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What You'll Need:

:bulletblack: A basic story idea

:bulletblack: Printer (preferably laser) with plenty of paper

:bulletblack: Pens

:bulletblack: Three Ring Binders (2) with separating tabs


Build Your World and Characters

For most writers, this comes naturally.  If you're having some issues, there are plenty of tutorials, guides, aids and groups available for assistance.  For the purpose of this guide, you should have your world built and at the very least your main characters devised.  Having secondary characters planned will get you bonus points!


Print Character and Plot Sheets

Each character should have their own sheet (keep the backs blank, they're a grand place to keep extra notes and page references).  It's not necessary that you fill out every single line of the character sheet.  Fill out only what is necessary for the character/plot.  Feel free to add to the sheet as your write, too.  The sheets are there for you to fall back on when you get 30,000 words in and can't remember what color your protagonist's eyes or you suddenly have your antagonist talking to his mother that you killed off in the second chapter (assuming you don't have ghosts in your story).

Each scene/chapter, like characters, should have it's own sheet as well. This one isn't as lenient as the character sheets.  Simply because scenes can't be treated like characters.  Every scenes needs to have a moment of importance.  Something that either moves the plot or exposes a character trait.  You'll need to list characters (definitely main, and if there are any secondary), importance of the scene (what does it do for the plot), key dialogue, vital information received and even the mood of the scene.

Do not feel like you have to have every single scene plotted.  Start out with what you already know and add in as the scenes come to you.  Like the character sheets, leave the back blank so you can add in extra details down the road.

If you don't have character and plot sheets, check the comments below for links to my own sheets.


Create Your Binders

You'll need two. I always buy the same color binders so each novel is color coated. One binder is for your characters and the other is for your plot. 

Keeping your characters in alphabetical order is the easiest way to find them later.  Use the separators to have three or four bulk sections (for example, A-E, F-J, K-R, S-Z).  If you have visual references for your characters, their clothes or jewelry, keep that information with the character sheet.

Arrange your plot sheets in chronological order.  Separators can be used here too. Keep it simple: Introduction – Point of No Return, Crisis (this is the meat where you're constantly putting barriers up for your protagonist to knock down – remember that each problem needs to be harder than the last), Protagonist vs Antagonist and finally your Wrap Up.


Write.

Now that you have your world created and your plot planned out, it's time to sit down and do the actual writing of the story.  Use your plot sheets to guide you and your character sheets for reference (when needed).


Print and Proofread

After you've written, print out your scenes and insert them into your binder. It's considered best if you wait until you've finished your first draft to go back and proofread.  That said, if you hit a slump and ideas just aren't coming to you, it often helps to go back and read over what you've already written.  Many times you'll catch a hole in your plot, or even change what you originally designed.  As long as you're not constantly changing your plot, it doesn't hurt to look over what you've already written.

I'd like to start by stating that this is by no means a "this is how you have to do it because no other way works" guide. This is simply how I plan out and organize my own novels.

Here are the thumbs for my Character and Plot Sheets. I'm also including my Mythology Sheets because they help keep gods organized if you're creating a religion/theology. They're currently only in PDF versions, but I'm planning on updating that soon to include ODT (OpenOffice) format as well.



Edit: 8/19/2011 - It was just brought to my attention that I didn't include a note in the comments that this is for the #WritersInk Writing Guide Contest. Bad, bad Grim Face! :ashamed:
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:iconastrikos:
Astrikos Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2013   General Artist
:w00t: Thanks for this useful resource! I am starting a novel. :eager:
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2013   Writer
Welcome!  Glad it'll help.
Reply
:iconstellastarfish:
StellaStarfish Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2013  Student General Artist
I am so using this. I've been writing this one novel for years (YEARS!) and I still mess up on simple things and i have to go back like 50 pages just to find out, "oh shoot, i had the right eye color this whole time..." or similar nonsense like that. I am starting immediately, thank you so much!! :dummy:
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2013   Writer
You're very welcome.  Happy to help.

