How To Plan A Novel :: Bullet Lists

Although the tent poles required to hold up a story may be similar for all of my tales, I plan differently when comparing short fiction to a full-length novel. Equally, planning for NaNoWriMo is definitely a different beast altogether.

catsonfenceOne of major parts of preparing to write a novel is compiling an ‘encyclopaedia’ of some sort. You may also know this as a story bible or binder, and it’s generally an organised compilation of information you may need to refer to throughout writing.

Now, the idea itself isn’t unique, and generally there are some key sections you may want to think about:

  • Characters  – description, photos, family trees, connections to other characters and cut scenes from their point-of-view
  • Setting – the world map, unique information about different areas/provinces/towns, history of the world, climate, culture, terrain and character-related places (Amy’s House, for example)
  • Plot – key events, a time-line, tent-pole moments, a list of scenes and how/when sub-plots will weave together

But alongside these common aspects, often covered in Writing 101 posts, I also keep a few bullet point notes in the actual manuscript document, at the top for easy reference.

  • Details: This contains items I’ve yet to add in, such as “add bat-creatures” which will remind me that I’m in a desert setting with caverns, and that my world-climate-terrain would have bats. There may even be a plot-reason for this later, but these are ideas to add flourish or description. I also add little foreshadowing notes here and any things I may have added but need to check later.
    • Add bat-creatures
    • Candles or oil lanterns? Check accurate for time-period.
  • To-Do: This covers events and foreshadowed events or scenes I need to fit in but don’t know where/what order I want them in. This is a list I check off as I go, to ensure I have at least considered all my ideas fully.
    • Snow by time X/event Y.
    • Use powers above ground following flood.
    • Include a snail battle to show off Power Z.
  • Terminology: Instead of deciding on a cool name for something, and then find it changed and I can’t remember what it was, I used all my terms but keep a little list so I can ‘Find and Replace’ them at the end, once I’ve picked my favourite.
    • Mentor = Master = Guardian

This is good for planning; so as not to lose those little notes which don’t quite fit into your current scene list, seven-point plot structure or in the already-written scenes. Equally, it keeps a little list of inconsistencies to check before you do a full-read through or pass the story over for beta-reads.

How do you keep track of the plan as you draft a story?

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