Plotting is the first step of writing a novel. Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, having some idea of how your novel starts and where it will end. But there is no one way of plotting your novel. There are many techniques out there- some basic, some more detailed, but all available to help when you’re feeling stuck.
I myself don’t have a specific way of plotting my novels. I mix and match, use one and then the other, or make it up as I go along. I haven’t found my perfect way of plotting yet, but I have found various techniques I really like. Here, I’m going to talk about my top three favourite plotting techniques that I regularly use in my writing journey.
The 3 act method
This is where I always start when plotting my novels. It’s more of a structure tool than a plotting one, but both go hand in hand. There are various different versions of this method online, but I regularly use K.M.Weiland’s 3 act story structure, which you can find in full here.
I always find that I can create a good beginning and end, but struggle with the middle. The 3 act story structure helps me lay out where my plot points need to be, and how to progress my story in a natural way. This gives me the basic foundation of my plot, which I can then flesh out.
Using 60 post it notes (or index cards, whichever you prefer,) write down the 60 scenes that will occur in your novel. Acts 1 and 3 will have roughly 15 scenes each, and Act 2 will have thirty. (Keep in mind, some novels might need more, or less.) Using this method goes really well with the 3 act story structure, as your plot points are already broken down for you. You can clearly see how your story plays out in front of you, and you can move scenes around- especially in the second act- until you’re happy.
When using this method I’ll always use a highlighter to show the focus of each scene it is- character, main plot, antagonist, info- so I know how balanced the story is as well. Not enough antagonist focus scenes in act one? Then I’ll add one. Three scenes in a row focused on info? Move it around. You can put as much or as little detail onto these cards as you like- character focus, POV, sub plots etc.
Chapter by chapter
This is how I originally plotted my novels. And while I go a little more in depth when prepping now, I still use this as a quick way to plot my novel based on the plot points I’ve already created.
I use Scrivener, and create 25 blank chapters. Then all I do is write down three or four lines explaining- in very brief detail- what is going to happen in that chapter. I do this until I reach the end of the novel, adding chapters if I need to. Then as I write each chapter, I take ten minutes and flesh out those few lines- anywhere between 100-700 words, depending on what the chapter entails- so I have a basic plan to follow.
Have you tried any of these plotting techniques before? How do you plot your novels? Let me know in the comments below.
Good thoughts and happy writing