There are numerous ways of planning a novel. You can use a pen and paper, and write notes to your heart’s content. You can use a spreadsheet and make lists and chapter plans. You can use your word processor to develop character profiles, story outlines and themes. Or, you can use a wiki.
This last option is something that I’ve only been introduced to in the last few weeks. A writing friend started using tiddlywiki and raved about it. She explained that all the pages you create are linked together by the use of words. For example, say your main character’s name is Sarah, every time you type the name you automatically create a link to Sarah’s profile. In essense, this means you can check Sarah’s profile with one click from just about anywhere in your planning material.
Unfortunately, this software has to be downloaded and installed on your computer and as I use Linux, this is a problem for me. When I mentioned this, another writing friend suggested I try an online password-protected wiki instead and gave me the link to pbwiki. I opened an account and found it’s so simple to use. It’s slightly different to the previous wiki I mentioned, as in I would have to type Sarah as SaRah to get the link (a link automatically forms when a capital letter is placed inside a word. As long as I don’t type my manuscript using “SaRah” it will be a great idea.
The beauty with having the wiki online is that I can access my planning material from anywhere – even work – so if I have some spare time, I can log in and continue where I left off. Hence, I have two storylines taking shape on my wiki.
Some tips for using the wiki:
1) Plan your first page carefully. For my wiki, I decided to have the front page as links to each storyline only eg StoryOne and StoryTwo, or BookOne and BookTwo, or CatsOne and CatsTwo.
2) The first page of each story might have headings like, CharacTers, PlOt, WorldBuilding, TheMe, ChapterPlan etc. Or, you might do what I did and use this page to write a summary of the story, naming the characters and world (using the capital letter to form links to other sections of your plan) .
3) On the character profile pages, you can form links to other characters if you mention their name, so that you can click between them and keep track of them easily.
It’s not a perfect solution to planning but it’s definitely a great idea. For me, I always start my planning on the computer and when I’ve got it all straight in my mind, I like to print it out and put it in a folder because I like to be able to have my notes beside me while I write. I don’t like to continually change screens because I become distracted easily and might end up on the internet.