12 Days of Planning Your Novel: What Will You Write?

Check out my 12-day series about planning a novel. Day one is deciding what to write about.

Welcome to Day 1 of Planning Your Novel. I thought it would be fun to do a series based on one of my favourite Christmas songs: The 12 Days of Christmas.

Now, the 12 days of Christmas are actually December 25 - January 5, but I wanted to release all 12 parts of this series before Christmas so that if you are following along with me, you’ll be all set to write during the actual 12 days of Christmas, a time when many people have some time off. Of course, you can work through this series anytime you want. I understand the holidays can be a very busy time!

Before you even start thinking about planning your novel, you need to figure out what you want to write about. This goes for non-fiction as well. It helps if you have a very clear idea about what you are planning to write before starting the plan for your book. Your planning will be a lot easier once you have a clear direction.

One of the editors I’ve worked with, Rachelle Rea Cobb, has a free online course about planning your novel in five days. She recommends doing a brain dump on day one and this is also what I recommend.

If you’re like me and feel a bit intimidated doing brain dumps, I’ve broken it down into some simple steps you can follow, including examples of what I will be doing for my next novel.

Brainstorming story ideas doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here are three steps to come up with a great story idea.

Step 1: Think like a reader

This step is really simple. What do you like to read? What genres do you love? This is a great place to start. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Write what you know”, and this is why starting with the types of stories you like to read is a great idea.

I love reading and writing thrillers, but I want to try something different this time, so this novel is going to be a romance.

Step 2: Find a home

Finding a home is all about the world your story will take place in. This can be a specific time period, a city you love, or even a world like wine-making or A-list celebrities. You don’t have to limit yourself at this point. Remember, you’re brainstorming right now.

The home for this romance novel I’m working on is England and Canada during World War II.

Step 3: Fill the home

As you’re brainstorming about the worlds you might like to write about, think about the types of characters that will live in those worlds and make a note of them on your brainstorming sheet. You may need a new piece of paper by now and that’s totally fine.

My characters are going to be based on my grandparents, but because they aren’t living anymore, I’ll be taking lots of liberties regarding the other characters they’ll be interacting with in my novel.

So, now that you’ve worked through these three steps, you should have quite a few ideas to work with. For Day 2, we will be starting on the research part of the planning process, so try and choose a story idea or at least the genre you want to write before proceeding.

What questions do you have about brainstorming a story idea?