About Writing, Life and Writing About Life

The last extract from my book Be An Author was about knowing how many words to write, or in other words how long your book needs to be. Here is another extract from the chapter about the Process of Writing – this time we are finding out whether the contributing authors plan the contents of their books before writing.

Did you plan your book, or write it as it came to you?

Wendy : I planned it by writing my chapter headings down first.
Linda : I was fortunate in that I already had a bank of email questions to work with which meant that my first book was already half planned. Most of the others were also planned as they were non-fiction and I knew I had to cover things logically. However my novel was completely different. That was literally ‘stream of consciousness’ writing and I never knew what was going to come out in the process of writing each day.
Simon : I planned it, and I’d recommend that. You should have some kind of narrative to follow, so you’re always telling a story, be it a plot, a character’s, or a mix. Without a plan, it’s all too easy to get lost. Tedious as it may sound, and change as it doubtless will, you’ve got to spend some time planning before you get to the fun bit of the actual writing.
Sallyann : With non-fiction I always did a chapter-by-chapter outline. For the novel the planning was more loose, but once I started writing it was as if the character took off in a different direction and the book had a different ending than I had expected.
It’s great to start with a plan, but be prepared to change it or even throw it out of the window.

Our authors seem to feel that planning is an important part of the process, though with fiction writing it may be optional. All writing must have a beginning, middle and a satisfying conclusion though (at least I think so; I hate books that end with no finale). It might be hard to start writing unless you have some idea what those might be, so how might you go about planning your book?
There are many different methods of planning. For those with a visual orientation, mind-mapping might be particularly appropriate. This can be done simply with a pen and paper or by using a mind-mapping software, which can be useful if you want to play with the structure and try moving parts from one place to another.
Alternatively for non-fiction you could brainstorm chapter titles then move them around into different structures until they make logical sense and a good progression through the book.


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