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how to plan a book

How to Plan a Book: A Comprehensive Guide

While this may disappoint the more romantic readers of this blog, writing a book is a project. Just like any project, it demands clear objectives and meticulous planning.

The book plan is the basis upon which your text will be constructed. It is the process of transforming a concept into a blueprint that will lead you from the start to the end of your book. Consider planning a book like sketching a map; without it, you are likely to lose course, spend time, and confront several problems.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about how to plan a book. Ready to get started?

Initial considerations before planning your book

Before going into detail on how to plan a book, it is necessary to answer some preliminary questions to set up the planning of your book correctly.

1) What is the purpose of your book?

Do you want to entertain, inform, or perhaps inspire? Understanding the goal of your book will guide your planning because it impacts all aspects of your book, from the tone of the writing to the structure of the narrative.

A novel like “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling aims to entertain readers with its magical world and thrilling adventures. A non-fiction book such as “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari seeks to inform readers about the history of humanity and our evolution. A self-help book like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey aims to inspire readers to improve their personal and professional lives.

Identifying the purpose of your book serves as a guide throughout the planning process, as exemplified by these three books, each characterized by a distinct style tailored to fit the author’s goal.

2) Who is the target audience of your book?

Who are you writing for? Identifying your target readers will help you design the content of your book to match their interests and expectations, improving the appeal of your book.

If you’re writing a picture book like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, your target audience would be young children who enjoy colorful illustrations and simple stories. A young adult novel such as “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green is aimed at teenagers who enjoy stories about love, friendship, and personal growth.

The target of a book like “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg is working professionals, particularly women, who are interested in career development and leadership. A fitness and nutrition guide like “Bigger Leaner Stronger” by Michael Matthews targets individuals interested in building muscle and improving their physical health.

3) What are your goals as an author?

Do you want to share your personal experience? Tell a compelling story? Write a bestseller? Clear goals will keep you focused and motivated throughout the planning and writing.

For example, suppose your goal is to share your journey and overcome adversity. In that case, your book might be similar to “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, where she shares her travel experiences and self-discovery. If you aim to captivate readers, you could write a thriller like “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins, known for its suspenseful plot and unexpected twists.

Conversely, if you’re aiming for commercial success and to write a bestseller, your book might target a broad audience, such as “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. Lastly, if you aim to educate and inform readers on a specific topic, you might write a non-fiction book like “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, which explores the science of habits.

Research strategies for effective book planning

Research is critical to effectively planning your book. Whether you’re creating a historical novel, a self-help guide, or a science fiction saga, gathering and organizing information is critical.

First, you must identify the key themes and topics your book will cover. This will determine the scope of your research.

Leverage multiple sources of information; don’t limit yourself to online searches. Read academic books and journals. If you can, interview experts on the topic. Diversifying your sources ensures a rich and accurate foundation for your manuscript.

Then, develop a system for organizing your research. Digital tools like note-taking apps and specialized software like bibisco can be invaluable. They allow you to categorize information, take notes, and quickly retrieve data as you write.

Remember, research is an ongoing process. As your book evolves, new questions will arise, requiring further investigation.

How to plan a book: creating detailed character profiles

The characters and their conflict are the engine of every story. As long as they are believable and readers can recognize themselves in them.

The prerequisite for obtaining this result is to thoroughly understand their human nature: strengths, weaknesses, contradictions, and ambitions. A suitable tool for this purpose is creating a detailed profile for each main character.

Start by outlining each character’s background, personality traits, motivations, and goals. Consider their relationships with other characters and how these dynamics affect your plot. This depth of understanding will make your characters authentic and make their actions and decisions within the story more believable.

Remember that to write an interesting and exciting book for readers, your characters must evolve within your story Each story is the story of a change in the state of affairs and the evolution of characters during this process.

A practical (and also funny) tool for creating character profiles is bibisco’s character interview tool, which allows you to get to know your characters through a series of questions.

How to plan a book: bibisco's character interview tool
bibisco’s character interview tool

Some questions will be easy to answer, others less so. But it will be precisely these “difficult” questions that will give authenticity to your characters.

For example, if we think about the story of a firefighter who saves numerous human lives, it will be easy to answer the question, “Is he brave?” Yes, of course. Instead, “Is he jealous?” is more difficult to answer.

But thanks to this question, it could emerge that he became a firefighter, but he would have liked to be a literature teacher. He became a firefighter to have his father’s approval, a former firefighter who had always preferred his older brother. Do you see how the character’s depth of personality is created?

Setting and world-building techniques

The setting of your book is more than just a backdrop; influences the mood, themes, and characters of your story. In genres like fantasy and science fiction, world-building extends to the creation of entire universes with their own rules, societies, and stories.

