Nicholas Reicher

Writing Your Next Blockbuster Film or Novel

Category: Scrivener (Page 1 of 2)

Editing your novel 1

Every writer sets out to write their novel, and thinks once you’ve finished writing it, it’s done. There’s even a famous scene in a movie about a writer’s tradition when he finishes a book, his one cigarette, his bottle of wine.

Actually, about all you get is a smile, self satisfaction, and some relief. “It’s done. I spend six weeks writing this and it’s done.”

On to the next one!

But know that once book two is finished in six more weeks, you now have to edit book one.

It’s going to take several passes.

The line by line revision doesn’t happen at first. It happens later. What are you looking at first?


Do you have a character arc?

Is there suspense and conflict in every scene?

Can I cut this scene out? Will the story be nonsense without it?

Did I build the conflict big enough?

Did I hit all of the points I preplanned out?

If the story changed (and it always does), did I find substitute conflict points?

Do I have 50-60 spark points?

A dozen pivotal scenes?

Very often the first edit pass is almost like a retelling of the novel. It’s going to take a couple of weeks just to get through this first stage.

This stage is crucial. Nine out of ten novels fail at the premise. And since novels often change – sometimes drastically – you have to go back through and ensure the conflict still works. That means your structure can go from workable to unworkable in the process of writing.

If you don’t do this first step, then forget the rest of them.

Suspense (the denial of something) and conflict  (the interrupted attainment of something) must be present in every scene. This is one of the major steps in this first revision.

You need to examine the plot points, which you should have listed in Project properties in the Inspector. Did you hit them all? Did one or two of them lose power in the process of writing? This does happen. If it did, did you choose a substitute story point?

There has to be three turns – first turning point, midpoint, second turning point.

You have to have the climax building in the last 10% of your book. Literally, by word 59,500 you must begin the final conflict stage in your book. This has to build up. If it was a movie, this would be the car chase.

If you have a denouement, it must be short. Don’t have a 60 page wrap-up at the end of your book. If you’ve got that, you cheated the second turn and didn’t build up enough for the climax.

Ready? Now go and edit book two. Get some daylight away from this book, then we’ll come back and start on second pass.

Writing a Short Story

Writing a short story is vastly different from writing a novel. Many short stories literally are what it takes for me to even get warmed up! Certain things you need in writing, such as character development, scene setup, narrative descriptions have to be tossed out so quickly and so sparingly that the reader often has very little time to get a feel for what’s going on.

I remember Omni magazine had a short story once about an executioner in a future world that had degenerated into the middle ages. The peasants believed that the executioner was really a machine, who was paid his weight in gold to go into the king’s prisons and kill off all the condemned. In reality, he was a man wearing armor. And he encounters a Gump, who turns the tables on him.

I don;t know how many words it was, but it was one of those stories you don’t forget. The setup was delivered in the actions of the executioner, and there was no character development, no theme or lesson, until the Gump took control of the man’s futuristic armor and made it crush and behead the executioner.

So – how to write a 4,500 word story? You’ve got almost no time for setup, backstory, or glimpses into character history.

What you want to do is  very carefully craft the back history into people’s dialog and narrative actions. Much of my short story dealt with back story and character history in the actions and words between Ernie and Cary. The entire social climate and history of the Island was dealt with over Ernie being a lobster pirate, and how they treated Ruthie.

And I got it all in there in just a couple of paragraphs.

With short stories, this is really a case of thinking on the fly. “How can I make this one short sentence do double duty?”

It’s really a case of using a lot of subtext in almost every sentence. In hindsight, I’ve almost got enough going on in The Island to make a 110 page movie script out of it.

Another short story I’ve read was a rather boring one, about a man who is renting a flat in London, and finds a Griffin resting on the roof just outside his window. Almost all of the story is about the man – whose name ironically was Griffin – talking to the mythical beast. It was interesting, but really nothing happens. You knew all along the man would get up the next day and the Griffin would be gone.

