How Much Planning & Research is Enough?

writing-2This week, I have been thinking a lot about the research and planning of my novel. Before, I’ve not always bothered with it as much as I maybe should have done. It actually scares me a little. It all seems overwhelming. I’ll have a vague idea of the plot and who the main characters are but will then find that names will change half way through.

I continuously ask myself ‘how much is enough’ before it stops being helpful and starts becoming procrastination and a distraction from the actual writing of the novel.

The idea of planning also has me wondering, if I know too much about my characters and my story, what surprises are left for me to find let alone the eventual reader? The answer…probably more than I think.

Now it’s October, I am thinking about my novel idea for National Novel Writing Month next month and again, I am wondering how much planning and research to do.

Some published authors plan down to the very last detail, some only have an outline of the plot and a brief bio on the characters. Some authors go on research trips whilst others don’t bother unless they can find it on Google.  

I have got half way through a Nano novel and got stuck because I don’t know where I want to story to go and it’s then that I wished I had planned it a little.

My plan for this month is to at least give myself an outline rather than rely on what I have in my head. I know it’s time consuming now but I know future Laura will thank me.

Being able to write with nothing but an idea will maybe come in time but I’m learning, for this first book that planning and research is everything.

I’m off to write two outlines, one for The Back-up Plan and one for the Nano novel.


How much planning do you do before writing a novel? Do you have any tips for other writers?

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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

4 Responses to How Much Planning & Research is Enough?

  • Hi Laura,

    How much planning do I do? Lots! I’m a project manager by profession and a list maker by nature, so it’s just the way my brain works. I think we are all different and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. I spend a long time plotting and visualising each key scene in my head. Then I set about ordering them and coming up with a plan. However, even with a good plan your characters will still hijack the story and take it off the path you had mapped out for them!
    Funnily enough I did I blog about my top ten planning tips just a couple of days ago. Hope you find it useful.

  • I’m a sort of halfway house planner. I have a definite starting point and I know where I want to be when I finish. The rest of the book is sort of there but not in any sharp form. What happens between start and finish is, therefore, in the lap of the gods. I think meticulous planning is great for those who love to write that way but for me I find sometimes scenes which play out well when sketched out very often don’t work when you’re actually writing them. In some ways I love the way the whole thing unfolds before you, like a journey you don’t have a map for – it’s the spontaneity which I think (for me anyway) makes for a better finished book. Hope that’s helpful.

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