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Should I plan or just write?

​I get asked this so often. There is only one answer to this question (in my view). YES of course you should plan a book!

 

I believe in writing with intent if you want to get published.


 

In a non-fiction you are going to be 100% clear about what is going to go into your book. You are going to have a clear list of your chapters and what material you will cover in each. In fact in a non-fiction your planning will become your book proposal and that’s what you are going to sell, not your book (yet).


But is a novel different? In a novel your plan is your plot.


In so many conversations with writer they tell me they just want to write. And of course I tell them to just do it. Just start.


And to a degree I do recommend this  –  ‘write while the muse strikes’ approach.  


But I am a book editor so I don’t really believe this.  I do know that you will get around 20,000 words down and then you will have told your whole story. 


I know the value of finding your story first.


Even an article or a short discussion piece has a structure. Any good piece of writing does. A speech (or a TED talk) is a carefully crafted piece. So you don’t want to start a book – which is a massive undertaking – without a roadmap. You need to know where to put all the information in a logical way. 


SO HOW DO YOU PLAN A BOOK?


Well you have taken your first big step in planning when you chose your GENRE.


That is the beginning of structure. Then you are going to plan your book in a series of scenes. 


STRUCTURE means plotting 


On its most basic level all books – all stories -  have a beginning, a middle and an end.


What do they have in common:


An inciting incident


A lead character


Other characters


A plot



How do you STRUCTURE a non fiction book?

  1. You find your genre and get clear on that.

  2. You figure out your book's argument 

  3. You only put into your book things that support your argument or story 

  4. You write a list of all these scenes. Scenes fit into your overall chapter structure.

  5. Then you write each scene and group them as a  chapter. 


No matter what structure you chose, you are going to find that most of the story is still going to be told in a chronological fashion.


 Why? Because story is about a journey. You are taking the reader on your journey and that almost always requires a start point, and an end point.



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