However, that story is a good case study. If I remember, you gleaned as much from what was not written as what was written! Now, if the Griffin had done something unexpected, like eat the man at the end of the story, then you REALLY could have packed it all in there. You could have had the man realize all along that the Griffin was going to kill him, and the conversation could have turned along to the man trying to convince the Griffin not to without actually saying so.

If you’re trying to keep the story under 4000 words, then you need to conceive a single scene. There’s no movement past that scene. the short story of the  sled dog rider with a single dog who crashes his sled, and is stranded is a perfect example. There was no narrative break. You just saw the dog sledder trying to call the dog over so he could survive the night, and the dog avoiding him. And when the POV changed to the dog, then you knew the man had died.

Here’s your assignment: What if… Come up with a story, what if it, and write it. Set Scrivener to write at 4,500 words. Give yourself a 2 hour 15 minute limit. No editing. Just write.

When it’s done, you may edit it, but you may not go past 5,000 words.

Next week, write another.

Then another.

If you decide to post it here, be aware – you retain all rights to it. It is copyright (date of creation) your name all rights reserved. I have no rights, implied or otherwise to your story.

get busy!

Character Creation Sheets

Character Creation sheets run the gamut from “Name Height Weight Hair Color” to “At what age did your character first drink a soda?”

I’m divided on this myself. Usually when I come up with an idea for a book, I usually can flesh the idea for the book out in 5 minutes, flowchart it, plan it, and have my synopsis created within a day. And start writing it the next. Hence my oft-repeated “It should only take you a month to write an average novel”.

I’ve just never done Character sheets ever. I got started a little on them, but not in depth.

But the other day  I wrote about the Dramatica theory of characters, so I made up character sheets to go in my notebook. Pretty much it’s the standard “Height weight M/F (circle one)”, BUT…

I added in the eight Dramatica characters.  All you have to do is put a checkmark in the space, or write a one word note about how they are that character type.

THEN I added Michael Hauge’s bit. In his book on “Writing Screenplays that sell”, he talked about inner motivation and outer motivation. So I added that, and may revise my sheets to have more stuff in them.

Here’s how the sheets look – you can copy this and paste it into the character profiles in Scrivener.

Name ______________________   M/F (Circle One)

Height______ Weight______ Age______

High School______  College______

Inner Motivation__________________________________________

Outer Motivation__________________________________________

Protagonist ______  Antagonist______ Reflection ______

Personality Type__________________________________________

Character Conflict__________________________________________

Start of Story Situation______________________________________

Changed by Outcome________________________________________

That’s about all I have in it! I don’t get into the “Favorite book in third grade” thing, because it’s like a movie writer once said, you’ve got them in a dilemma, they’ve got conflict and you can’t see the way out of it, and now you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to put in there that they like crunchy peanut butter.

But what I’ve got above really is enough for you to get a feel for your character.

The funny thing is, once I was done with the sheets, I filled out a few, and I saw  that I’d actually neglected to put some of this into my first novel! So I could see right away the value of at least minimal character sheets.

I may update this sheet in the future!

Cotagonist______  Sidekick______ Guardian ______ Skeptic______


The process of creating

Before you can become a writer, you must begin to be creative. Of course, it helps if you’re a creative person already.

To some extent, everyone is creative. It’s that little flourish you add when decorating a cake, or when you’re working on even the most simple wooden thing you’re building – but you built it entirely from thinking about it and then grabbing your tools and going for it.

Everyone’s walked away from movies either saying, “what if?” or “What do you think happened to them?” or “Why didn’t they just?” I know a lot of my movie writing motivation ended up being, “They should have… instead!”

Even if you plan on writing a non-fiction book (which oddly enough seems to be more popular than writing a fiction book), to a certain extent you need creativity to be able to do it well. And trust me, I’ve read a lot of really badly written books by both.

So… how do you foster creativity?

It’s a frame of mind that one enters. You train it by habit. One of the things I’ve recommended is a dedicated writing space. If you’re downright stubborn about “Don’t put anything into this space” to everyone else in the house, then after a while just entering that space already has your mind ready to create.

