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Writing Books/Turning Ideas Into a Solid Plot



For the past year or so, I've been having random thoughts or so about this book that I'd like to write out. During random parts of the day, I'll just have that nice idea that'd fit with the "general idea" of my story and store it in my head. However, my problem is organizing all those random tidbits of interesting plot into a real solid plot on which I can write on. The last time I tried putting my imagination on paper came out disastrously, and I lost my interest to write on that particular idea.

Basically, I am asking how one would place small pieces of plot into a unified storyline, and if possible, any essential tips to actually beginning the brunt force of writing the novel (Unfortunately, I am a HEAVY procrastinator, and am very ill organized).

P.S: Since I believe this idea could span thousands upon thousands of pages, would it be wise for a first-time writer to start off writing a 1st book (200-300 page Harry Potter styled formatting) out of what could be a fairly large series, or would it be better to start off with a standalone novel.

Hi, Kevin!

First, welcome to the world of writing! You'll be happy to know that you fall in one of the two main groups of writers. The first is a "plotter." A plotter is a writer who has to write out the full plot of the book before they can sit down to actually type/write it out. I'm a plotter, but my co-author is the second type of writer, which is a "pantser." This is short for "seat-of-the-pants." A pantser is a writer who has absolutely NO IDEA where their writing is going to take them from day to day. I can say with certainty that you're a pantser, because you've described a key element of the mindset. If you start to write down what you've ALREADY thought out, you lose interest. Every pantser I know is exactly the same way (and there are PLENTY of successful published authors with this issue, so never fear that you'll never be able to write.)

But, the trick to being a pantser is sitting down to write, every single day! See, whether you're imagining the book in random moments, or whether you're writing it down in random moments is exactly the same to your brain. It doesn't matter one iota whether it's in your head or on the page. But the trouble is, if it's not on the page, you can't later edit it INTO a cohesive novel.

My best suggestion is to sit down and write out some of the thoughts you've got. Write down the dialogue and try to describe the scene you're seeing in your head. Don't worry if it's not exactly what you see. It takes practice to take the images and turn them into words. Keep in mind that you might well lose those lovely bits you've already thought of. Your mind might very well refuse to write them down because they're already "done." Concentrate on writing down NEW thoughts, and if your mind starts coming back to the stuff you've already thought, that's fine. You can write it down later.

Also don't worry at this point if what you write down will eventually wind up in book 1 or book 15. EVERY first book of a series is written as a stand-alone. The only guarantee that a published book will have a second book is if an agent sells a two-book deal, or the first book sells well. So plan for the first book to stand alone. The best way to look at any first book is like a major war. Within each "war" there are individual battles. Each book wins/loses a battle---that's the main plot. Think about the first "Star Wars" set of movies. Star Wars told one entire story, even though the viewer KNEW that there was a beginning that happened prior to the opening, and an end that continued past destroying the Death Star. But the movie concentrated on winning that ONE BATTLE. Obviously, viewers wanted to know that the war was won, so poof! A second book/movie was issued. That's how series work. At this point, just write. You won't know whether any particular day's writing will be about this battle, or whether it will be about the next one---until it's on the page. Pantser writing is very free form, so don't be afraid to wander off on "primrose paths" that don't lead anywhere. That can all be sorted out later. :)

Hope that helps a little, and feel free to ask any other questions that come up.


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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