There are many different kinds of writers, with two of the common ones being plotters or pantsers. A pantser is someone who prefers to just sit down and write, flying by the seat of their pants. Plotters like to plan things out before writing. I’m thinking most people are a mixture of the two.
Me? I love to plan and outline my stories!
Basically, this is me:
Dreaming up the plot and outlining are my favorite parts!
I have used Google Sheets and Evernote in the past to organize the scenes I write, but this time I will be using Scrivener, a word-processor and outlining program designed for authors. My hubby got Scrivener for me for Christmas after I wrote 50k words for Nanowrimo last November. Scrivener is definitely a wonderful writing and organizational tool, but I wanted to specifically talk about tools that I use to plan my novels. And since my budget for writing is nonexistent, these tools just so happen to be either cheap or free.
First let’s explore the cheap category. And by cheap I don’t just mean, not free, I mean actually really cheap. Like under $7 cheap.
Display Board & Post-Its
This is one of the first tools I used. It literally only cost a couple of bucks. All you need is a project display board (one of those tri-fold kind like you used for science fair as a kid), post it notes (different colors if you want to get fancy), and a writing utensil.
Here’s how to do it:
Using the folds as guides, draw three vertical lines, dividing the board into four sections.
Next, draw a horizontal line in the middle, making eight sections. Now each Act section has two sequence sections.
You could stop there, but I also added two more horizontal lines post-it height from the bottom and the mid line. This is where I put my climactic sequence-ending scenes.
Label your Acts across the top – Act I, Act II-1, Act II-2, Act III
To use your plot board, write a few words about each of your scenes on a post-it note and add it where it belongs on your plot board. For instance, if you are writing a romance story, your characters are going to have to meet. So write “He” meets “She” on a note and put it where you think it will happen in the story.
I started with the big scenes, the five key plot points, which is described wonderfully in this post at The Script Lab. Then fill in the supporting scenes and before you know it, you’ll have a completely plotted story!
Pre-Write Project from She’s Novel
The Pre-Write Project from She’s Novel has been a great tool for me! It is a printable workbook that guides you through planning your novel. I really can not recommend this enough. From character to world-building, she has thought of everything!
Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland
K. M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel box set is seriously one of my favorite tools ever. 300 pages of step-by-step guidance from an award-winning and internationally published writing mentor? And for only $6.99 for the ebook version? Yes, please!
Now let’s explore the free options. It doesn’t get better than free does it? Especially not when the free information is as high quality as these two resources!
How To Write A Novel Outline from She’s Novel
If free is more your speed, there are no lack of good resources. This post, How To Write A Novel Outline, is chock-full of information to help you create a novel plan. Plus she offers a free downloadable workbook to go along with it!
Creative Writing Worksheets from Eva Deverell
This epic list of creative writing worksheets is enough to keep you procrastinating for weeks. Eva has 52 free PDF worksheets just hanging out on her blog and I happen to know that you can use almost all of them to plan any type of novel.
There you have it folks! My personal favorite tools for planning out a new novel. I hope you enjoy them and find them as useful as I have! Feeling stuck and don’t know which of these resources to use? I have used a mixture of all of them on this past novel. I don’t think there is an all-inclusive option out there (at least not at these prices) so don’t be afraid to mix and match. Use parts of one workbook and supplement sheets from another. Get creative with it!
Note: I was not paid, nor given anything, in exchange for my thoughts on any of these products. I simply really use and suggest them.