Authorship, Publishing, Books and More

Planning Your Novel

Say hello to today’s guest blogger, Beth Barany who offers advice about planning our novels…

Do you like plotting your story before you write it? I don’t! That is, I don’t like the sound of “plotting.” Sounds so boring and feels heavy. Like “plodding.”

I’ve learned, though, through lots of trial and error that if I didn’t know where I am going with my story — if I don’t know the story’s end or even the scene’s end —I can’t start.

There are writers who love not knowing where they are going before they write. I’m not one of them.

I learned I needed a general idea of my destination. I realized I needed a road map with plenty of room for side trips.

Over the years, I’ve created tools that help me plan without that heavy dull feeling. I have ways to feed my creative fire without feeling boxed in, and most importantly, guidelines that kept me moving forward and writing with excitement and clarity about the next steps.

If you’re travelling from San Francisco to New York at night, you only need to be able to see in front of you 350 feet to get there safely.

Not only do I use these tools myself, but I also teach them in our annual Plan Your Novel workshop. We help you think about your story in an organic, easy way, so that you can start Nanowrimo prepared, with clarity and confidence.

Here’s a summary of my process. Perhaps there’s something useful here for you. If so, I hope you use it to write your novel.

I like to start my planning with the elevator pitch, another name for book blurb. You see it on the back of books and on the online book record, under “Book Description” or “Overview.” Brainstorm your main character’s initial situation, main goal, main conflict or antagonist, and worst case scenario. Then draft these into 1-2 sentences — a great way to draft the bare bones of your story.

Next I clarify my genre, which is really about reader expectations, and my theme, as best I can.

Following this, I brainstorm a short synopsis, thinking through the beginning, middle, and end of my story, weaving in the theme and emotional changes of my characters.

Then comes my favorite part of story planning: diving into my main characters. I draft notes on what they want, what’s in their way, and what truly motivates them, plus other details to create well-rounded characters that feel real.

Once I have a good sense of my main characters, and a few of the secondary ones that occur to me, I expand into discovering my story world, maybe doing research. I also use my main character’s fears to connect deeper to the story arc and gain clarity about the story.


About Beth

Beth Barany works with aspiring and dedicated genre novelists who desire to share their stories with the world.

Through her live and home-study courses and coaching programs, she helps them overcome confusion and overwhelm about where to begin and how to stay the course.

She works one-on-one and in groups to help them write, publish, and market their books.

An experienced independently published novelist and nonfiction author, Beth guides students through planning the novel, writing it, editing it, and the marketing and publishing of their fiction.

Beth has done so in two of her favorite places in the world (so far): the San Francisco Bay Area and Paris, France.

She’s also a speaker, teacher, and workshop leader and has presented in Italy, Boston, Washington D.C., Seattle, and Los Angeles.

Based in Oakland, California, across the sparkly bay from San Francisco, and next to Berkeley, as a novelist, Beth writes magical tales of romance and adventure to transport readers to new worlds where anything is possible.

Certified as a Creativity Coach, an EFL-instructor, and NLP Practitioner, Beth is passionate about helping writers and authors get their message out into the world, gain confidence in their self-expression, and discover how they can get noticed and sell books to their readers.

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