As writers, we write. We create worlds and the characters that live in them. We weave together storylines into thrilling adventures that keep readers hooked.
To do this effectively, we must build a compelling plot! However, over the years I have learned that there are two very distinct ends of the plotting spectrum. I have been on both ends and everywhere in between.
When I first began writing, I just wrote. I didn’t care about plot structures and the Hero’s Journey. I didn’t worry about making a plan. I had a loose idea in my head and I just went with it. I distinctly remember the moment that I realized that this just didn’t work for me. I was twenty-thousand words into the final book in my five-book series. I remember just sitting at my computer, mid-sentence, realizing that my entire series just didn’t work. There were plot holes so large you could drive a semi through them. Some characters got forgotten and left behind, and there were more loose ends than I could count.
It was after this that I went from being a “pantser” to a “plotter.” Since then, I’ve found that my writing is more composed and, honestly, more interesting. I do know that pantsing works for a lot of writers, and I’m not saying that it can’t work. For me, however, I need to plot, and I am going to explain what my plotting method is, and hopefully give some plotting inspiration for other writers, too!
The first thing that I do in my plotting process is take basic notes on my novel idea. This can be anything from character ideas to plot points.
I then sort the notes into a few different documents, depending on whether they are about characters, setting, plot, or anything else I may need.
For simplicity’s sake, I will discuss my character and setting processes in a later post.
Organizing Plot Points
I then organize my plot points in order, leaving spaces where I know more ideas need to go. I’ll let the document sit for a day or so, and then go back, filling in blanks and gaps. I usually don’t fill in every spot that seems to need more, but I get a loose plot formed.
Creating the Puzzle
There are many plot structures out there that you can find, but the favorite that I’ve found is the 3 Act, 27 Chapter plot structure, which I recommend checking out!
When I reach this point, I make sure that I have a large stack of index cards, some brightly colored pens, and a lot of space on my living room floor. I write each plot element on an index card and spread them out in order on the floor. Using the plot points that I have for my story, I’ll start adding them to the index cards, slowly fitting my story to the structure.
I never fail to find that part of my novel changes as I’m doing this. I either find that something doesn’t fit within the structure or that something is needed. It always makes the plot stronger, though, as I try to figure out how to fit all of the pieces together.
At this point of my plotting method, I will take my many, many index cards and start typing them up on my computer. I’ll use each card to write a basic summary of a chapter, making sure it’s relevant to my storyline or character development. I always find one card that doesn’t fit, or find some cards that are so important that they get split into two or three chapters.
Just because it is the 27-chapter outline does not mean that there will be 27 chapters. It’s a basic guideline, which is what all plot structures are. They’re just there to help guide you to writing that perfect story that’s been stuck in your head.
Revise, Revise, Revise
Yes, I revise my outlines. Multiple times.
This is an incredibly important step, because you don’t want to take off writing something, and then in the middle of the story realize that there is a glaring plot hole that you could have realized at this stage of the process. My current book is at its fourth outline revision, simply because I catch things that I didn’t notice before.
It’s Really Up to You
This is my method of plotting. It’s what works for me. There are some that don’t use an outline at all, and others that might use more complicated methods than mine. That’s the awesome thing about developing and writing a story: there’s not one single way to do it. Everyone has their own unique ways of letting their creativity flow.
I’m curious as to what you do for your plotting, or if you plot at all! Leave a comment below on how you go about writing your books or poems!