, we are talking about sidekicks.

Not every hero needs a sidekick but they sure can help. A sidekick gives your hero someone to rationalize their actions to or discuss their options. But a sidekick can be more than a sounding board. They can offer support, help devise a way to defeat the bad guy and even come to your hero’s rescue. The sidekick often knows the main character better than anyone else and can give the reader a convincing reason to like the hero.

The key with any sidekick is to develop them fully. They should have their own virtues, faults, hopes, dreams, and problems. In other words, you need to develop them just as much as you develop your protagonist.

Antagonist

Your antagonist, the person that will try to thwart your hero and provide conflict for your story, is one of the most important characters to develop. Most authors spend a majority of their time developing their protagonist but don’t give the same effort to the “bad” guy.

Now typically when one thinks of the antagonist of a story – especially a fantasy novel – one thinks of the person as being a bad person – perhaps even evil. You, as the author, need to understand how they came to be like they are. Everyone has a reason for what they do. No one is evil just to be evil. It can be their quest for power, revenge, or even a mental disorder, but there needs to be something the drives this character. We are the culmination of our environment, our genetics, our past, and our choices. You need to know these things about your antagonist though all of them may never actually appear in your story. (Check out this list of motivations for antagonists.)

To help create a well-rounded antagonist, consider giving him some redeeming qualities. And by this I mean something other than he likes puppies. Almost no one is evil all the time. And remember that sometimes the bad guy wins. Not every instance does the hero of the story need to thwart the villain.

Of course, your antagonist does not have to be a bad person. It can easily be someone whose ideas don’t mesh with your protagonist. It could be a business partner who wants to have a successful business no matter what the cost. Your hero may also want the business to succeed but needs to be a man of integrity. These two characters are far from enemies, but their different needs pull them in opposing directions.

And your antagonist may not be one person but a group or even just an obstacle to overcome such as the fear of speaking in front of an audience. But you simply don’t have a story without an obstacle, conflict or bad guy so be sure to create a strong antagonist, and you will have a better, more believable story.

Minor Characters

Minor characters are the opposite of major characters. Very little is usually written about them. They may appear in a scene or two but aren’t likely to influence the outcome of the story.

Many of these characters are flat, two-dimensional types that could easily be replaced. As an author, you are not going to spend the time to flesh these people out before writing.

Heck, some of these minor characters may not even have names. The bartender or cab driver may be such a character. They may speak and interact in the scene, but their contribution is negligible.

There will be many characters who may fall in between major and minor but don’t waste your time trying to categorize each one. Simply decide how important they are to the story, and that will let you know how much time to spend on them.

For tips on dealing with a long list of characters in your novel, check out my post “Novel writing: Dealing with a large cast of characters.”

Next week, I will talk about the setting of your novel.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

Developing Characters for your Novel

This post is the fourth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Characters are one of the most important elements to your story. They are what drive the plot. Believable characters help bring readers into your fictitious world. You can tell I am a firm believer in taking the time to build your characters and their history. I have written about characters twenty eight times in the past five years. Now I am going to try and boil most of what I have said about them into just two posts.

At the very minimum, you should know the basics for every character – what they look like, what occupation they have and a general sense of what they want.

For your main characters (and some minor characters) you should know even more of their history. It is from this history that your character’s motivation will develop. Your plot is derived from these characters and their motivations. Motivation leads to action, which leads to more action. And it leads to problems and conflict. Without this, there is no plot.

So how do you fill out all this history and character traits on your characters? There are several methods. You can fill out a character worksheet, create a timeline or write a short narrative.

Character Profile Worksheet

This is a list of the physical description (age, height, manner of dress, etc.), personal characteristics (goals, hobbies, likes, dislikes, etc.), living situation (occupation, home, pets) and background (birthplace, education, family) of your character. The easiest way to know all these things is to fill out a character profile questionnaire. You can easily do a web search for one or check out the one here or here.

Timeline/Outline

Another option is to create a timeline or outline of your character’s history. Starting with their birth, add in other major events that happened to your character up until the time the story begins. These would need to be extensive for major characters and could be sparser for minor characters.

Narrative

And sometimes it is just easiest to write a few paragraphs about your character. Be sure to cover such basics – family life, education, likes, and major events and so on.

Knowing your character’s history isn’t always enough to know what motivates and drives them. You need their recollection of the events that made them into who they are today. A fun way to get to know your characters is to do a character interview.

