From the 2018 archives, when I had just started to plan the novel that was to eventually become The Hit List. I hope these techniques are as useful to you as they were to me.

This week, I’ve been planning out my next book idea… I’ve not put pen to paper yet (well, fingers to keys) because I’m working on the intricacies of the plot before I jump in. I’m using a whiteboard and index cards to plan out the structure and layer possible scenes and I’ve never done so much ‘thinking’ before writing before.

I’ve also been reading a lot about different techniques for planning and structuring, a lot of which I did (and I think a lot of authors) do instinctively, but an equal amount I have tended to do afterwards, through big edits, bigger glasses of wine and a lot of headaches. So if you’re also at the planning stage, here are some links and resources I’ve found useful. 

This hot mess eventually became The Hit List…

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

While this punchy, practical book is about screenwriting, so many of the techniques are transferrable. Particularly useful for working out ‘what’ should happen ‘when’. There’s also a website full of templates and handy advice:

The Seven Point System by Dan Wells (opens on YouTube)

Try to overlook the weird music over some of this series of five videos because the content is great. Dan Wells, novelist, breaks down the seven beats of a story, which can help you build your overarching plan even if you’d rather then just write without too much structure.  

The James Patterson Masterclass

I’m a huge fan of and have previously gained an awful lot through the Aaron Sorkin screenwriting course, which I’ve written about here.  

Whatever you think of James Patterson’s approach to publishing, the guy knows how to build a page turner. And it doesn’t matter what genre you write or to whom you’re trying to appeal, ultimately as an author you want readers to keep reading, you want to give them a satisfying reading experience.  

The Masterclasses aren’t cheap. I’ve already enjoyed a couple of them and there are tonnes more on my list to do, so I signed up to a paid all access pass but there’s a really good overview of James Patterson’s main lessons here, for free. 

If you’d like help with your plotting and planning, I offer a confidential plot surgery service for emerging and published writers.

And if you’d like to hear more about how I, my friend Gillian McAllister and other authors plan, write and edit, don’t forget to subscribe to the Honest Authors Podcast, available on iTunes and Spreaker.