The Best Laid Plans of Novelists

Ever wondered how some of your favorite authors tackled the crazy job of putting pen to paper and creating those stories you loved to read? Well, we’re here to tell you it’s not all magical. As you can see from these intricate spreadsheets and notes, crafting a novel takes a whole lot of careful planning. Just click on any of the following spreadsheets and scribbles for a closer look to find out.

This first is from none other than J. K. Rowling, who planned out all seven books of her Harry Potter series before she had even started writing the second. Here’s part of her plan for Order of the Phoenix:

In the columns, Rowling separates each chapter by its subplots; she lists, “Prophecy,” “O of P” (Order of the Phoenix), “Cho/Ginny” (the romantic subplot of the novel), “Snape,” and “Hagrid” as different story lines to help her keep track of the plot. For a zoomed in look at the detailed spreadsheet, click here.

Even more intricate than Rowling’s, though, are Joseph Heller’s plans for Catch-22, the entirety of which can be seen in very tiny writing below.

I would explain this one, but it’s about as complicated as the premise of the novel itself. If you’re a die-hard Heller fan, spend a good ten minutes zooming into the full-scale version here.

Not all novel plans are restricted to pen and paper, though. In fact, some of them can’t help but to burst out onto the walls, as Faulkner’s plot for A Fable famously did:

The planning of this Pulitzer Prize winning novel took place at Faulkner’s Rowan Oak home, which is now open to tourists. It was certainly an ingenious way to immerse himself in his story, but legend has it not everybody was quite so pleased with the method…

William Faulkner, using a graphite pencil and red grease pencil, penned the outline of The Fable on the walls of his Mississippi office. Faulkner’s wife, disappointed with this decision, had the walls repainted. In return, Faulkner rewrote the outline and then shellacked the wall to ensure a permanent record.

Nobel Prize-winning author, yes. Home decorator, I think not.

For some other fun and inspiring articles, check out the full gallery from Flavorwire, then tell us which novel you’d most like to see the plans of in a comment below.


3 Comments on “The Best Laid Plans of Novelists”

  1. This was fascinating to read. I know every writer seems to have a method of their own but I love to read how others do it and it really does inspire me

  2. darv1986 says:

    That’s fascinating. I’m in the final stages of Catch-22 – comfortably one of the funniest books I’ve ever read – and it’s no surprise that Heller required such a detailed plan. As for Faulkner, you summed him and his methods up: ingenious. Cool post.

  3. […] The Best Laid Plans of Novelists (enotes.com) […]

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