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How long should i take to plan a Novel?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devora, Mar 1, 2013.

  1. Devora

    Devora Sage

    I'm trying to plan a novel, but I'm wondering what would be a good amount of time i should give myself to plan out the novel before i start writing it out?

    I don't want to take too long on planning, but at the same time I don't want to cut myself short.

    How long do you usually take to plan a novel, and what amount of time would you recommend?
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    It has taken some Authors decades... And some can use their lunch break to get started. I think it takes as long as it takes...
    [ For me it is at least a year... and counting... ]
  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    It varies from story to story. The more involved, the more planning time.

    The current one I'm working on took about 5-6 months to plan & outline. That's a lot for me, the most planning I've ever done. I dedicated as much time as I could to world, character, and plot...until I couldn't stand not writing the story anymore. It's an ambitious project though... Multiple POVs, multiple concurrent stories running I the same work over several books, all moving together eventually (hopefully).

    That is probably the only common point in planning any story I write...I plan until I just can't handle postponing the writing any longer.
  4. OGone

    OGone Troubadour

    Nothing is necessary, you can just go in blind and research as you write. I think if you're writing epic/high fantasy though some degree of planning helps. I personally have been "planning" for years but in terms of actually writing stuff down it's all very patchy as I always change things and start again. So I haven't actually written anything down for my world building, which sucks.

    You don't need to world-build neither do you need an outline so there's no real answer. It depends on the length of your story too. If you're writing around a 150k word novel I would say at least 3 months to plan everything (committing a couple of hours a day) and then the rest of the year to write it. Further months would then be spent reading, editing and getting feedback. World-building... You can spend years and years on it to be honest, begin writing as soon as you can.

    It's all opinion though. If you're in a position where you can start it then I would say start it, don't bother detailing anything in your world unnecessary to the plot.
  5. My rather ambitious goal is to have a finished first draft by the end of this year. I gave myself two months to write my outline. Turns out I'm going to need an additional month, because I procrastinate too much. So, three months.
  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    The book I'm currently editing, I planned for about a week, wrote the first draft in 4 months, and have been editing for a year. In hindsight I should have planned a bit more.... hahha.

    But from my experience, it's best to define certain things, before you start. Here's a list that I use.

    Magic- If you plan on using magic to solve problems you have to know your magic system. If you don't, then broad strokes will do.

    Character goals for protagonist (Plot/Personal)
    - A plot goal (an external goal) is what the character needs to achieve in order to be "successful" at the end of the story. it can't be abstract like world peace. It has to be a concrete achievable goal with clearly defined steps in order to get there. Eg Destroy the Deathstar
    - A personal goal (an internal goal) is what the character needs to achieve in order to achieve personal "success" at the end of the story. Like above it can't be abstract. It should be something like "I want to become a Jedi like my father".

    A villain - obviously someone to stand in the protagonist's way, preventing them from achieving their goals. Figure out what the villain wants and why?

    - Religions and Government - Like magic, how much detail you put into these things depends on their importance to the story. If they don't play much of a role, then just define with broad strokes.

    - flora and fauna - I always define these with broad strokes, adding detail when needed.

    Once I know these things, I'm ready to start, and I fill in the rest of the blanks as I go.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
  7. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

    As long as it takes. Even though I have an outline for a story, I always come up with new ideas that i want to add. Or I might deside to edit something or remove things. Nothing is really set in stone until it gets published so I wouldn't worry too much about a timeframe. Instead, you should focus on making your novel worth reading. This includes likeable characters, a rich world, and obviously a good plot.
    Lock likes this.
  8. Dr.Dorkness

    Dr.Dorkness Minstrel

    Hi, I've been out of the loop quite some time. I even had to stop writing due to health problems, but I'm back now. for my initial story/book I planned for about a year. But after I stopped writing it, I came up with new ideas for characters and races, hell even for new cultures. But soon I realised I would not be able to intigrate them all in the story, It would be to difficult to understand for the reader. So I thought "what should I do. I have to make it all clear to the reader." Until a few days ago I didn't know what to do. But now I've started to write a new story. I took all the cultures and races I had developed and use this new story to introduce them. I've also been itching to write of a normal boy/girl. So what I did was have this normal boy enter a whole new land where there are few humans, the most of the population there is of an other race and culture, and I have him explore it.

    So what i'm really trying to say here is that I developed Ideas for more than three years (for an other story) and now use then for this story. I started writing it only last thursday. Now I already have finished seven chapters, And I'm having a lot of fun with it. More fun than my initial story. So it is really up to yourself.
  9. The Unseemly

    The Unseemly Troubadour

    I sort of make mine up as I go along. It's what you could supposedly call a fantasy criminal (sort of), and I've really involved myself in it, but right after I've written a bit, I say "hang on, what about this character and that, and wouldn't it be better if I wrote it like such and such?"
    Don't restrict yourself/deadline a planning time. Do what is necessary, and if nothing new comes to mind, put what you've got on paper. Usually something new shows up (works for me - shrug). Don't be afraid to terminate sections into impunity and completely re-write them. Never focus on how much pages you have. Focus on improving the content properly, doing what is necessary.
  10. Addison

    Addison Auror

    Here's a sad yet relevant note, I've been working on my story, my main story, since ninth grade. That's eight years. Since then it's gone through so many changes I lost count. But now the finished story is in the revision process.

