Planning a Novel and the First Draft

I’ve been busy with a whiteboard and pretty coloured Post-It Notes trying to plan my second novel. There’s no ‘right’ way of writing a novel but, in my opinion, it helps to have some idea of where the story is heading. So I’ve taken novelist Bella Osborne‘s advice and tried working backwards from a pivotal moment in the plot. For example, if the pivotal moment is X stabbing Y to death in a fit of anger in a remote field, then scenes coming before that must show X procuring a knife, Y doing something to make X angry, X travelling to the remote field etc. etc. novel planning with post-it notes

My plan looks very nice and it’s got my brain into gear but I know I will inevitably veer ‘off-piste’ as I get deeper into the story. That probably won’t matter and will make the writing process more exciting (the book is meant to be grip-lit!). And if I get totally lost then I’ll come back to my plan.

I intend to write the first draft as quickly as possible, NaNoWriMo style. But I can’t wait until November so throughout April I will be doing my own private NaNoWriMo. I want to write as quickly as possible to keep my brain focused and the story continuously moving forward in my head. The resulting manuscript will be for my eyes only and will require a lot of additional work. But I find it less frightening to edit and play around with words I’ve already written, until they’re at a publishable standard, than try to write to that standard in the initial draft.
And I will be repeating the mantra of writing tutor Alison May, “It’s OK to hate your first draft. It’s OK to hate your first draft.”

Finally I leave you with news that Bedsit Three (another grip-lit novel) has been accepted for inclusion into Kobo‘s ‘Deals Page Spotlight – Thrillers’ promotion for the first two weeks in April. Hurray! And, of course, Bedsit Three is also available on Kindle and in paperback.

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  1. #1 by dianneanoble1147 on April 1, 2016 - 9:24 am

    Great post Sally and jolly well done with Kobo! Anything you need re-tweeting etc. just let me know! Dianne. Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2016 09:01:38 +0000 To:

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on April 1, 2016 - 7:27 pm

      Many thanks, Dianne! (And for all your re-tweets so far!)

  2. #3 by Anne Harvey on April 1, 2016 - 11:09 am

    Well done, Sally. Sounds like a plan. It particularly resonated with me because I’ve got to start thinking about book number three as soon as I’ve got Bittersweet Flight uploaded to Createspace. I’ve been having one or two problems but fingers crossed I’ve got them sorted.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on April 1, 2016 - 7:28 pm

      Do you think we’re on a book production treadmill, Anne?! As long as we’re enjoying it’s good.

  3. #5 by Julie Valerie @Julie_Valerie on April 1, 2016 - 12:19 pm

    Outlining is like traveling with a map. You can take the scenic route (pantsing) knowing the map (outline) is on the seat beside you should you get lost. To pantse 100% is a bit too wild for me – makes revising much more difficult. I like a balance between the two. Make that, 70% outline/structure/plan and 30% pantsing to discover once you’re inside the scene. Great post!

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on April 1, 2016 - 7:30 pm

      Thanks, Julie. I think you’re right, it’s impossible to completely stick to a plan because characters change & develop as you get to know them but launching into the complete unknown can lead to a lot of wasted time. Somewhere in-between is good.

  4. #7 by crimewritingsolutions on April 1, 2016 - 2:03 pm

    Good luck with the mad April dash to get your first draft down. I do hope that your post its on your plot board are well stuck though. Mine had a tendency to drop off, thereby shuffling scenes around for me. Thank goodness for Scrivener now. It really helped with last years NANOWRIMO too.

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on April 1, 2016 - 7:32 pm

      I’ve never tried Scrivener – maybe that should be my next project. Lots of people swear by it. Thanks for dropping by crimewritingsolutions.

  5. #9 by juliathorley on April 2, 2016 - 8:58 am

    Wow, you’ve got it all going on at the moment. Any plan that involves multicoloured post-it notes is bound to succeed, methinks.

  6. #11 by Janice Preston on April 2, 2016 - 10:56 am

    Great post, Sally! I might try Bella’s tip, I’m currently on book 6 and it’s akin to wading through treacle! Good luck with your private Nano dash!

    • #12 by Sally Jenkins on April 2, 2016 - 12:37 pm

      I know that treacle feeling, Janice. Book 6 – it doesn’t seem two minutes ago that we were celebrating the publication of book 1 in the Edwardian Tea Rooms!

  7. #13 by Eve Webster on April 2, 2016 - 1:19 pm

    Congratulations, Sally. It also sounds like you are very organised with the post-it notes. I write my plan down in a notebook but find it changes numerous times as the characters go their own way. Still working on draft number one.

    • #14 by Sally Jenkins on April 2, 2016 - 6:20 pm

      I’m probably no more organised than you, Eve! My plan is changing as the characters develop. Good luck with your draft!

  8. #15 by Susan A Eames on April 2, 2016 - 2:41 pm

    That’s amazing – you’re so organised. Good luck with your project.

  9. #17 by Wendy Clarke on April 3, 2016 - 8:30 am

    How did writers ever manage before the invention of post-its and highlighters? Good luck with everything.

    • #18 by Sally Jenkins on April 3, 2016 - 7:19 pm

      Thanks, Wendy. All the best with your novel – and congratulations on getting an agent, wonderful stuff!

  10. #19 by Maria Smith (@mariaAsmith) on April 5, 2016 - 11:09 pm

    Hi Sally, hope it works out with the post it notes I’m on a similar plan, and have to say everything else has gone by the wayside over the last two weeks.
    Very brave of you to be doing a very fast first draft – good luck with it.

    • #20 by Sally Jenkins on April 6, 2016 - 12:48 pm

      I don’t know whether it’s brave or foolhardy, Maria! I’ve already gone way off my original plan.
      Very best wishes with your planning!

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