Character Interview

In a character interview, you ask your character questions and answer back as if you are that character. This gives you a chance to explore some of their background from their point of view. You can pretend to be the police interviewing your bad guy, a therapist interviewing a patient, or perhaps you are interviewing them for a magazine as if they are a celebrity. It is a technique with lots of room to play and adapt to your specific needs. To find out more click here to read my post “The Character Interview: Getting to know your characters.”

Now, it is a lot of work to fully develop your characters. But the work will pay off. Your characters will seem more real. And you don’t need to do all this work for every character in your novel. You will want to spend more time developing major characters while minor ones will need less or almost no work. (More on minor characters next week.)

Names

There is one more area to talk about before we finish today’s post on characters. You need to name them – all of them. It can be a daunting task. If you thought naming your child was hard, naming your characters is just as hard. Of course, the most thought needs to go into your main character’s name. You want a name that is unique to your character, that your reader will remember, and that fits into your story, whether it be a fantasy, futuristic, historical or a modern piece.

I find a baby-naming books or websites to be a great resource for names. You can also check out yearbooks, genealogy records, or film credits.

Here are some tips to naming your character:

  • Steer clear of complicated, hard-to-pronounce names. If you do choose one, consider using a nickname to make it easier to the reader and other characters.
  • Don’t overuse unusual names or spellings. If your main character is Barnabus, name his sidekick Sam or Eric, not Hawthorne.
  • You should avoid having characters with similar names – Jon and Jan. You may also want to stay away from names that start with the same letter or same sound – like Phil and Fred.
  • Avoid nicknames or unusual names that will annoy the reader. For example, calling a man by what is traditionally a woman’s name or vice versa can create unnecessary confusion. Only do this if there is a real need for it in your story.
  • HISTORICAL NOVELS – you will want to look for a name popular or at least in use during the time period you have chosen. Do not pick a modern name (such as Jennifer) for a story set in the 17th century.
  • If your character was born in the U.S., browse through the Social Security Name Popularity List for that year.
  • You also should make sure your character is not a real person. Try Googling the names you choose.

Next week, I will address the different types of characters – major, minor, sidekicks, and antagonists.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

This post is the third in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I wrote about three areas you need to develop before you start writing your novel. Then I began thinking about it. This is a series for people starting out in writing. Perhaps you don’t have a story idea, or perhaps you have one but can’t determine if it is good enough or has sufficient conflict to last over the length of a novel.

Now, I don’t typically write short stories, and I don’t write novellas. (Check out word lengths for different stories here.) I write novels that are over 80,000 words. That means there needs to be quite a bit of a story to make it carry through all those pages. You can certainly brainstorm other ideas for things to happen in your novel, but you don’t want to fill the story with “fluff” just to meet a certain number of words. Every scene in your story needs to advance the plot.

Where to get story ideas

There are many ways to get ideas for a story. I am only going to focus on two of them here. (You can use Google to find more if you need them.)

You can save time on researching and planning if Write What You Know. This does not mean that you need to write about YOUR life. It simply means take things you are familiar with and use these as a springboard into your story.

Use your fear of snakes and how it makes you feel as inspiration for a novel. Or if you grew up on a farm, it will be easy for you to write a story set on a farm or ranch.

There is a level of authenticity that outsiders just can’t match. Someone who has lived in the mountains and braved a cold winter, someone who has done archery or competed in a beauty pageant will be able to bring a little extra realism to their work than someone who only did research.

Writing what you know can mean putting it into a different world or a different time. I am not saying to write about your life. I am talking about taking your experiences, your fears, your dreams, and your knowledge – whether it be of a location, a hobby or a profession – and put those things into your story.

So what do you do if you don’t have a story idea at all? Brainstorm!

While many authors have so many ideas bouncing around in their heads, newbies (and even a few veteran authors) may need help deciding on a story idea. Check out my blog on 9 ways to brainstorm story ideas.

Making Sure Your Story Ideas is Sound

Once you have your story idea, you need to make it is good enough to be made into a full-length novel. But there is no easy test to see if your story idea has what it takes. You can look at the plot and the main characters and still not know. Sometimes you just have to start writing to see what you have.

But here are two suggestions that might help you decide before you write.

Method #1 –

One solution is to write out a basic plot outline (even if you aren’t an outline type of person). Consider subplots that can be interwoven into the story and add those to your outline. As you do this, look for holes in your story. Keep asking yourself why – why is this happening, why is this character doing this or that? As you answer these questions and fill in the holes of your story, you will be able to see if you can develop a strong story or if your story plot just isn’t strong enough.