    My point is that the time it takes for us to plan our novel is different for each of us. When I first started I was writing by the seat of my pants all the way. I'd only read one book....okay a few chapters, of a writing book when I started. Since then I've read more than a dozen. Between those books my own story has gone through every Novel Surgical process known to writers.

    My stories usually just start as an idea, as I sleep or wake, and grow from there. Bits and pieces of the story will pop up from nowhere, I'll write them down and keep building. I'll start writing and keep going until I get stuck. If taking a break doesn't work then I outline and that always works.
  11. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    Planning is massively important.

    But you get to a point where it starts to feel like procrastination.

    In those instances, I just write scenes or sequences or pages that I know are going to be part of the final story in some way.

    So I'm building/writing as I'm planning.

    It's improvisational - the plan and the pages change until it all starts to work.
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    My view - it comes down to what works for you. Me - I don't plan at all. I start writing as a scene or idea takes me and then I simply progress from there, world building and plotting as I go.

    But I know a lot of others do plan. My only concern about that approach would be when people start losing focus on writing to world build and plot. I think that happens more often then people want to admit.

    Cheers, Greg.
  13. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I began writing a nano novel, one I didn't have high hopes for. Turns out, it's the best thing I've written so far... with NO

    So now, a year later, I just wrote all my scenes on tiny bits of paper and cut them up into lines, which I'm going to tape into a new order. This is the downfall when you do not plan...

    I'd recommend planning first with a spider graph or arrows and boxes like cause and effect. For me, moving forward, that's going to have to be the minimum because going back through 95k words and trying to reconfigure is infuriating.
  14. risu

    risu Troubadour

    The whole reordering thing really got to me too. I can't write chronologically and I can't mentally divide my writing into chapters prior to writing them. I write as scenes come to me and they may not always stay where I first stick them. I've programs like yWriter to thank for the saving of my sanity, where I can drag and drop scenes to do painless reordering or set scenes as "unused" without deleting them. It might be counter productive to do all the organization after writing, but if you can't plan, then you might go that route.
  15. Devora

    Devora Sage

    I never got how to make a Cause and Effect Spider Graph.
  16. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    so mine looks something like this:

    GUILDS ----------------- CITY GOVERNMENT---------------------- MINOR NOBILITY

    MERCHANTS ------------------ OLD CHURCH ----------------------- REBELLION

    HIGH-RANKING NOBLES --------- NEW CHURCH -------------------- THE ORGANIZATION

    You'll have to imagine the other rrows drawn in, but I can't put them into this box. Basically I start here, divide characters and secondary characters into their groups and start detailing motivations, plot lines, etc.
  17. Rob P

    Rob P Minstrel

    From what everyone has written it seems it's as long as it's broad. Many threads in this forum have touched upon styles of writers, those that discover as they write and those than plan with every shade between. I suppose the first question to ask yourself before undergoing a project is to think what type of person you are. Do you like planning everything in your life or are you a bit more frivolous and go with the flow. I think your nature would determine at which point planning turned into prose.

    All I can give is my perspective. I had an idea but it stayed little more than a daydream for many years, however it gained depth and perspective over that time. Then the decison to do something about it took hold of me and that's when I discovered the great hole in my knowledge/ability.

    Writing is easy, writing well is difficult and writing well for the length of a novel, the hardest.

    Part of my preparations were some writing classes where many of the basics were explored. Research, lots of research. Character profiles, fundamental aspects of world building (maps, calendars etc), the basic plot, core interactions etc.

    For me, this was the point at which I started writing. I guess I'm the type that does some world building but likes to discover as well. This whole process excluding the daydreams lasted about four to five months. This of course was not full time. A job gets in the way as well as many other things.

    In that time I generated over 50,000 words for my notes. this is down to my story being complex, many layers, many worlds, many POVs with converging and diverging storylines. I would say the less linear a story reads the more preparation should be employed. With all that I did, I still feel it wasn't enough, something to take forward to the next story.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  18. cibir

    cibir Acolyte

    Here's how I handle planning:

    1. Do some basic worldbuilding. Understand geography, economic system, and basic pieces of culture as it's going to affect your story.
    2. Take like one page and write down, in full sentences, what's going to happen.
    3. Take each sentence or so and expand it into a chapter.
    4. Go back and do more worldbuilding. As you have been writing, you should keep notes of the things you need to expand upon, like maybe folklore comes up and you need to develop it.

    Basically, the time you spend planning is not really important. Just plan until it's planned.
  19. Sheriff Woody

    Sheriff Woody Troubadour

    A long as a piece of string.

    It depends on the story and what is required to tell that story.
  20. JBryden88

    JBryden88 Troubadour

    I think like some have said. It varies. I know in my experience, I can develop an idea in a day, I don't necessarily need to outline, I just need to remember the basics.

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