Let’s start with the general lines: the geographical layout, the climate, and the era. Then, delve into the details: the political systems, the cultural norms, and the daily lives of the inhabitants of your world. Every detail you define contributes to the immersion and credibility of your story.

Incorporate sensory descriptions to bring your settings to life. What does the air smell like? What sounds dominate the landscape? Such details enrich the reader’s experience and increase their engagement with your story.

how to plan a book: bibisco's world-building tool
how to plan a book: bibisco’s world-building tool

Remember, consistency is key. Take detailed notes of the rules and characteristics of your world to prevent contradictions and maintain suspension of disbelief.

How to plan a book plot: structuring your story

The plot is the skeleton of your story and includes the sequence of events that moves your narrative forward. Planning the plot involves outlining these events and making sure they flow logically to build a satisfying climax.

There are various structures you can use, such as the three-act structure, the hero’s journey, or the snowflake method. Each offers a different approach to plot organization, but all aim to balance escalating action, conflict, and resolution to create a compelling narrative.

Flexibility is crucial. The plot outline is a guide, not a contract. Give yourself the freedom to explore new directions and ideas as you write, using your plan as a navigational tool rather than a rigid structure.

The key point is that events follow one another in a coherent and consequent way. A very useful tool to check this, especially if you are writing very detailed and complex stories, is the bibisco timeline.

The timeline presents all the events of your story in chronological order, regardless of where you describe them in your novel. This allows you to monitor the coherence of any flashbacks or flashforwards you decide to adopt. Or, in the case of historical novels, consistency with actual events.

Organizing Chapters and Outlining Your Manuscript

Breaking your story into chapters and scenes is a critical step in planning your manuscript. It helps you manage the pace of your narrative, ensuring a balance between action, dialogue, and exposition.

Start by giving each chapter a purpose. What key events will occur? Which characters will be involved? What information will be revealed? This clarity will help you maintain focus and momentum in each section of your book.

Next, outline each scene within a chapter. Detail the setting, the characters present, and the objective of the scene. This micro-level planning facilitates smooth transitions and coherent narrative progression.

Remember, chapter and scene outlines are flexible tools. They should serve your creative process, not hinder it. Be prepared to rearrange, expand, or condense chapters as your story evolves.

How to plan a book: setting realistic goals and deadlines

Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Setting realistic goals and deadlines is essential to maintaining progress without burning out.

Set both long-term and short-term goals. Maybe you aim to complete your first draft in six months, with weekly goals for word count or finished chapters. Adapt these goals to your personal writing pace and schedule, making sure they are ambitious but achievable. Tools like bibisco can help you define your writing goals and track your progress.

Deadlines provide structure and urgency, but should also allow for flexibility. Life’s unpredictability can impact the time you dedicate to writing. Have buffer periods for unexpected delays, and don’t hesitate to adjust deadlines if necessary.

Celebrate your milestones, no matter how small. Every goal you reach is a step closer to completing your manuscript, and recognition of your progress is key to lasting motivation.

Common pitfalls in book planning and how to avoid them

Even with careful planning, it’s easy to fall into common traps that can hinder your progress. Awareness of these pitfalls is the first step to avoiding them.

  • Over-planning. While thorough planning is beneficial, excessive detail can stifle creativity and make the writing process limited. Find a balance between planning and flexibility, leaving room for spontaneous inspiration.
  • Rigid adherence to your plan. If you find your story veering in an unexpected but compelling direction, be open to deviating from your original outline. Often, these unplanned developments lead to the most memorable aspects of your book.
  • Unrealistic expectations. Avoid underestimating the time and effort needed for each stage of planning and writing your book. Set realistic expectations and pace yourself to prevent burnout and ensure the quality of your work.
  • Lack of consistency in writing. Write regularly, regardless of inspiration. Discipline in writing, even in small daily increments, is crucial for progress. It keeps the narrative fresh in your mind and maintains momentum.

How bibisco novel writing software can help you in book planning

bibisco is software designed specifically for writers, offering an intuitive and user-friendly platform for comprehensive book planning.

In addition to the features already seen in this article, another very useful bibisco tool for planning your book is the mind map. With bibisco’s mind map, you can visualize the structure of your story, and trace relationships between characters and other key elements of the story, such as locations and objects.

bibisco's mind map
bibisco’s mind map

This feature allows authors to organize their thoughts more effectively and ensure consistency in their narrative. Using the mind map tool, you can brainstorm ideas, develop complex plots, and effectively create compelling story arcs.

Conclusion: how to plan a book

In this article we have seen how planning is fundamental for writing a book. But it is equally essential to remember that each book is as unique as the author who writes it.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning a manuscript. The strategies and techniques shared in this guide are starting points. Customize them to fit your creative process, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

The path to mastering your manuscript is ahead of you. Start today, even with just one small step.

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