It’s something you develop through exercises. People who don’t know how to write (but want to), I make several recommendations. Play the what if game. “What if a man comes home and…”

Finish that sentence.

Exercise 2 – Take an article, and a noun. Write them down. “The car….”

The car what? Speeds up, slows down, pulls into a parking spot? Or screeches in, stopping with a lurch?

If you’re already self trained in creative writing, those little examples are writing prompts that should foster up an entire little story. Is it a FBI raid on a serial killer? Is it an angry house buyer confronting a crooked Realtor? Is it a pizza delivery guy who’s late habitually because in reality he’s a multi-dimensional traveler, and some kind of monster had him trapped away from the gateway?

Exercise 3 – describe an object. Okay, it looks like a cell phone. But is it really? Could it be a homing beacon for a horde of extra-terrestrial aardvarks, come to destroy the earth? The irony of it if someone is carrying this thing around, then drops it into a toilet by accident! You’re complaining about ruining your cell phone, but you just saved the earth!

One of those things a producer or an editor almost never has to tell a writer is to “Think outside the box.”  If you’ve finished something, you’ve already shown you pretty much live outside the box.

Learn to live outside the box. All that “let’s pretend” you did as a child – that’s your only required training. Remember how you did that? Sure you did. Let’s get started.

9 Must-Do Steps to Writing your novel in Scrivener


If you’ve never used Scrivener, it has some little-known tools that are exceptionally powerful, and make planning and editing your novel much more effective. I’m going to go through the first ones I’ve done, and then explain the ones I still need to do. This way, this blog post acts as a public reminder to me to get theses done!

  1. Set project target. That’s done. I try to keep my novels at 150,000 words, since that’s standard for an action/apocalyptic novel. Which means my current first book is about 50,000 words over the target, and needs judicious editing.

  2. Set scene targets.
    I’ve described before how I set them all at long scenes (1,200 words) and then, as I write them, determine if it’s an action snippet (400 words), short scene (600 words), Medium scene (900 words) or long scene. These are all done.
  3. Act Synopsis. I use a three act template to plan my novels. Each act should have its own synopsis entered. I entered very terse descriptions in my synopsis, and those need to be updated a little (as the scenes tend to change slightly as I write them).
  4. Chapter synopsis. I need to enter these. This is one thing I never did. What is the entering situation in the chapter? What is the desired outcome? Where are my obstacles and setbacks?
  5. Scene Synopsis. I need to write these as well. Roughly the same, but now on minor levels. On the scene level, you need to be thinking about what is your promises and payoffs? If you have to, create custom meta data fields to track those. (Project>Custom Meta Data>+)
  6. Add each scene to it’s character collections. This is a huge tool, one that quite a few Scrivener users don’t seem to play with, like the custom meta data fields. I add collections for every characters, then add each scene the character appears in. This way I can see how they talk, are portrayed, etc. You CANNOT allow something in any part of your book for your character’s voicing and portrayal to change, unless it’s driven by the plot over a progression. Adding scenes to collections allows you to read just those scenes they’re in, sequenced according to the book. It can take a lot if you’ve got 30 chapters and 7 scenes per chapter, and 8 major/minor characters. My first novel has over 14 major & minor re-occurring characters. Each one requires its own collection. That means 14 separate reviews of my book. That’s a huge project, but trust me, it’s worth it. Things begin to jump out at you that you’d never notice using Microsoft Word.
  7. Footnotes and Comments: Use comments upon read-through to go through your book, and label thoughts on “Move to ch.4?” “Weak…” “Tighten here” “Excessively wordy” “On the nose dialog”. You can color code the comments, or you can just use a different color for each comment so they don’t blur one into another.
  8. Highlights. Make sure you use the highlighting function to show areas that need working on. The comments can highlight some areas, but other areas can just do a quick “Green highlight” or “Blue highlight” to show you need to fix those little areas. You can color code them, or just use the different colors to keep them from blending together.
  9. Snapshots. I make snapshots for every major change within Scrivener, in case the edits I’m making cause the scene to be less powerful than how I first had it!

