Moonlake’s Novel Planning Method

I haven’t shared any writing insights lately because my novel is stagnating a little. But today I’m in the mood to post about writing again. In particular, I would like to share my particular method of novel planning. My current method is actually derived from the following two articles:

The Snow Flake method by Randy (

The Novel Formula by Kat (


My particular method actually follows the Snowflake Method quite closely but have small deviations that are either self-devised or ideas that I’ve taken from other sources in one or two places. As for the second article, I personally found it to be an overkill in terms of novel planning but that is just me, who’s always impatient to get on with the actual writing. In terms of being comprehensive, it wins hands down compared to either my method or the Snowflake Method. At any rate, I found the second article to have value in that it does add other insights.

So basically, my method proceeds in the following stages:

  • 1st stage- Condensed Back cover blurb: first one-liner to summarise the story and then expansion to a single paragraph with 5 lines.
  • 2nd stage- Character synopsises: this stage is done for each of the major characters in the book. I usually start with the protagonists and move downwards. It has 2 steps. The first is creating a one-page summary of each character’s experience in the story detailing a one-liner of his/her storyline, his/her motivations, goals, conflicts, ephiphanies/growth and a one paragraph summary of his/her storyline. The next step is to write a one-page synopsis from the point of view of each of the protagonists and ½ page or other major characters. I personally really enjoy this stage because it gives me the chance with work with the voice of all these different characters although sometimes changing between voices is a problem. My habit has been to group the products from this stage together by characters and save by separate characters, each named cs_(character name).
  • 2nd stage a- This actually cycles back to the 1st stage and I usually keep what I had produced at the 1st stage and this stage together in one Word doc titled synopsis. Basically, in this stage, I use the character synopsises to expand the one paragraph condensed back-cover blurb written at the end of stage 1 into first roughly one A4 page (don’t feel restricted by the one page limit though, all these are for brainstorming after all) and then into 4 pages by expanding each paragraph of the one-page synopsis into a full page (this is again on a rough speaking basis. Again, don’t restrict yourself at all by length but from my personal experience the 4 pages thing tends to fit a conventional length novel, that is, about 40000- 50000 words).
  • 3rd stage- Character filling: self-explanatory, basically just a stage that you go through to suss out each of the major characters in your book. In both of the articles I cited in this post, they suggested a character profile approach which I’ve already mentioned that I have a personal aversion to. So I’ve substituted for the 10 by 10 character grid method that I’ve already talked about in a previous post. Also, I should point out that what I talked about so far before this stage was strictly following the Snowflake Method from step 1 to 6. I usually do a full grid for all of my protagonists, companions on their adventures and a selected number of notable characters. Then, I take much more discretion with the other characters who might be important to the main characters but not to the story itself- what I call background characters. I will usually brainstorm somewhere from 15 to 70 facts about them.
  • 4th stage- Plot filling: I usually make a Chapter by Chapter event skeleton as the first step. This is not in the Snowflake Method. I just ran across this structure when I do a Google search on how to create a synopsis for a book. I usually give each Chapter a name that based upon the main event happening in the Chapter. Then I would list under each Chapter 2 sub-events that happen in indentation form. For a long plot arc, the Chapter names do run into a series. To be honest, I don’t think I’m good with clever naming and such so the Chapter naming is really just for my own reference. Step 2 was suggested by the Snowflake Method where you go across to spreadsheet and make the following columns: Physical Setting of scene, Sub-scene number, Event arc, Point of view character (i.e. whose eyes you want scene to be told through, might be slightly redundant if you are using the all-seeing perspective in writing or first person), purpose (I personally have 3 categories: plot development (PD), character development (CD) and world revelation (WR) and then I would put in some other notes in brackets within the cell eg. for PD, I would put whether it advances the plot or presents a setback; for CD, I would jote down whose character I’m development in the scene/sub-scene; for WR, I would jote down which aspects of the underlying world I’m revealing), Chapter Number, Scene Number and finally Themes touched in each scene/sub-scene. The last column I tend to leave blank a lot of the times but I just added it in for reference and also because I’m personally into life philosophies delved/reflected by fiction a lot. To me, that is one of the many important reasons for why I’m drawn to fantasy. This spreadsheet I would label as scenemanager.

Then I just move onto my Chapter by Chapter writing. But I also have the habit of doing some pre-writing as well. That is, I usually take the event sequence from the scenemanager and then expand them into a Chapter skeleton of what goes into each paragraph or sub-section of a scene. This method of writing is also mentioned in the Snowflake Method. I find it quite useful in combating writer’s block.

So that’s pretty much it. Feel free to leave comments of any aspects you would like to discuss. Also, I just released that I’ve just written my first long read. So thanks for any of the dedicated readers who actually read and finished this post.

Published by moonlakeku

intermediate Chinese fantasy writer working on her debut series

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