Even if you don't do everything, sometimes just taking bits and pieces of what other people do will help you improve on your own system.  Writing and plotting is a very personal thing.  And I'm not talking about the story.  I don't think two people plot and prepare to write the same way.  It's not really possible.

If I can help in any other way, let me know.
Reply
:iconmsfowle:
msfowle Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
Wow! I'm so not this organized - good for you! I've been doing it my own way for so long, I think it would screw me up if I changed it.

I may share a link to this on my author site, if that's okay with you. ;)
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2013   Writer
:giggle:  You think this is organized?  Take a quick look at how I plot. I'm like a lit boy scout.

Of course.  What's the site?
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:iconmsfowle:
msfowle Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
Reply
:iconmisteriousnight:
Misteriousnight Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is very helpful! i'm going to use this when i start on my novel. :D
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2013   Writer
:la:

Glad I could help!
Reply
:icontiptoeling:
tiptoeling Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I have a big 2 inch binder... could I use a tab to separate the characters and the plot?
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2013   Writer
You could, depending on the amount of characters that you have and how long your story is.

The only problem I can foresee is if you end up printing out all the scenes to include in the binder. I use a 2" binder just for my plot and by the end, it's pretty stuffed.
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:icontiptoeling:
tiptoeling Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Oh okay. Thanks anyway!
Reply
:iconshaylalaloohoo:
ShayLaLaLooHoo Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks! This will be awesome when I plan out my series!
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012   Writer
Good luck!

If I can help any further, just ask.
Reply
:iconshaylalaloohoo:
ShayLaLaLooHoo Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks!
Reply
:iconwenxie:
Wenxie Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Awesome guide. There was one little typo though; in the Create Your Binders, I'm pretty sure you meant that each novel is color coded, not color coated.

This tutorial was really easy to follow though. Thanks a lot!
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2012   Writer
Your welcome and thank you. I'll not the edit and get it taken care of.
Reply
:iconneko2631:
neko2631 Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2012
May I ask, do you have any favorite tutorials/guides/aids for building worlds/characters/plots? I've ganked all your other character sheets and tips. :)
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2012   Writer
I have a Tutorials Collection in my Faves. If there's anything, it'll be in there. Though as far as world building, their won't be much. that's something I've never really needed help on, and I have my own method.

There are some really good character aides out there, but again, it's a matter of opinion. My way of creating characters, or how I think characters should act is completely different from the next person. Maybe I want my character to be cliche because I think it works for my story.

That's the one grand thing about writing. There's really no right or wrong way to create a story.
Reply
:iconneko2631:
neko2631 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2012
Thank you very much. ^_^ I'll have a look in your favorites, and my thanks again for sharing your process and templates. :)
Reply
:iconatombomb2:
atombomb2 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for this
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2012   Writer
You're very welcome.
Reply
:iconme-jones:
ME-Jones Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2011  Student Writer
I don't plan a lot of my scenes out (mainly because they change so drastically once I DO try to write them out), but I have a binder that half is full of character sheets (for my 14+ main/secondary characters throughout the entire series) and plot points that I want to make sure to hit in each book.

It's really helpful! I would have never thought of doing it if I had not looked at this :)
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2011   Writer
Mine change as I write, but I do plot out the majority of my scenes. Of course there are times that I toss out scenes all together; and more annoyingly, I throw them out after they're written.
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:iconme-jones:
ME-Jones Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2011  Student Writer
That is highly annoying... But that's also the reason why I don't plot them out on paper XD
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:iconariehenix:
Ariehenix Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I love this!! Thank you so much!!
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2011   Writer
No problem.
Reply
:iconsesquipedaliaphile:
Sesquipedaliaphile Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2011
Can't... Can't you just save each chapter in a separate document and use folders labeled things like "Character sheets", "Plot summaries", "Cover letters", "Chapter 1 scheme"?
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2011   Writer
If that works for you, go right ahead. I personally hate editing on screen. In fact, when I'm just looking over something for someone else, I usually print it out and mark all my notes on paper than transfer that over to a comment.