Scrivener is a surprisingly powerful piece of writing software for only $40. I’ve never looked back once I committed to buying it. Make sure you are using these tools to help you in the re-write and editing process!

What other tools do you use within Scrivener?

Writing With Scrivener

I know I write a lot about Scrivener… but this is one program I really believe in.
Let me differentiate between Final Draft and Scrivener.

Final Draft is what you should use to write screenplays. It’s Industry Standard.
Bottom line. No room for discussion.

Now Scrivener. My feelings for this program go way beyond just “Use Final Draft because its the Industry Standard.”

Scrivener is a program that I am extremely happy I bought. It took a couple of weeks, where I kept thinking, “This isn’t YWriter!”

Once I grasped that Ywriter wasn’t Scrivener, I was able to let go of preconceived notions.

Like Michael Hyatt, I have switched to writing EVERYTHING in Scrivener.
I used to use LibreOffice, MSWord, YWriter, Livewriter for blogging, etc.

Now it’s Scrivener. For everything.

I write my blog/website in Scrivener.
I write my Twitter posts in Scrivener.
I write my fiction and nonfiction in Scrivener.

The only thing I don’t write in Scrivener is movies and TV. Any Script work is always done in Final Draft for the reasons mentioned above.

I suppose I could do everything in Scrivener, but I feel it’s better to have it in Final Draft, just in case I run into a director, and he says, “well, Email me your FDX of the script, and I’ll take a look.”

I now have no worries about whether my script will format correctly. I’m using the industry standard. No worries.

The only real way to get to know Scrivener is to try using it for the 30 day trial. Go get it. Try all your writing in it for the next 30 days.

Scrivener benefits:

Full screen mode. I’m using that right now. It’s great. You can add a custom graphic to it to frame what you’re writing, or you can just fade it down to a transparent gray, or even black framing your writing page.

You can also expand or contract your writing page to give you the best focus. I usually use the full screen mode when I’m working on a longer screen – but sometimes I’m in too much of a hurry to get the scene written down so I just use the regular interface.

Corkboard. The Corkboard is Scrivener’s way of doing everything at least two different ways. You can use your binder to drag around scenes (I do that a lot) or you can go to your corkboards (there’s actually several!) and drag them away that way.

Or you can simply cut and paste scenes. You’re going to find Scrivener VERY flexible. How do you like to work? Scrivener is remarkably adaptable to different ways to do things. This helps to keep me from getting bored or frustrated with it.

Outliner. When you want to view the fine details of your project. You can create custom meta tags (very important). This way you know who’s in a scene, where it is, etc. The Outliner is the image at the top of the screen.

Word Counter. This has colored bar that grows and changes color as you type… it actually motivates you to type!

Scene Target: You can set a target word count  per scene. It too has the colored scrollbar. You can tell at a glance from the Outliner what scenes have hit their targets.

Scrivenings Mode. This allows you to see one scene at a glance, a chapter in its whole, or even an entire book all at once.

Collections. If you create collections for every character in your book, and add each scene to the collections of the characters in it, then you’ll see at a glance if all your dialogue and actions conform entirely throughout the book for those characters! Good to know if you mention someone has a persistent cough, and then you forget about it!


Scrivener is highly customizable, very impressive and designed to make writers write and achieve goals quickly!

Do you use Scrivener to write? Talk about it below!

Writer’s Block and Seeing your Story

We’ve talked about starting your book, setting up Scrivener, a little bit on conflict, and a little bit on planning. Now we need to talk about the mechanics themselves.
If you’re writing your novel, the question then becomes, how much do you write? What do you write?

Here’s your key – if you sit at your computer, open Scrivener, and stare at your blank page… and nothing happens…

You skipped on the previous steps I just talked about.

You should be able to know what you’re about to write. Michael Hyatt says, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. Writers’ block just means you have nothing to say.”
I’ll add onto that and say, if you have writer’s block and have no idea what to type, you can’t see your story yet.

