Of course, this isn't a blog about cookies or even about food. I'm talking about writing right now, and so today I'd like to share 5 different ways you can go about planning your book. If you're planning a book for NaNoWriMo (or just any book), this is for you. I'm not a professional by any stretch of the imagination, but I have used many various ways of planning my books, and so I just wanted to share my experiences with you. :) Like I said above with the chocolate chip cookie analogy, everybody will find different ways that work for them. Maybe some of these systems of novel planning will work for you, and probably some won't. :)
(And yes, I am a firm believer now that I personally should generally plan a bit for my books. I would typically recommend a bit of planning to others as well, even if you're a "pantser" (aka you open up an empty document or notebook and just start writing without any pre-meditation). It not only makes things more efficient, but it also keeps you from really bad writer's blocks. :D I used to never plan and my books ended up confusing, boring, or cliche most of the time, haha! It was so bad I was scared to edit them. Now you might not be a complete planner... You might be a total "pantser" or a very even mix of planner+pantser. --That's me, lol-- And that's great too. Just find what works for you.)
1. The Character Questionnaire and Basic Outline Technique: This is the way I did it for some of my first few books that I actually bothered to plan. It's your standard point by point outline of the plot, but I always threw in a "character questionnaire" too. The questionnaires are always fun, allowing you to get to know your character better, or think of things you might want to add into the story. As far as the basic outline goes--it works, but I have to admit that sometimes just sitting down and thinking "I'm going to come up with an outline" just doesn't work. It's pretty bad if you get stuck on your outline and don't know where to go next... :D It comes together the nicest when you already have had lots of stuff simmering in your head for a while with a clear idea of where you want things to go.
2. The Character-driven Plot Developer: I have used this perhaps one time so far. It works really well for books that have a lot of character growth, or for books that have relationships that develop and change between two characters. You have a list of basic questions, for example, "The first test between relationship", "A darker moment" etc, and you answer these from various relationships the MC (the main character) has with various supporting characters.
With multiple angles to answer the questions by, when you organize them into a proper timeline for your book, it gives an interesting, quick way of doing an outline with the bonus of great development in character growth and friendships. You will have the original plot point questions all mixed up, so there will be varying degrees of "surprise twists" or various "tests" throughout the book. Having several angles gives different levels of intensity/drama to each point, depending on the nature of the setting, basic conflict, or relationship, so it provides a nice balance. I am pretty sure the plot structure and story would change almost every time this method is used.
If you all are interested in the plot point questions, I can do a more detailed post on it later. :)
3. The Mind-Mapping Method: This is a really fun way to plot a book, especially if you're a hands-on, visual person. All you need is a good sized sheet of paper and a writing utensil of your choice. :D You write down in the middle of the paper the first seed of your idea and then begin writing everything out around it, drawing bubbles around the fragments of ideas and then adding lines to connect related bubbles. Once you start doing this, a bunch of ideas will start pouring out. The main objective here is to just get it on paper! :) When you feel satisfied with it, you'll have a bunch of thoughts that when put into its proper order will give a nice rough outline. From there on, you can fill in details as you like in the outline, or just leave it as a basic plot so you can have more freedom in writing. I really like this way of plotting out a book because it can really be customized to fit you and your writing style. :) It's especially great for really twisty, complex plots!
4. The Research and Jot notebook Method: This is a lot like the mind map only it's my way of doing it geared more towards researching. If you're writing a book that takes a lot of research, this is an excellent way to get your ideas and thoughts figured out into a basic (or not so basic, it's up to you) outline. Essentially, as you're researching, keep a notebook handy (or Evernote if you use that) and when you come across something that sparks your imagination or makes you think "Oh, what if..." write it down! :) I am doing my current NaNoWriMo novel this way and am enjoying it a lot. As I'm researching Japanese-Americans and baseball during WWII I am coming across so much good material, and sometimes even non-related ideas for the book pops in my head as I'm working. It's all in a handy, ever-growing list right now, and soon I'll be taking all the ideas and plot points I've gathered and turning it into a basic outline.
5. The Snowflake Method: This is a method I've used the basics of for a series. The premise of the idea is that you'll start from something as small as a sentence and gradually work it into bigger and bigger pieces until it has crystallized into an intricate, information-packed outline (plus a lot of other details). There are explanations for how this works in more detail online, and many people like it. I'm glad I used the main rules of the method for my series, so now I have a good scope of the multiple books. However, when getting down to the nitty-gritty of each specific book I did, and probably will in the future, switch from the large Snowflake scope to my own style of planning from one of the above. :)
So there are the 5 ways I've used to plan my book. :) How do you like to plan your books? Do you think you will try one of the ones mentioned above? How do you like your chocolate chip cookies? :P
You all have a lovely day!