HOW TO PLAN YOUR BOOK: FROM IDEA TO MANUSCRIPT (PART 1)
I'm prepping my Scrivener template to start rewriting the summary for Janna, and the structure part of it (I'll explain later) looks so clean and clear, I thought I'd share it with you, to save you the headache of figuring it out on your own. I had to figure it out alone, and it took me forever (plus reading a ton of books on plotting, character development, style, and everything in between). When I started using Scrivener, I was searching for a template like that and couldn't find it. Some of you asked me to share it when it's complete. I shared the previous version in this post, but I'll share it again after it's done (email me if you want it), as this version will be even better and more universal in terms of its main elements. It no longer relies only on the Hero's Journey concept but rather encompasses everything that I've read, simplifying it down to the classic Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 idea (Act 2 is often broken in two in most contemporary novels, with the crisis being the breaking point, so it's Act 2a + Act 2b, or some people use the 4-Act structure, but it's all the same thing).
Here is how you can plan your book starting with just one word and finishing with a detailed plan for the finished manuscript before writing down a single word of it (but plenty of words in preparation). I will illustrate it on the example of Rosehead as it's by chance became one of my cleanest books (in terms of its planning and structure). I didn't plan it. It just happened. But now that I know how it happens, I will apply it to Janna (I applied it to TUBE as well, but it was harder and not as clean as I had to preserve four discarded drafts, reinvent the story, and yet somehow keep it within the original idea of an evil train haunting Russian ballerinas).
Take out a clean sheet of paper, copy the questions below and start writing down the answers (you'll find this in the Structure part of the template, after which follow Summary and Style). WARNING: Spoilers. If you don't want to know what happens at the end of Rosehead, don't read further. I'm including the very last paragraph as an example of the book's closing.
IDEA 1 (1 word / phrase): What is this book about?
This book is about … (insert 1 word / phrase).
EXAMPLE: This book is about a rose garden.
IDEA 2 (1 word / phrase incompatible with IDEA 1): What is incompatible with IDEA 1?
… (insert 1 word / phrase).
EXAMPLE: A rose garden eating people. (Rose gardens don’t usually eat people.)
CONCEPT (2 words = IDEA 1 + incompatible IDEA 2): What’s happening in the book?
What if … (insert IDEA 1) did … (insert IDEA 2).
EXAMPLE: What if a rose garden ate people? (CONCEPT must have conflict, it must turn—start with one thing, end with the opposite thing.)
PREMISE (3 words = IDEA 1 + IDEA 2 + 1 main character): Who is making things happen in this book?
What if … (insert main character) did … (insert CONCEPT).
EXAMPLE: What if a 12-year-old girl found out a rose garden was eating people?