15. Methods for Plotting your Novel

15. Methods for Plotting your Novel

Part of the series “From Zero to Hero – Journey of a Novelist”

Although I’m still in my injury recovery phase, I wanted to take a moment to write in my “Novelist” blog series one time this week since it’s been a while.

I also wanted to remind you that the writing and blogging practice – Blogging from A to Z Challenge – begins tomorrow. I will be separating my posts into the Writing/Novelist blog series and the A to Z Challenge series, for which I have picked “self-confidence” and “beating your inner bully” as the topic. While it isn’t directly related to writing, it was inspired by it; I realized I was bullying myself into thinking I couldn’t succeed as a new writer, and the tone of my early blog posts even reflect this.

So today’s writing topic is to discuss a few different methods to come up with your Plot.

When I signed up for the writing conference, I started researching writing a synopsis. I came across outlining and Plot development concepts, and I found K.M. Weiland’s site which has a wealth of information about structuring your plot.

This is when I was first introduced to the “Three Act Structure,” which she goes into in great detail. I then soon after started reading “Writing Fiction for Dummies” which also used a simpler version of the three act structure in which the authors refer to it more as the “three disaster structure.” I liked their ideas, but my second “Plot Point” wasn’t really a disaster, and I didn’t want it to be. I wasn’t sure if that was “allowed” if you forgive me being rigid to a set of “rules.” (Think of it as if I were trying to follow “Best Practices.”)

This led to more research, which led me to discover that there are several methods for plot development. I’ll list them in a moment, but let me tell you why it mattered to me first.

When I went to write a synopsis, trying to practice as if I were writing for a Literary Agent, I realized I had some big holes in my plot. I only had a vague concept of what was going to happen “in the middle.” For that matter, even in the end of the book, I knew “what” was going to happen, but I hadn’t yet decided “how.” When I came across the very detailed three act structure Ms. Weiland discusses, I tried to – well, basically mark up my outline, finding out which bullet points addressed each needed plot area (first plot point, first pinch point, climax, etc).

The task of figuring out which of my chapters addressed which plot areas made me realize I was missing some, or hadn’t clearly defined others. Just the simple act of realizing, for example, that I needed two places to “show the power of the antagonist” (pinch points) made me think of a whole level of detail about the antagonist that I hadn’t thought of up until that point. In trying to make my outline “fit” the three act structure, new ideas or more developed ideas helped me fill in the blanks and really added richness to my character development and plot.

So with that, here’s some methods for plot development (reference):

  • Traditional
    Write a summary of each chapter.
  • Synopsis
    Not only is this good practice for submission to Agents, it can give you ideas. When I wrote my first draft, it was boring, and I realized that was because my plot was boring. You can use this in combo with one of the others.
  • Snowflake
    As detailed as I like to be with outlining and preparation, this one seems pretty involved, even for me. However, it seems like it’s a great way to “get to know” your characters and make sure their goals are in line with your plot.
  • Three Act
    This is the one I used. It can be simple or very detailed. I went with the more detailed approach.
  • The Hero’s Journey
    This seemed cool in my glance at it, but didn’t seem to quite fit my story. Seems like it would work best for fantasy or sci-fi, however it is said you can adapt it for any writing genre.
  • Freytag Model
    This is the one I was taught in school: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement.
  • Draft Zero
    I don’t know anything about this one, other than it’s geared toward those who prefer not to outline. I tend to over-prepare, so this one’s not for me.

There you have it. I’d be interested in your comments – which one do you use and why? Do you even use a “method” or do you prefer to just “wing it”?

Featured Image
Copyright: jesterarts / 123RF Stock Photo


3 thoughts on “15. Methods for Plotting your Novel

  1. I’m good at organizing, but terrible at staying organized. I don’t really write novels, but I have a sticky note where I write down one sentence ideas. There are some notes on the novella series I’m developing but it’s still just the general concept plus a list of 5ish things I was thinking about including when I first came up with it. After that my ideas bounce around the back of my brain for a bit, coming to the surface every once in a while to be thought over until they start to take a vague shape. Once I have enough of an idea about what I want the story to be I wing it and write it out while filling in the holes.

    For A-to-Z I’m trying some quick brainstorming for each story two days before it’s to be posted and writing it the day before so I can do some quick edits of any big problems before it goes up. I think this should work. Yeah it’ll be fine…

    Liked by 1 person

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