I personally can’t start until I KNOW my story. I have to almost KNOW every basic outline point memorized before I can write it.
If you came up with your logline…
Wrote your Save The Cat…
Added in the other 28 or so points…
Set up Scrivener for your novel…
Wrote a synopsis on each index card…
Did your “how does this character impact this character” brainstorming…

You should sit down and write, “It was a dark and stormy night…” and bang out your target word count. You should be able to keep that up for 2-3 months.
Your book should be done.

You need to go back, repeat those processes, and then start writing. If you still can’t write, then you didn’t think this project through enough. Shelve it for six months, start another one.

Now, for a different problem.

My problem with my fourth novel was a simple one. If I don’t like an element of a book, my brain begins to drag its heels on it.
I may be able to see it…
I may know exactly what comes next..
But my brain will begin to procrastinate on it drastically.
There are certain things that I find completely objectionable. There are things I’d rather not write about. Drug use, for instance. When those things are present, it makes my brain want to avoid the writing part.
If those parts MUST be in your book, get those parts done and out of the way. Otherwise, you’ll start writing about this and that instead of what you must write on. There’ll suddenly be tea parties for teddy bears instead of your novel.


1. Write the parts you hate first.
2. Go to full screen mode in Scrivener to write.
3. If you usually write in full screen mode, then switch to regular mode.
4. Alternate full screen mode and not.
5. Listen to music while writing.


Most writer’s block issues are actually failure to plan issues. Having the proper pre-planning done often eliminates Writer’s block. Find out if your procrastination actually is other issues first! If that doesn’t work, then shelve your book idea, and begin on book 2.

Writing Your Novel 5: Conflict and Character

The essence of your story is this:
Your logline.

A man with a problem is having an okay life, when suddenly he something and needs something. The villain plans to stop him. Everything the hero tries does not succeed until with one last ditch effort, it happens, the villain is defeated, and he lives happily ever after.

What does this boil down to?
Someone wants, needs to do or needs to prevent something.

Your job is to stop them from getting it for as long as possible. In essence, you, the author, are the real villain. You’re just foisting it off onto some dude.

There’s two essential frameworks – Event trigger, or time trigger. A time trigger means you have a deadline. 3 Days of the Condor was a movie like this, based upon Seven Days of the Condor, the book. There was a real deadline. If this is your first time on this blog, you’ll find out this is literally one of my favorite movies!
Event triggers could be, I skipped school, and someone saw me. Now I have to get home before they do, so I can tell my mom first it’s not true.
Then you throw every last thing in the way, your character grows and matures through all the nonsense, gets home seconds before the other person and says… mom, I skipped school today.

A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan shows that you can write one that literally is a combination of both. It starts with needing to capture all the bridges in Holland in three days. Quickly the framework changes from deadline to plot trigger, as the 3rd SS Panzercorps under Bittrich and Model begin to surround the British forces on day 8.
Yes, day 8. The frightening thing about the book is – it’s nonfiction! By the way, let me get on a soapbox now and say that putting American troops under British command is the wrong approach. Put everything under American command, and you win the day! Pay attention to the scene where Field Marshal Von Rundsted and Model are talking, and Model predicts Patton will be the general to attack Holland. Von Rundsted agrees, saying, “I would prefer Montgomery, but even Eisenhower is not that stupid.”
Montgomery led the attack.

Conflict is story. No conflict, no story. My Countdown to Armageddon story is both plot Trigger and deadline. It’s mostly deadline, as there’s a looming 7 years until the end, and that deadlines creeps and creeps and creeps… every day…
And it’s plot driven, as drastic events such as plague, earthquakes, genocides, etc. Begin to decimate the population of the earth.

Let’s talk about character. Story framework is fine. Set up your conflicts, figure it out to the nth degree. But if you don’t have the right character, it falls apart.
Last Man On Earth with Vincent Price featured a Vincent Price character as the last man on earth, among people who are driven to kill him, because he’s alive and they’re dead.
Change the character to a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry type character, and you have the Omega Man. Same story. Just a change of the lead character.

