FALLIS: On publishing and story planning

Terry Fallis has been with an established publisher since day 1 of his publishing. Read why he feels association with an established publishing house is more beneficial for writers than self-publishing.

1. What are your thoughts regarding self-publishing vs going with an established publisher? 

I have two thoughts here: self means less expensive but much more work; established means immediate recognition and expensive but efficient expertise. Your thoughts?
Like most authors, I did not want to self-publish but couldn’t generate any interest from the traditional publishing establishment for my first novel, The Best Laid PlansFortunately, my first novel was picked up and republished by McClelland & Stewart and I’ve been with them ever since for seven, soon to be eight novels. Having published both ways, I much prefer the security and support that comes with being with a major publishing house. Self-publishing can certainly work but it’s costly for writers who have to shell out their own money. There’s little if any bookstore distribution, and no marketing support. With a traditional publisher, I’m assured that my novels will be in all bookstores across the country and that there is at least some marketing and publicity support. So I’m very happy to be with McClelland & Stewart.

2. Writers likely struggle with organization and structure. Could you write another description of how you organize and layout your book in bullet form thereby giving yourself a roadmap or blueprint to follow? I remember you once explaining this to a group, but now I would like to write it for others to learn how a veteran makes it work for him. This sounds like it is something to be done before the writing begins. With such a road map/blue print, writing becomes a matter of adding colour, scenery, words and phrases to fill in the the blueprint. I am not suggesting the writing is secondary nor that it is a minor matter. But the creative trip surely is easier when a roadmap is in hand. Again, your comments, your thoughts.

I’m an engineer by academic training and even though I’ve never formally practiced engineering, I certainly think like an engineer. So when I write a novel, I need to be following a blueprint, like an engineer would. So I spend about a year or so planning my story, mapping it out, developing back stories for my characters, and determining my settings. I then develop a “chapter map” that is really just a table with each square representing a chapter. Then I note in short bullet points, what happens in that chapter. This gives me a clear view of the story on a single page and allows me to assess pacing. When I’m happy with my chapter map, I then write a full, chapter-by-chapter, bullet-point version of the novel as my outline. This document often runs to 70 or 80 pages. This chapter-by-chapter bullet-point outline is then what guides me when I write the manuscript. 

So I don’t write the first word in the manuscript until all the planning is completed. I know everything about the story when I start to write Chapter 1. This allows me to focus all of my questionable cerebral resources on crafting sentences. No part of my brain is worried about what happens next in the story, because that heavy lifting is already done. That’s my process in a nutshell.

Hope this helps.

Many thanks,

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