Yesterday I shared a very informative article on Facebook from fellow Irish writer Catherine Ryan Howard. The article was titled “how to your damn book” and the link is http://catherineryanhoward.com/2015/04/15/how-to-finish-your-damn-book/ for those who want to check it out. Catherine made some very valid points about writing but there was one that I wasn’t entirely in agreement with. As she does point out, not everyone writes the same and not everyone will agree with her tips. I am one of them to a certain degree.
Novel Planning and Writing Fiction
Point 2 of Catherine’s post is all about planning. This is an area that many writers disagree about, and an area where you will have your own preference. As a fiction and non-fiction author and ghostwriter, I have different views. From a fiction point of view, I have found that planning just doesn’t work for me. My characters tend to take over and what I thought was going to happen just doesn’t. In the young adult novel that I am working on, I had a plan. I believed that my main character was going to be Cassie and another male character Tom would be the second lead. The Dark Lord would also feature very strongly and be a centre character. I didn’t believe that Tom’s father, Frank, would be anything more than a familiar name. It turns out, as I started to write, that things took a totally different turn of events. My presumed main character Cassie hasn’t even featured yet and I have 25,000 words written. Tom has become the main lead and Frank has also become a main character. The Dark Lord is so much darker than I anticipated too and I love the nightmare scenes that he has helped me to create.
I am also working on a romance novel but I’m only a couple of chapters in so I don’t know what is going to happen with this one yet, or the secrets my two main characters are hiding. This came about because I sat with my pen and notebook during my son’s karate class and started scribbling whatever came to mind. By the end of the hour I had the first chapter written and the second chapter written the following evening. I have almost finished the third chapter in this book and it is exciting so far, so I am looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
How did I get to this?
Well it turns out that once I started writing I just went with the flow and allowed the voices in my head, my characters, to take over. They wanted to tell their story and for me it was like watching a movie in my mind and writing it all down as best I could. Both books are works in progress and I have no idea what way they are going to go. I have a basic idea of the plotlines but based on what I have learned so far in writing both novels, the plot could change at any time. I am really enjoying this process of writing as it is very different and also very creative. It takes me out of myself and allows me to become fully absorbed in my writing. This is something that I just don’t get to do when creating non-fiction pieces or writing articles for clients. My novels are my escape and they remind me why I love writing.
Should everyone write like this?
No. This really is a personal choice. Some people prefer to plan and plot out their entire novel before writing. They find it easier. They know what they are writing and what is going to happen. This isn’t for me because I love the freedom of not being tied to a plan, and because I am writing for different clients and adhering to their specifics all the time, this method suits me perfectly.
As you will see if you read Catherine’s article, there are lots of ways to plan so be sure to check it out for some tips if this is what you prefer to do.
Book Planning and Writing Non Fiction
As a ghostwriter specialising in the self-help, inspirational, and spirituality niches, I write a lot of non-fiction. For me planning in this genre is essential. You need to have a step by step plan that you can follow. This normally involves a chapter by chapter breakdown, an overall synopsis, and a calculation on word count per chapter. I never start any non-fiction book without having a full plan in place. More often than not, when writing for myself, I create a full book proposal before I start so I can be sure that I have everything I need. This way I can also submit a proposal to a publisher once I have a couple of chapters completed.
With non-fiction you don’t have to have your book completed in order to submit it to a publisher or agent. All you need is a completed book proposal and some sample chapters. I will go into the specifics of writing a book proposal in another post.
I definitely believe in planning non-fiction and if I am working on a ghostwriting project this is essential. I work with my client to plan out the entire book before writing anything. If they are telling me their story via mp3 recordings or interview questions, I will go through them and make notes on sections that they may have missed. I always try to explain that a biography or life story should have three parts; the early years, the struggle, and the solution/present. Each of these sections then has to be broken down and part of the process is working with my clients to go through each section of their life and pull out the important stories that need to be worked into the book. We need to highlight struggles, lessons learned, what triggered the breakthrough and so much more. It is a very complex process but so rewarding at the end.
As you can see, planning really is different depending on the genre you are writing in. Novel or fiction writing may or may not require planning. In this genre it is all about personal choice. With non-fiction, however, planning is essential.
Please do go over and read Catherine’s article if you are struggling with completing that first draft as there is a lot more content in her article that I have highlighted here.
Until next time,