Monday 17 April 2023

Starting New Books & How I Plan - The Creative Process


At the time of writing, it is the end of March and I am getting ready to jump into two new projects on April 1st. I thought that since it's not something I've talked about too much before, I would go into how I prepare for that. I'm not a planner, I'm not a pantser completely either, I straddle the two and have my own way of planning and then while drafting, I will discovery write or pants through big parts of it. I know that for some people that's a sure-fire way to get writer's block or to end up being unable to finish and when they do finish, they have such a massive mess to revise they find themselves completely overwhelmed.

I'll be honest, I've only ever stopped writing two books. One will never see the light of day because it was a story I wasn't all that sure about to begin with, and I used elements of it in another book. The other was Lynne & Hope, and while the original story changed, elements of it, you guess it, ended up in another book, Destination: Unknown for those who are curious. I have a pretty good track record when it comes to starting and finishing, so I never really see the issue with needing to change the process I go through. That said, revision is always hard, and I do make an outline for it so that I can try and streamline the process.

But enough with that, let's jump into how I prepare for a new book, or two, since I usually, and have done for the majority of my time writing, do two first drafts at the same time.


Like most writers, I am never really short of ideas, thought there may be times when I'm short of good ideas, but I have a document on my computer where I write down and brainstorm a number of ideas at a time. Generally speaking, my first step is to work out which ideas I want to write. At the moment I'm in the middle of one series, so I knew that I needed to pick out a plot for the next book. The other book I plan to start on April 1st is the start of what should be a trilogy, so that's me sorted.

My ideas sheet is a bit of a mess, but I have made sure to keep spaces between ideas that might go together and might not. With the new trilogy idea, I've also been keeping notes on my ipad, and that's helped me narrow down the titles, the characters and the themes and plot I want to have play out across all three books in the trilogy. With the series, I have book titles, and I have a vague idea of what order they should go in. Because of that, choosing the next one was pretty simple.

My version of planning is to make a very brief chapter outline. I'll do things like work out what day of the week, and how much time has passed, for each chapter. This helps me maintain some semblance of a timeline. I'll also give some kind of short idea of where in the plot I think things will be and make very brief notes on that. I know I keep emphasising brief but the last thing I want to do is mislead people. I don't want people to think I'm making chunks of information and sounding more and more like a full-on planner. The chapter outlines will happen in the revision process, but for me, that first draft is me telling myself the story and seeing how it all comes out.

The chapter plan gets printed and it's basically my road map. I don't always follow it strictly, sometimes I'll veer off the plan and end up back on it a few chapters later, better for having taken that detour. I don't like to restrict myself too much when it comes to drafting and I've found that my stories usually end up turning out similar to the chapter plan in the end even with the detours.


I don't know every single character before starting drafting. But I do usually know the main chunk. Like because I write young adult, I'll know friends and family, depending on the set up. In that instance I'll make sure to plan out my characters as well. I've noticed that while before I used to do a character note card the moment I met a character, now I don't seem to do that as much, something that has become a problem later down the line when that character becomes a big part of the plot. So I need to start getting back into this habit.

As for what I do, I'll give their age, description and anything else that might turn out to matter down the line. If I'm writing a series, I might also list key points when it comes to later books so that I don't have to worry too much about continuity issues. I'll also, if it's set within a school, list subjects, teachers and sometimes even do a timetable for them. That's not always necessary but sometimes it works out better to do it that way.

At this point, I've done all the planning and prep that I can. It's just a case of getting things squared away in my head and getting the words on the page. I might set about what days to write what, but that goes into my time planning rather than writing itself.

So there we go, that's how I get ready and prepare when it comes to starting new books. By the time this blog goes live, I should be almost done with my first month of writing, and I can tell you me here, is very excited about getting to start both of these projects, so hoping for a good writing month!

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments!

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