I have each of my scenes saved separately and with their number in front of them. Those names are also put in a footer of the file so when I print I know which pages are together and which aren't.
Reply
:iconsesquipedaliaphile:
Sesquipedaliaphile Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2011
Oh, okay you like paper editing so I guess that makes sense then.
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2011   Writer
;P
Reply
:iconshabboth:
Shabboth Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2011  Professional Writer
I use a free program called yWriter from Spacejock software. I find it invaluable. It allows for organization by scene and, as well, keeps all your location, character and object notes neatly organized and searchable. I believe it is cross platform compatible, so it should work on Mac and Linux as well as Windows.
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2011   Writer
I've tried a few different programs to keep my things straight, but I'm a guy that likes to have it right in front of me. I wanna touch it; use a pen to make my corrections. So those programs don't work for me.
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:iconshabboth:
Shabboth Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2011  Professional Writer
I still use pen and paper for the initial idea generation, and for the occasional complex scene or two, but when it's time to actually start writing a draft..

really worth checking out.
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2011   Writer
I've just downloaded it after reading the author's synopsis. I currently fall under the "save each scene separately and hope I don't change the order later" scenario.
Reply
:iconshabboth:
Shabboth Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2011  Professional Writer
LMAO - have you ever not rearranged scenes? I always do.
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2011   Writer
I've only done it once or twice, but that's because I have a massive prep process where I make most of my scene changes.
Reply
:iconpuppy-eater:
Puppy-eater Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011  Student General Artist
I have to say, I've never done plot sheets before. I usually write out "plot maps" with major events when fleshing out an idea, and then a more in-detail synopsis for something I'm sticking with. But plot sheets seem like a really great idea, and I'm going to use them from now on! Thank you. :hug:
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011   Writer
I like plot sheets because i can move them around. I just need to shuffle the papers, instead of rewriting or referencing back on a plot map (which I do still write on occasion).
Reply
:iconrebeckington:
Rebeckington Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011   General Artist
Although I'm not a novelist (yet...?), I felt this was really very good advice :nod: It shall definitely be taking some tips away with me should I ever embark on a full novel! Or even just a longer short story.

I found your guide made perfect sense, was easy to follow, would undoubtably be easy to use and adapt stories with, and I'd recomment it to anyone with a lack of organisational writing skills.
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011   Writer
It's never too late to start writing long prose!
Reply
:iconrebeckington:
Rebeckington Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011   General Artist
Just awaiting the inspiration... And patience to write a story so long!
Reply
:iconrollingtomorrow:
RollingTomorrow Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2011   General Artist
This is a good method of organization! :) I'm sure it'll be very beneficial for writers who have trouble keeping everything in order. It was also very handy that you included the character and plot sheets. :la:

Good work!
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011   Writer
I live by my character and plot sheets. Without them, I would be a complete mess when it comes to writing.

Glad you thought it to be beneficial.
Reply
:iconalienlifedetected:
AlienLifeDetected Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2011
I usually keep it all in my head until it spills out. ^^; Then I write what I can in a notebook, but then I end up losing that too. This is really going to help me out, thank you so much!
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011   Writer
That's an attractive avatar you have there!

Glad to be of service. I know a lot of writers that write by the seat of their pants, and that might work for some people, but not me. Hence my OCD side emerged and came up with this scheme to keep my stuff together!
Reply
:iconalienlifedetected:
AlienLifeDetected Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011
Ditto. :giggle:

I used to sit down at the computer and type all day. It used to work, but I don't have enough time to do that anymore. ^^; Now I bought binders and such and it's so organized! I can't believe I didn't use common sense to do this earlier. Thank you again for the help!!
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011   Writer
The binders also make traveling easier. I was on holiday last week, and it was easy packing. I grabbed only the binders for the books I'm working, tossed 'em in a bag and shoved 'em in the Jeep. Made life a lot easier for me.
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:iconalienlifedetected:
AlienLifeDetected Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011
Portable. :nod: And if you're working on a few novels then I'm positive they're great. Do you have samples on dA? I'd love to check them out. :)
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011   Writer
Samples? Of my binders? I don't have 'em on dA, but I could take a couple shots and upload 'em if you think it'd help.
Reply
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