You have your story. Characters drive the story. If your story is not going, you haven’t defined your character.
Some people believe in writing out 60 page analysis of who your character is, where they grew up, etc. I’ve found one or two of those that are good, but I end up having to edit them, because morals in todays society seem to be nonexistent, and not everything needs to be analyzed in your character. If you have to delve into that in your novels, then you don’t have much of a story.
Take the high road in your story morally, at all times. As an author, you subtly influence lives and thinking.Much of my values growing up were imparted by Robert Heinlein, a man with little in the way of moral structure (his pre-1960’s books were good – something happened in the 60’s to change Heinlein, sadly)

Make your character strong, Make them memorable. Make them someone people want to be or emulate or love.
Then make them flawed.

Carpenter in my first draft of my novels was strong, a Clint Eastwood type. Aggressive, blunt, a leader.
As I re-wrote the books, something happened. He became flawed. Devastated by the loss of his wife, he is a haunted man, struggling to find things to fill his empty life, desperate to not break down sobbing every night over the loss.
Suddenly he’s real.
Essentially, I put myself in Carpenter’s predicament – what would happen to me in that situation?
I’d end up going through the motions, unwilling to talk to people, just trying to find things to keep me going minute by minute, paralyzed by bouts of grief that nobody else knows exists. So, that’s what I did to Carpenter.

Your characters drive your stories. If they’re not driving it, they’re the wrong characters.

Writing Novels Step 4: Save The Cat

On to step 4 of how to write novels!
We’re going to talk about the Save The Cat and the 21 point template now. I’ve talked about those before on this blog, but this is an appropriate spot to talk about it again!

When I first began working on my screenplays, I somehow got it wrong, and read that you need 4 acts. So, I wasn’t making any real progress. Then of course, I kept running into references to Blake Snyder and the “Save The Cat” book.

I would have been more skeptical if I’d done research on Blake Snyder first. See, he’s sold several movies!

Only two of them ever got filmed, both for Disney. But he made millions during the time that Paramount began trying to do a takeover of the movie industry, and spec scripts were selling for millions and never got filmed. Like “Nuclear Family”, written by Blake Snyder and sold for 1.8 Million. Still sitting in a Script Vault somewhere.

But one thing Snyder is really good at… is writing how to books.
Was this his way to make money in between million dollar movie deals? You betcha.
And his system is GOOD.

1 — Opening Image 0:00:00
A visual or scene that sets the tone of the story and introduces the protagonist.

2 — The Theme Stated 0:05:00
A scene that sets up or teases the message or essential truth of your story.

3 — Set-Up 0:00 to 10:00
Scenes that introduce the characters’ world, introduce supporting characters, and point to changes to come.

4 — Catalyst / Inciting Incident 12:00
The surprise moment that turns the protagonist’s world upside down and kicks off the main plot.

5 — Debate 12:00 to 25:00
Tension mounts and the protagonist ponders whether to undertake the journey. What is at stake?

6 — Break into Act II 25:00
The protagonist chooses to take action and the journey begins; protagonist enters a new and strange experience.

7 — B-Story 30:00
The protagonist learns about the theme, usually with the aid of a mentor, friend, or love interest

8 — Fun and Games 30:00 to 55:00
The conflict kicks into high gear: bad guys attack, lovers fight, mysteries deepen

9 — Midpoint 55:00
The second big turning point: Goals are achieved… but a reversal upsets the plan. This story is far from finished.

10 — Bad Guys Close In 55:00 to 75:00
Troubles pile up in the fallout from the Midpoint, either from literal “bad guys” or the hero’s flaws and doubts.

11 — Crisis / All Is Lost 75:00
The opposite moment from the Midpoint: A disaster that makes the goal appear to be impossible

12 — Dark Night of the Soul 75:00 to 85:00
In the aftermath of the Crisis, the hero hits rock bottom emotionally as everything falls apart.

