Hello everyone, and welcome to Novel With Me. The series which takes you on a writing journey from start, to finish.
Today, we’re moving on from planning, to plotting. And we’re going to start with plotting your novel. You can view the accompanying video here.
Yes, this is more for the planners than the pantsers. But even the latter can benefit from creating a few key plot points to work towards while writing.
The first thing I wanted to talk about was the difference between plot and story. And yes, they’re two different things but you’ll need both in order to fully realise your novel.
The plot is what events happened. It is your protagonist’s physical journey. It is the dangers they face and the struggles they have to overcome.
In it’s simplest form- the king died, and then the Queen died.
The story is ‘why,’ your events happened. It is your protagonist’s emotional journey. Your characters dreams and growth and motivation. Their goals and their relationships.
In it’s simplest form, ‘The King died, so the Queen started a rebellion to get revenge, which ended with her dying.
Not every plot technique works for every writer. It depends on what type of writer you are- planner, plotter and everything in between. It depends on life, and how much it’s kicking your ass.
So today, I’m going to break down 4 different plotting techniques to get from basic idea, to slightly more detailed idea.
Remember that your plot stems from your characters goals and motivations- what they want, and why they want it. You need to include an introduction to you characters, increase the action, get to the climax and resolve the action.
Every plot is the same at its absolute basic foundation. We meet the characters, crap happens, more crap happens, and then it’s resolved. Your first step to plotting your novel, is to try and figure out what crap happens, when it happens, and why it happens.
Beginning, middle, end
This is my fallback when thinking of plot for the first time, and it stems from the first proper plot structuring I did, which was the three act method. It’s a really simple one of course. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. So you just think of some plot points to go in each section.
The beginning is where we meet your character, and your character meets the conflict.
The middle is your character reacting to, and then acting against the villain or antagonist.
The end is your character defeating the antagonist, and resolving the plot.
Knowing the ending before you start can help you set up details you may not have thought of. By reverse plotting you can start from the end and figure out how the characters ended up there. Some people find it easier to figure out how a character got into a situation, than figure out what situation a character should get into next.
The Zig Zag method
Every novel has it’s high points and it’s low points. It’s conflicts and resolutions. It’s zigs, and it’s zags. All you need to do for this one is draw a zig zag line on a piece of paper- as many as you want. Every high point is conflict your protagonist must face, and every low point is the aftermath of the conflict.
This is basically asking yourself ‘and then,’ every time you come up with a plot point. I find that talking can help you figure out what needs to happen. All I do is write down a few words describing the plot point, and then ask myself, what happens next, writing down whatever comes to mind first. Sort of like quick fire questions.
At this stage, you can change what you want. You can add things and take things away before you move onto the next step, or even while you’re completing the next step (which is structuring your novel by the way.) The reason I do such a basic plot first is so that I can tinker with it and change it before it’s stuck in a proper structure- where it’s more difficult to move things around and still have everything make sense.
I also plot this way, because I find it easier to start with a basic plot and fill in the gaps while I structure it, rather than sit there and try to plot everything all at once. I like a jumping off point. Sure it may take me longer, but I stress about it less.
Making small goals, and progressing quickly through them I believe, is better than making big goals and struggling to get them done. This is also helpful when you have a busy life, and you’ll be more likely to get a basic plot down in one short sitting than fully structure your novel completely.
Good thoughts and happy writing