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  • Writer's pictureCate

How to Write A Novel: Step 4.1, or, More About Planning

I promised last time that I hadn’t said all I was planning to say on the subject of planning, and I also promised that I would let you know how the workshop I was going to went.

It went... brilliantly.

And completely changed my ideas.

Since spending a day with the amazing Kate Forsyth, Building Castles in the Air at the ACT Writers Centre (gosh, I wish they would find their missing apostrophe!), I have developed a whole new lease on life in planning.

I now understand my own story arc better, and I’m using that understanding to completely restructure and rewrite one of my pet projects... using a few additional hints from Kate on how to go about that.

My story, Shadows of Annwn, has been skulking, embarrassed, in its bottom drawer since the moment of glory when Sir Terry Pratchett read and liked it enough to shortlist it in the 2013 Terry Pratchett Prize.

After that glorious outing, it went on a few visits to agents and publishers who expressed great interest and then, kindly, told me, no, it wasn’t for them, but they hoped that it found a home, because it was really quite a good story...

...ok-ay, I was receiving the message, and the outings stopped after a particularly long visit to a publisher who kept promising to read it, then never did. It’s all right, I understand.

So, on my project list was a rewrite, and I had already concluded that we needed to lose some weight and work out just who we were aiming the story towards. I had printed out the first part of the novel and decided that this would become a story in its own right... with a few tweaks... and if that worked I would treat the rest of the book in similar fashion.

At the point where I attended Kate Forsyth’s workshop, I’d scribbled a few changes here and there and stared thoughtfully out the window for a long time. I mean a l-o-o-o-ng time.

Everything is far clearer now. Thank you, Kate.

I drew my story arc and roughed in the main plot points, worked out more specifically who my intended audience is, which told me how many words I have to play with, and, voila, I’m on my way.

Courses with Kate

If you feel that you could benefit from Kate’s words of wisdom, I encourage, nay, I urge you to get along to one of her plotting and planning workshops.

Right at the moment, if you have the inclination, she is advertising her writing retreat in Oxford & the Cotswolds in June this year. The full brochure and application form can be found at, and, if you take a look, you will probably understand why I’m contemplating selling everything I own or finding out how to organise crowdfunding, something, anything, so that I can be there!

You can also check out Kate’s events at if you are interested in experiencing her generous advice, which includes a Plotting and Planning slot with the Australian Writers’ Centre (who do know where their apostrophe is, thankfullly) in Sydney in May, with details at

Online Advice

Some other planning ideas you may find useful can be found at:

Vernica Sicoe

who provides is a very clear outline that goes through concept, structure and transformation:

Randy Ingermanson

who has developed a whole methodology and supports subscribers to his newsletter with lots of relevant information:

The Writers Bureau

with a quick step by step process (although somebody has stolen their apostrophe, too!):

Useful Applications

Or you may find some writing software useful, such as:

Writer's Cafe

which is described as a ‘powerful but simple to use story development tool that dramatically accelerates the creation and structuring of your novel or screenplay’, and may be worth looking into (and has the added bonus of a well placed apostrophe);



which I’ve heard many writers rave about,

although I’d like to make it perfectly clear that I neither use nor particularly endorse either of these products – I write using open source word processing applications on a Linux based system, and it seems to work pretty well for me (thanks to having IT techy geek types in my immediate family) – and there are also many more like this out there.

I do, however, endorse Kate Forsyth’s courses, and also recommend her books, which are on my fave list.

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