How to Do a Novel Planning Session
Two people, two hours, and plenty of crystals
Step 1: BYOB.
Anna is not a coffee drinker and I cannot think without it these days, so I brought my own. Even the sleep-deprived can write novels.
Step 2: Set up your altar.
It’s spooky season so ours involved a pumpkin (Anna’s) and some crystals (mine). Lots of citrine for creative inspiration.
Step 3: Characters before plot.
The plot we came up with back in August was pretty detailed for the first handful of chapters and then got thinner and thinner, trailing off completely before the midway point — we’ll figure it out as we go, we said!
Now we’ve hit that wall of the unknown and need to have at least some idea of what happens next, but the first 15,000 words have also raised a bunch of questions about these characters, and the answers to those questions will certainly affect the plot.
So, we spent the bulk of yesterday’s two-hour session gossiping about our three main characters. Why is he like that?! What happened to her in her past that made her believe that?!
We used some character development questions from Alan Watt’s 90-Day Novel. (I have never followed this program for 90 days straight because it would take at least a few hours a day, but I love pulling writing prompts from it.)
What's the most incredible thing they ever did?
What was a turning point in their life?
What do they believe will help them achieve their main goal?
What's something you wouldn't know by looking at them?
What do their parents think about them?
What brings them the most joy?
What makes them angry?
What is their greatest regret?
What is a lie they have told?
What are they afraid of?
Step 4: Save ten minutes for plotting and spend it all on Wikipedia reading about rowboats.
We ran out of time to really break any more story, but we did determine what kind of boats the pond people race, which was a crucial sticking point. While researching this, I also learned about papier-mâché boats, which are now obviously going to factor into the story in some way.
We definitely need a part two for this planning session, but yesterday gave me enough to work with for the next week or so.
NaNoWriMo is coming up. That’s another program I’ve never done, though I did once write a first novel draft in 33 days and I do enjoy drafting fast if I can. I’m trying to be realistic about my daily goals right now, but I may try to feed off that NaNo energy and up the word count for the next month or so. No promises. Holding everything lightly these days.
One last thing!
Freebird Books here in Brooklyn does a monthly book drive for NYC Books Through Bars, an all-volunteer group that sends donated books to incarcerated people across the country. Their October book bundle features three excellent books that are frequently banned or censored. You can purchase the bundle at a discount through Freebird, and NYC Books Through Bars will navigate the various prison systems to deliver the books. Great way to celebrate fall/Halloween/tomorrow’s solar eclipse/another Monday.
Thanks for reading The Next Novel. Subscribe to see where things go.