In the Beginning…

in-the-beginningThere was planning.

We often think that the beginning of a book is the first line, but I think we’d be remiss not to mention the planning that goes on long before the first line is penned. Writing a novel is a daunting, time-consuming task. It begins with an idea, and blossoms from there.

While some writers begin by putting words on page and seeing where it goes, they often find themselves stuck, sooner rather than later. This is often a sign that not enough planning has been done. If this is how you begin your books, that’s fine. However, just understand that, at some point, you need to turn your eyes to the future to find the logical conclusion to your novel. I know of several writers who refuse to begin until they’ve figured out the end. Still, other writers begin at the end, then work backward to figure out where the story should open.

Regardless of how you begin here are some points to consider when you reach your planning phase:

  • What’s the “What if?”: Most books begin as a “what if?” For example, “What if a group of children stumbled into a fantasy world through a magic wardrobe?” Or “What if someone could see dead people?” Or “What if normal people discovered they had extraordinary powers?” What’s the curiosity drive, the big-picture, sellable idea? Can you put it into one sentence?
  • What’s the point?: Why must the story be told? What does it offer the reader? This is something you may discover further into the writing, but it is an important question that must be asked. At the end of the book, the reader should be left with something (generally a strong sense of some emotion, either hope or fear or love or sorrow or completeness). What is it you want them to be left with?
  • What’s the plot?: What will happen in your story? When will it happen? What major event (or events) will rocket your “What if” into a full-fledged novel? These should be organic, and should not be forced. They should follow a natural course of logic and action.
  • Who’s involved, and why?: Once you’ve figured out the basic bones of your story, you’ll need to figure out who’s involved in the plot. Resist the urge to use the typical hero (they often end up as one-dimensional caricatures). Instead, think of someone less likely to appear. You want to write a novel about a spaceship? Instead of an astronaut, put a teacher on board. In Jurassic Park, only one character was a “din0-expert.” One was a mathematician (a chaotician, to be precise), one a lawyer, one a billionaire mogul, one a botanist, one a computer expert, and a couple of kids. They’re all needed for the story to work, but their areas of expertise are not in what you’d immediately assume.
  • What’s the ultimate end?: Even if you don’t know exactly HOW it will end, you should know about WHEN it will end, and the major plot points that must happen. Ultimately, you’ll have a happy end or a sad end. Your character will ultimately succeed or fail. You should know in what way they will do so. This may change as you write, but if you have at least an idea of what you’re writing to, you’ll be able to better overcome writers block along the way.

How much time do you spend on each of these areas? Which give you the most trouble?

14 Comments on In the Beginning…

  1. I first started developing the concept for my novel about seven years ago. Admittedly, the initial idea was horribly cheesy and sort of disjointed, but seven years of planning has gone into it. My characters are looking better. The plot actually has some depth. There’s some semblance of a theme and whatnot. The moral of this story, people, is that the plan is the key.
    Look at your writing. Think about it. And let the plotting begin.

  2. I usually know the beginning and ending of my stories but the middle is all a mystery and i tend to just wright on and see what happens. Because of thistequenique I never get bored with writing my stories because they are just as suspence ful for me as tye reader. I have started many stories that have never eolved but my current one is working itself out! ;D

  3. I always know the ending of my stories but i never know how the characters are going to get there or what will happen with the bad guys or even how my character will act when he gets in that position i only know the end.

  4. Katelyn Haeckel | September 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply

    I usually know what I’m going to do when I start writing something. I guess I do plan out what will happen, but most of the time I never follow what I say I’m going to do or I just don’t know how to get the words out onto the paper… Many of the stories I’ve tried writing have never really become anything more than a page or so because of this. Maybe I should try to seriously stick to a plan from now on…

  5. When I write I usually start thinking about the end, but then I make the way to the beginning. I usually plan out the beginning to see if I like it and if I don’t I start all over again with the beginning. When I write i like to take my time and really develop my characters before I put them on paper as a main or semi main character.

  6. When I begin a story I write the ending and begining and fill in the middle. This method usualy works for me. On occasions I will get lost in the middle of a story and not finish it, I think I need to plan them out better.

  7. Kristin Brittner | September 13, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply

    Normally I just start writing and always run into some huge obstacles. Only then do I plan ahead, but neer too far. If I already know the ending of my stories, I never finish writing them because the drive to reach the end isn’t there.

  8. Not planning is something that I know way too well. I constantly find myself stuck with the plot or noticing something that doesn’t click with the rest of the story. I will now do more planning and look ahead to the events that will occur.

  9. i never thought of that maby now when i start writing i will sit down and plan out what im going to write and how i will write it

  10. Hailee-Brooke Stewart | September 22, 2012 at 8:55 am | Reply

    When i write i usually let it all flow. if i think of the ending ahead of time ten i get so caught up i never finnish. Planning might be a better strategy on how to get the begining, middle and end, then to later plot out my characters places within the plot. Planning is a great strategy and will help improve my writing! Thank you!<3

  11. Wow. I do none of this when I write. Everything I write is vomited onto the page by my pen, and if it’s good, keep it; if it’s bad, then I start from scratch. I’ll try planning it out next time I have writers’ block.

  12. Miranda Almeida | October 2, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Reply

    I’m really not such a great planner. I tend to write a story from beginning to end… Sort of making it up as I go with what works and what would be interesting. Often times though, the lack of planning results in a rather dull conclusion. If I were to know in my head how exactly I want my story to end then work my way there, I think I would have more success.

  13. I do this mainly when im writing a script from scratch cause i want to have an end goal. everything that happends inbetween the start and my goal is all thought up on the fly with the exception of the things that i feel need to happen.

  14. Whenever I write I tend to never know how I end the story I know the first line then bam! Magic things happen and I write fabolus things.

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