Control: How To Plan Your Next Novel…

Daniel Trump
2 min readMay 7, 2021


I, Dalton Lewis, am planning out a new novel, the next great American novel. I didn’t plan out the last story — I grew arrogant and didn’t plan it at all. I just started writing, assuming I knew how it would work and what story beats were needed. Halfway through I was inventing new characters, and then a couple chapters later they were switching sides. People died unexpectedly, and then in a rewrite they would live without much of the text of the story changing to reflect that. The story turned out to be a mess.

Starting a revolution begins with the basics. Develop some wonderful characters. When I developed The Dread Lord Icon I developed the lead, Icon, to be a smart and cynical college student who wants to be a hero fighting for his realm. I created a roommate who was a traditional knight in a fantasy realm and a frat boy on Earth at college and created some tension between them — tension that made the novel effective and intelligent.

I have developed four wonderful main characters for my new novel, tentatively titled American Death Culture. I create characters that reflect tensions in society or people that I see in the world around me — characters that seem to show something real about life in America in the current year. I also create characters that I daydream. Any writer daydreams stories in his or her head all day long — writing those stories is a simple way to come up with material.

Then one must plan out some character arcs and plot lines for the novel one is writing. In V Max One I wanted some angry incels — involuntary celibates — to create a series of terror attacks around the galaxy for the leaders of V Max One to deal with. First they attacked a luxury spaceship. Then they attacked a V Max One facility to break out the main character, Ares, who doesn’t want to be broken out. Then they attack a space station. This series of attacks develops the story over time.

Then one needs to outline. I know — outlines are scary and difficult and obtuse and sound like too much work. Trust me — they are gold. When I write with an outline I have a much stronger final book. Each chapter needs to be plotted out with characters, conflict, settings, and more developed for each scene.

Why? Two and a half stars. That’s what I got with a novel that I didn’t plan. Four and a half stars — that’s what I got with a novel that I planned. Bam. There’s why. Outline, people. Outline.

Thanks, and take care, friends.