Thursday, 9 December 2010


Remember to start on top of a peak ;)
If in doubt, I ask Alan Rinzler. I found, then lost, his Blog last year: it was like gaining superhuman strength then losing a leg. He is a genius. 

Writing any novel is a journey in time and space: the characters take a simple path through time as they know it; the author’s trip is through a more complex realm: there are no limitations when control of time is fluid. Scientists call this Chaos Theory.  

When it comes to writing, I'm not a big fan of chaos. There are five steps to avoid wandering in the wilderness:
  • Prepare. 
  • Plan. 
  • Navigate carefully. 
  • Adapt only if the prevailing conditions demand it . 
  • Don’t rush.

Pre-writing  ;) 

A comprehensive-kind-of plan:
  1. Ideas – these appear from sources as varied as labels on a jam jar through to a line in a lyric 
  2. Imagining – spend time writing nothing: imagine the characters, settings, conflicts, outcomes
  3. Research – read a lot, don't be afraid to go off at a tangent. Research the back history of the back history.
  4. Prepare a Working Wall: photographs of places and people, maps, words, phrases, sentences 
  5. Calculate the time scale and plot events based on a calendar – there is nothing worse than having a lunar month every second week
  6. Write post-it notes or cards for your characters – more detailed if the novel is longer
  7. Draw a grid – 12 boxes each approximately equal to a chapter. This grid is a working document. Jot down the main scenes or points you want to cover. This is a notated storyboard. They could contain sketched images to cut down on the number of words you need to write. Plan where to drip feed important back-history and refer to your smoking gun. Feel free to move elements around in the planning stage - it is a lot easier to do here rather than later. Develop the story and the characters as a skeleton. This can be fleshed out while you write. It is a complete over-view of the novel.

Before I write, I like to see the landscape spread out before me. I create a contoured map and a prepared route. Unexpected obstacles are rare opportunities. I’ll stop and smell the daisies, but I always need to know where I’m going. 

The Three Peaks Run makes an excellent graph, or a novel plan ;)


  1. Now this is my kind of planning!

    The thing I am really trying to learn now is how to give the characters room to breathe, and to remove the straight jacket that my planning imposed. For me the key is right at the end: "Develop the story and the characters as a skeleton. This can be fleshed out while you write."

    Excellent article.

  2. Hi Dominic
    I think thinking and planning first saves time, in the long run ;)

  3. Oh how interesting, I've done outlines with writing but never really mapped anything out.

  4. Hi Summer
    Mapping helps to find your way ;)

  5. Wow, I'm not a planner, but would probably save myself some heartache if I did.

  6. Hi Patti
    Another person converted to pre-writing ;)

  7. I've tried this, but I find that my ideas come as I write on the first draft. I outline on the rewrite, although I've never tried a map. Thanks for the suggestion!

  8. Back again!

    I have an award for you! :D

  9. Hi Melissa
    You just have to enjoy the writing journey.

    Hi Dominic
    Award?! Thank you. I'll be along to have a look.