Method #2 –

Another easy way to have a strong story is to develop a good protagonist. Do they have a past? What drives them to act in your story? The more details and depth you have to your protagonist, the better. A good character can make a story. Of course, a good, well developed antagonist is equally important. Remember people don’t stand in your way for no reason and hardly ever is anyone just born evil. There is a reason for what they do even if it is rational only in their mind.

Now let’s say you come up with an idea, but you are thinking your plot sounds familiar. Some people say that there are no new stories. That everything that comes out is just a rehashed version of other stories, and if you look at the movie industry with all of its “remakes” of older movies it would be easy to conclude this is true.

In many stories, the originality doesn’t come for the actual story but from the tone of the story or the characters involved. If you can create unique characters, an “old” story line can be brought to new life.

For more on originality – check out my post “Can your story idea be original?

So hopefully, you have a story idea in mind. Now it is time to start doing a little planning before you write. And next week, I will start with covering the first item on my “Three areas to develop before starting to write your novel” – characters.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

This post is the second in a series about writing a novel. Check out post one about writing myths here

You have made the decision to write a novel. Maybe you have a character or plot in mind. Maybe you have nothing but the desire to be a writer. Either way, you are determined to write a novel. So where do you begin?

Some people just being writing. They let their ideas and thought flow freely. Their thought is just to get that vague story in their head down on paper. Or maybe they just want to let their characters dictate the story. And this certainly is one method to writing a novel. But it is going to cause you hours of editing and cutting out of scenes that don’t actually add to your story.

Before you begin writing you need a direction. Your characters need a direction.

Without a goal in mind, your plot becomes just a haphazard collection of events with no meaning or purpose which will leave your reader wondering “What is the point of that story?”

So before you begin penning your novel, before you even write one word, I suggest you consider thinking about these three topics at a minimum.

Characters

Do not just give your characters a name and start writing. You need to know them better than that. You need to know their history, their personality quirks. You need to know what motivates them. So get to know more than their physical characteristics and know what they want and why. Knowing these things is the key to bringing your characters to life and making your reader believe they are real. A well-developed character can save a story just as a poorly developed one can ruin a story.

Now this planning is a must for your main characters but you don’t need to spend a lot of time developing minor/supporting characters and you don’t need to spend really any time on characters who are just in the background with either very few lines or none at all.

Setting

You need to know where your story will take place. And by this, I mean you need to know more than just a general idea but you need to know the specifics.

I find that it helps to have a map of the area. (If you are creating your own town or world then you will have to draw up a rough map so you can keep track of where stores, places of employment and homes are located.) You also want to know how long it takes to get from one location to the other. This is particularly important if you are writing about a real world location. (New Yorkers will be shaking their heads in disbelief if you have your character crossing the city in a short time when they know it takes much longer.)

Having this information will keep things consistent in your novel. (It shouldn’t take your character five minutes to get home from the store one time and half an hour the next – unless you are going to blame traffic or an accident.)

If you are setting your story in the past, you will need to research the location as well as customs and styles of that time.

If your story is set in a fictional world, you will have to take time developing things like technology, religion and a whole other bunch of things.

It is knowledge of all these details, whether they make it into your story or not, that will allow you to bring the reader into your character’s world.

Plot/Conflict

Without a plot, you just have characters meandering around. You need to have something that these characters are doing and more importantly, you need conflict. This is what drives your story. If everything was easy, no one would want to read about your characters going through their daily routines. Your characters need to overcome some obstacle. (We will cover conflict later but if you want to know more now, check out my post on the five types of conflict.)

You need to consider whether your plot ideas can last through the length of your novel. Not every idea will be worthy of a full-length novel or even a short story. If you are writing a full-length novel that is 70,000 to 100,000 words (or even more). If you are writing a short story or a novella, you are looking at 10,000 to 40,000 words. (Rough estimates – if you want to know more about the differences, click here.)

All of this may seem like a lot of work. And it can be a daunting task to do all this planning but knowing these things before you begin writing will certainly cut back on the amount of rewriting you will have to do when you get to your second, third and fourth drafts. It is the planning – the laying down of a foundation – that will give you the best chance to writing a publishable novel.

Over the next few weeks we will look closer at these three areas of planning and then cover whether you want to outline your novel or just begin writing. But first, let’s make sure you have a sound story idea before you get working on it. Tune in next week for more on that topic.