I get asked this so often. There is only one answer to this question (in my view). YES of course you should plan a book!
I believe in writing with intent if you want to get published.
In a non-fiction you are going to be 100% clear about what is going to go into your book. You are going to have a clear list of your chapters and what material you will cover in each. In fact in a non-fiction your planning will become your book proposal and that’s what you are going to sell, not your book (yet).
But is a novel different? In a novel your plan is your plot.
In so many conversations with writer they tell me they just want to write. And of course I tell them to just do it. Just start.
And to a degree I do recommend this – ‘write while the muse strikes’ approach.
But I am a book editor so I don’t really believe this. I do know that you will get around 20,000 words down and then you will have told your whole story.
I know the value of finding your story first.
Even an article or a short discussion piece has a structure. Any good piece of writing does. A speech (or a TED talk) is a carefully crafted piece. So you don’t want to start a book – which is a massive undertaking – without a roadmap. You need to know where to put all the information in a logical way.
SO HOW DO YOU PLAN A BOOK?
Well you have taken your first big step in planning when you chose your GENRE.
That is the beginning of structure. Then you are going to plan your book in a series of scenes.
STRUCTURE means plotting
On its most basic level all books – all stories - have a beginning, a middle and an end.
What do they have in common:
An inciting incident
A lead character
How do you STRUCTURE a non fiction book?
No matter what structure you chose, you are going to find that most of the story is still going to be told in a chronological fashion.
Why? Because story is about a journey. You are taking the reader on your journey and that almost always requires a start point, and an end point.
Sarah Bullen is a writing coach, agent and book editor. She is a structure fanatic and coaches writers on how to write and get published.