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How I Plan a Novel by Richard E. Rock

It is my great pleasure to welcome author Richard E. Rock to the blog today. He has taken time out to explain how he sets about planning a novel and his writing process. Thank you for your time today, Richard.


I should start by saying that as a writer of novels I am not by nature a planner. I am what’s known as a ‘pantster’. In other words, I fly by the seat of my pants. Some might say that I just make my stories up as I go along, but I would describe it as ‘organic writing’.


When I sit down at my desk to start work on a book, I have no idea how it’s going to end. That’s something I’ll discover en route, which is very exciting.


I’ve completed five novels so far, of which two have been published. The genres I’ve tackled include underground horror, sci-fi horror, gothic horror and sci-fi fantasy. Also, I am currently working on a folk-horror novel. But despite these variations in genre and sub-genre, they all have one thing in common (other than being written by me!): they all began life as a dream.


When I wake up in the morning with an idea that excites me, I write down what I can remember before it fades away, as dreams often do. I’ll mull the idea over for a while, playing around with it in my head, and then I’m away, hammering out a thousand words a day minimum. I don’t have any trouble meeting this and usually manage to hammer out a lot more. By doing this I see my story taking shape quickly, which encourages me to keep at it. In other words, the novel becomes self-perpetuating.


The greatest joy in this process lies in seeing my characters evolve before my eyes, taking on qualities I didn’t ascribe to them in the first place. There always comes a point where I stop telling them who they are and they start telling me. I love that.


It’s only when I’ve completed my first draft that I get stuck into my research. My number one priority is always to get the idea down on paper first. That first draft is the clay from which the story will eventually be shaped. Then I can begin adding detail, layers, back story, nuance and structure.

The thought of tackling a novel can be very intimidating. It’s like standing at the foot of a mountain that you have to climb, and you can’t even see the top. But I have a way of getting around this: I never sit down to consciously write a novel. Instead, I write scenes, individual scenes, which I try to piece together as I go along. Also, I’m not writing these scenes chronologically. I’ll work on them in random order and eventually I’ll see a story forming. I’ll be able to envisage a beginning, middle and end. When this happens I can finally aim my efforts in a specific direction.


Here’s something awesome I need to tell you about too. I have on occasion asked my subconscious to supply me with a specific idea, and it has delivered every time. I do this before I go to sleep and then wait for the magic to happen. Case in point: on the folk-horror novel I’m currently working on, I needed a particularly horrible end for my antagonist, something imaginatively gruesome. So, before retiring to bed I formerly submitted a request to my subconscious, and what do you know? That night I had a magnificent nightmare which came with the answer to my conundrum.


Try it. It really works!


I feel it’s important to point out that working on a novel using the above method is never a chore for me. It’s exciting and I love it. Also, when I’m in ‘the zone’, as it were, with the writing bit between my teeth, I’m having further dreams and additional ideas that I can introduce into the story as curveballs, to keeps things interesting and unexpected.


There are as many methods for writing a novel as there are novelists, and I’m always intrigued to read how others go about it. Hopefully you will find my methods of interest too. But however you do it, I wish you the very best of luck.


Happy writing.

The Blurb for Frenzy Island


Two sisters and a baby, shipwrecked refugees, come ashore on a mysterious east African island where incredible experiments have been taking place that could change the course of history.


The only person who can save them is a lowly monitoring station employee half a world away in Arizona.


Their fates become intertwined just as the universe is about to come calling.


Stephen King meets Steven Spielberg in this intense, unique and ambitious sci-fi thriller.

The Author


Richard E. Rock is based in south Wales where he lives with his girlfriend and their cat.

He was inspired to become a novelist after experiencing a series of particularly ferocious nightmares. After waking up and realising he could turn these into utterly horrible stories, he started deliberately inducing them.


His debut horror novel Deep Level was published in 2020 to overwhelmingly positive reviews. His latest novel Frenzy Island was published by Cranthorpe Millner in 2022 and is out now.


His interests include Norwegian Black Metal, Russian prison literature and Scooby Doo.


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