Book Related Misc. Reviews

GUEST POST: Planner or Panster? by Karen Aldous (& giveaway!)

Amazon UK
Escape to Tuscany this summer with Karen Aldous’s brilliantly uplifting read. Perfect for fans of Erica James and Cathy Kelly.

A summer she’ll never forget…

When Olivia Montague’s grandmother passes away, she decides it’s finally time to make some changes in her own life. So she breaks up with her ‘going nowhere’ boyfriend and embarks on a journey to her Nonna’s home in Tuscany.

Until now, Olivia has always believed that she’s incapable of love, after being abandoned by her parents as a baby. But with each day spent at the gorgeous villa nestled in the rolling Italian hills, she feels her heart begin to flutter…

And when handsome antiques dealer Hugh St. James arrives on the scene, she realises things might be about to change forever!

Guest post: I don’t think I could ever be a panster – not with a novel. There are too many threads and dates to weave. I’ve written short stories without a plan but they are quick and easy to change. With a novel, too many things can go wrong and so I need a map. Like going on a long journey, I might know how to get on to the M25 and then on to the correct motorway for my destination, but I always try to memorise the way from that last motorway. Sat nav’s are not reliable as I’ve learnt in the past; they’ve taken me on some very pleasurable scenic routes, but have added hours to my journey. Why would I take that risk when writing a novel?

My usual method therefore, once and idea or character begins to form, is initially, a good old-fashioned notebook and pen and I just make notes. As these grow, I use a long sheet of paper or Excel on which I create a timeline and note the scenes. I find Excel more flexible as I can add rows or columns easily, as well as edit, and begin to chart the bones of the story.

Whilst this is in progress, I begin to build the character’s motivations in my story and work out who the other characters are, and who are going to stand in their way and why. Again, these are primarily in note form until I have some structure on which to begin adding to the master plan. I do like to know how my story is going to end and so that will be recorded on Excel before building the character profiles. Once the character backgrounds are noted and in my head, I will begin to write my first chapter.

Of course, as I continue building on all of these aspects, the characters will often take a turn on a different route, and sometimes, it will make a better book. Essentially however, the map will guide me and alert me to where I am likely to wander too far from the main essence. I’m finding that as my characters grow, I discover more about them and this is where the fun really begins and I find I’ve not given them enough credit or appreciated something that may have an effect on an outcome.

Most characters will stay but, like any intended plan, sometimes one or two have to go and I find I need to introduce a new one. I think this flexibility is important when creating a story, however great the plan appears originally; each character must have something to offer and if I find one or two strays, I have to question their purpose or give them a role which will be instrumental to the story and my main character’s outcome.

Writing a hundred thousand word novels is not easy by any stretch of the imagination and in my view, I would recommend anyone beginning this task to have at least an outline of their story to begin with which can be broken down into sections. This will at least give you the three-act structure containing the essential ingredients according to *Aristotle; Pity, Fear and Catharsis. Create pity for your main character and the reader will engage. Create fear by putting your main character through several worsening scenarios and your reader will respond emotionally to your character’s fear and experience, and then, is likely to feel happy as his tension is released as you reward the reader with a satisfying ending – the Catharsis.

This is essentially why I have to plan – because although I’ve never tried, I could never imagine myself jumping straight into a novel without a plan. I work with the maxim; you fail to plan or you plan to fail.

*You can read more about Aristotle’s three essential ingredients from a talk by Julian Friedman transcribed here:


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1 Comment

  1. I love the story line and your notebooks sound awesome. Best wishes in your success. <3

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