Build-a-Book Storytelling Checklist: Front-End Planning to Reduce Back-End Rewriting

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Need help collecting the most useful plotting advice? I did too. Here’s my compilation to help me (and other) authors stop writing completely by the seat of our pants and spend some quality time preplanning aka plotting.

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Need help collecting the most useful plotting advice? I did too. Here’s my compilation to help me (and other) authors stop writing completely by the seat of our pants and spend some quality time preplanning aka plotting.

Writing by the seat of my pants causes major work on the back end (the dreaded, for me, final editing and rewriting) is enough to get me spending more time on the front end. Plus I get the added incentive of writing a first draft fast.

So I’ve created herein a chronological checklist, aiming to hit all the high points touted to make for successful storytelling in the many how-to-plot books and other how-to-write books (see the partial Bibliography in the back matter) I have read over the decades. The problem was remembering everything involved in a well-told story, as these writing books were founts of wisdom with hundreds of gems in most.

This is my attempt to consolidate, to cull out the repetitious, to compile the best of the best from all these great writing books, hopefully helping us authors more easily create the original blueprint of our books—whether we are a  outliner or not—considering all that is involved in this art called storytelling.

I think I’ve done that here. If I’ve showered you with too many items on this checklist, at least they are all in one spot. Feel free to ignore what doesn’t work for you, to adapt this checklist to your particular needs, to skip an item and address it later.

I suggest getting a spiral bound notebook, setting aside one for each story’s preplanning. As you read through this checklist, jot down relevant thoughts, ideas in your notebook regarding each item number listed below. If you get stuck on a point, brainstorm with your writing buddies. As you write your first draft or do a second pass, refer to your notebook.

Consider this a work in progress, not only from within the dynamic world of novel-writing but as you apply it to your own creations. Granted, a nonstop action/adventure story or a war movie may not need psychological insight into all its cast members, so authors of those genres may skip some related items below. Then for sci-fi and fantasy authors, much more detail will be needed to establish your imaginary worlds, which is not addressed in my particular checklist.

Note that this book is written for the seasoned author, not the novice with dreams of writing but having not yet written, so myriad writing terms are used herein and most are not explained. See other books and Internet sources for those definitions.

Of course the various authors cited in the Bibliography herein have special nomenclature for these important slots to fill when identifying key plot points of your story idea. I’m staying as generic as possible, not using any one label which may confuse those not familiar with the term or the book it came from. However, I make note of some as I go along.

Enjoy!

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