One of the questions that always stumps me when talking to other writers is, “are you a planner or do you wing it?” Most of my writer friends are either one or the other. Some fully have colour coded notebooks filled with research and detailed page-by-page outlines of their entire book before they’ve even written the first sentence. Others, however, prefer to open a fresh page and start with only an idea in their head.
I feel like I’m somewhere in between. I find it easier to know where I’m going when I’m writing but I also don’t like having a solid plan because if it doesn’t work out, I find myself getting frustrated and not wanting to continue.
So, what do I do? Well, my favourite method of planning is to get a large sheet of paper and a load of different coloured post-it notes! Across the middle of the paper, I draw a straight line which I use like a timeline, and then I write on, for example, the pink post-it notes big events I know I want to happen. Then on the blue post-it notes, I write down what characters are involved and ideas of how they might react. On the green, I may put down ideas for twists or side plots that can link with the big event. I put them into some kind of order on the timeline and then maybe use another colour with ideas on how the characters can get from each event.
I find this a pretty useful method of planning because sometimes you have to accept that your timelines don’t work out and things need moving around, changing, or even adding/removing. By using post-it notes, you can easily edit your timeline without having to messily tear out pages in your notebook or cross out things you don’t like.
By having the post-it notes on a large sheet of paper, you also have the space for little sketches to help inspire you, or even just to add as many post-it notes you may need as you’re writing your story. You can also roll the paper up for easy storage or even pin it to your wall for visual inspiration!
So, how do you plan your novels? Do you prefer to just wing it or is colour-coding your life? Share your tips with me in the comments below or feel free to email me for advice on planning a novel, I’m sure we could work something out together!