13 — Break into Act III 85:00
The B-Story [7] returns to provide fresh ideas or a new inspiration, derived from the Theme [2].

14 — Finale 85:00 to 110:00
The protagonist tries again, drawing on experience and understanding of the Theme in the climactic sequence.

15 — Final Image 110:00
The flip side of the Opening Image [1], showing how the protagonist and the world have changed.

This is the Save The Cat template. I got this summary of it from the Evernote template (sorry, I don’t know who to credit for this!). If it works for MOVIES, it’ll work for BOOKS.

So someone made a Excel spreadsheet calculator for Save The Cat for novels. You’ll have to google search, because I have it saved but I don’t remember where it came from (Jami Gold?). You can use that to plan out your novel.

Now, these beats are NOT sufficient! If you rely solely on this to get your book written, you’ll fail miserably.
So, do this…
Act 1
Act 2
Act 3

Now add Scenes 1-7 in between. This is my 21 point template. You need roughly 40 beats to complete a movie, and that’s a good structure starting point for novels.
Act 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Act 2
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Act 3
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1
Scene 1

My experience shows me that if you put the Save The Cat beats in there, you now have about 9 beats or so to fill in. It’s getting better!

Now, you need about 19 more beats to complete your story.

This is where the corkboard in Scrivener shines! You fill in your save the cat synopsis (and your story specific details) in each index card. Make sure you do your 21 cards, then… add 19 more.

Once you have your synopsis written on all 40 cards, it’s time to start. Don’t worry! You’ll know if its working or not by a sudden slowdown in your writing! That means what you’re writing is not conforming to what you put on the corkboard! So… change the corkboard to make it work!

If you want concrete examples of how to do it, Blake Snyder’s website has many movies broken down into their Save The Cat. But I recommend even novelists getting Save The Cat to study (the book, not the program!).

This is your last phase of planning the story.

Writing Novels Step 3: Planning your Novel


Pant’sers and planners.
Every writer tends to be a little along the line of a pant’ser. You’re writing by the seat of your pants.
“What happens next?” “Won’t know till I write it!”
But if you want your book to succeed and get finished, you’re going to have to plan it. Otherwise, you end up with what Jerry Jenkins calls the “Maunder of the middle.”
If you want to avoid writer’s block, then planning is also your best friend.
Take your cork board, and on every scene, write a brief one or two sentence synopsis on it. If you’re using the 30 chapter template, put it ABOVE the summary that’s already there. That way you see what it has to say, PLUS how you plan to do it.
“Quint buys piano strings.”
“Hooper loses the tooth.”
“Chief Brody makes faces at his son” Etc.

This step will ensure you don’t get partway through and abandon it.

Two phrases to get in your mind!

Proper planning prevents poor performance.
Writers block only means you have nothing to say.

If you get halfway through a novel (like I just did) and hit a stopping point – you didn’t plan it. There’s two pieces of software that will help – Dramatica (VERY expensive) and Contour. Contour is more aimed at writing movies than novels, so you’re kind of stuck, unless you manually do it.
Take your characters, and notate in your research sections the following thoughts.

“How will character A be impacted by Character B?” And so on. Most of the time, the answer will be, “They won’t.”
But there needs to be some interaction between characters. Your protagonist usually has someone who helps them or focuses them, or they change in some way, assisted by the impact character. In the case of detective fiction, not really – but they need someone to hire them to solve (something). That’s your impact character.
So, usually, you’ve got

  • Protagonist (hero)
  • Antagonist (villain)
  • Impact character.

Now, there’s a whole gamut of character archetypes that you can use. The Wanderer, the teacher, the wise man, the mystic, the fool, the dropout, the thief, etc. I’m really not going to go into all that here. Other people have done that research, and since I haven’t, I’d be plagiarizing. If you’re interested, then study that.

Suffice it to say, you should know what’s going to happen in every chapter, every scene. You need to know how to get to Scene 16 from 15. If you know all this, plan it out. Your book will write itself VERY quickly.

How quickly?

Two months.

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