A Step-By-Step Writing Plan

I have found through my experiences and the experiences of my favorite authors, that writing a book can take a little more effort than typing out a few hundred pages on Word. The biggest reason I wanted to approach this with a step by step process is because I have a tendency to like my characters, making it hard to put them through turmoil. I find myself wondering if other writers feel a similar connection to the characters they create?

I am feeling self-conscious about what I am writing about. Maybe my idea sucks or maybe people won’t like the issues I am playing with. Moreover, I am not 100% set on most of the details. Right now, I feel like the story is still just a concept. Once I am finished with step two, I feel like I will be able to provide a better description of what I am trying to write.

With nothing more than my ambition and the advice I have gleaned from other writers, here are the steps I plan on using for this and every other story I ever write.

Step 1: Brainstorm idea

This set can be as simple as a statement of the ideas, events and concepts wanted in the story. Whatever inspires you, whatever ideas you have, write them down. This step may continue through the second step.

Step 2: Plan chapters or the beginning, middle and end of the story

For chapter stories, write two  to five sentences describing the events of each chapter. Additional ideas for other stories or for future events in  this story should also be written, but need to be kept separate from the chapter descriptions until they are needed. Shorter stories still need a beginning, middle and end. These three things should be identified in a similar fashion, using two to five sentences to describe the events in each phase.

Step 3: Flesh out chapters or phases

In this step, each chapter or phase is given an in-depth description. Locations, times and characters are set in place, although full descriptions of the character might not exist quite yet. This is the step where the sentence “Terra fights a dragon,” is changed to “Terra enters a cave where a dragon awaits her. The dragon knew she was coming and lashes out before Terra can react. As the battle goes on, Terra notices there are no remains of other warriors around her. This is unusual, since display of corpses are often used to keep others away from a dragons nest. …” The events are put in place during this step, but still lack full description and dialog.

Step 4: Flesh out the main characters

One of my favorite authors once said she kept a separate document describing each character in detail. I have adopted that idea in this step, where  the physical appearance of a character and their personality is described. In addition, certain events or memories that are important are added here. These documents will be living documents, especially for stories which turn into multiple books. A reference to each important event in that characters development should be added so that you can be sure future events still flow well with the personality and experience of the character.  In addition, if more characters rise during future steps, these documents need to be immediately created for each one.

Step 5: Write full chapters of phases

With all the prep work complete, it is finally time to add the last pieces to the story. Add detail, descriptions and dialog to make the story come to life. Ideally, this should be done chapter by chapter to maintain flow, but since each chapter has been planned, it is not essential they be written in order. It is, however, important to make sure each chapter smoothly flows into the next.

Step 6: Read and review

Once all chapters or phases have been written, read through and edit the story. This should be repeated as many times as necessary until the writer is satisfied.

Step 7: Peer review

Find one to three people close to you who you trust to review and edit your story with a fine brush. For best results, they should be given a date at which you want them to finish. Once the reviews are in, incorporate all their comments into the story. Note that the story is your own and you retain your right to disagree with the comments of your reviewers. Repeat until you are satisfied.

Step 8: Spread the good news

The story is complete! Congratulations. For me, the next step would be to search for a way to have it published. Other options including self-publishing or simply sharing the story with your friends and family. The fact is, your product is finished. Do what you will.

Do you feel a special connection to the characters you create? Do you find it difficult to write a story that puts those characters in pain or despair? What is your process for writing stories and why do you think it works? What do you tell people about your story when you first start writing?

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4 thoughts on “A Step-By-Step Writing Plan”

  1. Writing is an incredible discovery of both the story and the self. In writing fiction I believe you won’t truly KNOW the story until you’ve written a solid, coherent first draft. Even with all the planning you undertake, ideas can pop out of left field and your story will take an unexpected turn that leaves the planned ending obsolete. But that’s ok because spontaneous writing is often your inner muse pulling you in the right direction.

    Characters. I enjoy putting them in difficult situations. And I do this because it gives me a chance to test their strengths; to see how they grow. And that can also unfold in unexpected but fabulous ways. 🙂

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