Planning Your Novel – With Free Templates
I love visual organisers to organise information and to give me a sense of overview. Which is also why I love using templates to plot my novel. If you want to write a lot quickly, the best way to go about that is to plot your novel. As a pantser, this can be tricky for me. I’d like to think I’m a bit of both now, and once I’ve finished this WIP I will try the snowflake method. For this post, I’ll share with you how I plotted this current WIP, what templates I used, as well as share links to other existing templates. Every writer is different, find what works for you. And have fun!
To Start With…and End With
Firstly, I have a sense of the main character and some elements of the plot. When I feel like I have enough to actually start plotting and writing, I start with the beginning of the novel and the end. I don’t use a template for this. I simply write it down in a notebook or a word doc. that I label Notes. I’m being a bit more minimalistic, so I’m trying to go digital.
Anyway, I ask myself where the main character is at first and where she’ll be at the end of the book. With this WIP I only had a vague sense of where she’d end up, so I plotted the three acts first.
Secondly, I start with plotting Act One since I like to make use of the three-act structure. I use a template that doesn’t just cover the main plot, but also the subplot since I usually have a romantic subplot. It helps to think about where I want them to go and what I need to happen in order for them to reach it. It’s okay to be vague in the beginning, it depends on what you prefer. As someone who likes to have the freedom to let the characters do what they want, it is convenient to stay vague. (But not too vague.) Act One Template
After this, I do the same with act two and three. Two is the most work since that comprises of the most events. It requires a lot of brainstorming and I took a few days to work on this. A handy tip is to fill in the top row (first obstacle) and bottom row (climax act two) first and work towards the middle. This way you keep in mind what you’re working towards and where you’re coming from. I really find this to work the fastest. Act Two Template
The third act is the wrap-up. It’s handy to think about how exactly the characters have changed or if you have a sequel, what the plot will lead to in the next installment. Act Three Template
You can also do a quick layout of all the acts.
I use a template for the chapters (Chapter Template) next and work on it per act. With this current WIP act one comprised of the first four chapters. I plotted them all, then wrote them. And then I moved on to act two. I’m trying to incorporate humour, so I added that in the plotting of the chapters, but if you don’t use that you can change it to something else. I find that this template is very handy for revising as well. For instance, before writing I’d leave the vocab empty and afterward I’d find two words and use a more beautiful or difficult version of that word. And sometimes I left humour blank as well and took my time coming up with a funny comeback or ridiculous anecdote. It depends on my inspiration at the time.
The setting info and character info refer to what kind of info about the setting or the character(s) I add to that chapter. My setting is a kind of retro-futurism and has quirky inventions and a lot of differences compared to our world, so I really want to treat the setting as if it’s a character, giving bits of info about it and making it come alive. The same with the characters. They may not be real in this world, but they are in their own world, and just like with real people, you get to know them gradually.
If something changes during the writing, I can adapt the template since it’s all digital. I revise as I’m writing and reread the manuscript after each five chapters. I’ve already found that something didn’t work and changed it. It made all the difference and I wrote like the wind again. I don’t see changes as a bad thing. I use the templates as my guiding star, but if an iceberg pops up, I don’t mind a little detour. Plotting should be helpful. Use it the way you want. What works for one writer, might not work for the next. I guess the fun thing about writing is that your desires and methods change and it’s always possible to try out different things.
How do you plot? Or do you completely wing it? Do you find you need to change a lot after the first draft? Please share in the comments below.