Do I Need a Book Plan?

So far through this novel writing experience I find myself continuing to fall into two traps: not making the time to write consistently and writing myself into corners. I know my solution to the first trap: choose to make it more of a priority. Writing myself into corners seems to be a little bit trickier to solve. This makes me wonder … do I need a book plan after all?

Why I Haven’t Made a Book Plan …

This might be a rookie mistake but I consciously chose not to make an outline or book plan. I made this choice with the notion that I wanted to see where the story would lead me, where the characters would take me. I wanted the story to unfold for me as much as it does for the reader. Frankly, while I had a basic concept of the theme of the story and the staging of the characters, I really have no idea how to get there.

Writing Myself Into Corners

Unfortunately, my free-flow writing tactic seems to be backfiring on me. I’m at the point now where I’ll get a bright idea about where to take the story next, write that and then find myself stuck on what happens next. It really is like painting myself into a corner every time I sit down. And then I’m stuck for two weeks trying to let the next step come to me. This is making the whole writing process much longer and challenging than I think it could be.

I thought I’d made great strides in the process when I finally made notes about my characters! These notes have proven extremely helpful so far. But they haven’t solved my story flow issues. Plus, I have to change things about the character as I write because some detail or another didn’t work. I wonder if that compromises my character. Unfortunately, I may not know until I’m too committed to the new details. ARUGH! What the heck am I doing?!!!

This is usually about the time I’d call in one of my lifelines: Cheri Caddick or Parrish Wilson. I’m going to hold off on that though – for the moment – and go with the “What would Cheri or Parrish tell me to do” tactic. Let’s see how long my independent mind lasts!

Maybe I Do Need a Plan!

If the way things are unfolding now isn’t working … maybe it’s time to change that. Maybe I do need a book plan! Writing the idea that I need a plan makes my stomach lurch with the fear of planning my way to stiff writing. Surely there must be something I can do.

This is about the time when I begin to think that maybe all my experience in project management and self-development might come in handy. I mean, since my limited experience in fiction writing isn’t really helping maybe another of my talents will!

Is there a way to plan my book and still allow flow?

I think there is a way to plan and still leave room for flow: Plan Loosely. This is one thing that most Project Managers are really bad at. Most PM’s love micromanaging! Fortunately, I am not one of those project managers! I usually leave lots of room for finding efficiency as well as speed bumps. I’m not sure how I do it but it comes pretty naturally. Now I could go scour the internet, or all the resources I already have hidden deep on my hard drive, but for the sake of efficiency I’m going to scribble some notes about what I might need in this plan.

… Please Stand By! …

The Start of a Book Plan

After a few minutes of making space on my desk to actually use it (don’t ask!), – and without actually giving away my story – this is what happened in a 10 minute “brain dump”:


  • What’s my point?
  • Why is this important? That wasn’t on the sheet but I’m sure it’s a good thing to know!

Main Characters:

  • What do I need to know about them before I start?
    • Physical & personality traits
    • Back story – influences and experiences so far. Family? Friends? Work?
    • What are their challenges?
    • What do I want them to discover along the way?
    • What kinds of scenarios will lead them there?


  • What is the format of my story?
  • Key story outline

What I need to know:

  • Do I want my characters to weave in and out of the story or “cut scene”?
  • If I’m weaving my characters into the story, what are some ways I can do this?
  • Do I want Char. 4 peppered throughout the story? If yes, what are some ways I can do this?
  • What kinds of things can happen to my characters to get them where they need to go & how can Char. 4 assist?

What Do I Like So Far About Having a “Loose” Book Plan?

The funny thing is that even asking these questions in this way, I have a greater sense of peace about my story. I don’t have many answers to most of these questions yet but I know if I spend a little bit of time asking and making notes, this process is more likely to get easier.

Once I answers some of the questions it will give me enough of a plan – at least an idea of what I want to happen – without limiting what can show up when I get down to writing. It’s like looking at a map only partially zoomed in. Before I only knew origin and destination, now I can see some of the main roads I can take to get there.

Okay! Enough Talk! I’ve got some planning to do! Let’s see what’s possible now!

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