Planning Out Your PlotA Lesson by A. Siemens
A little lesson on how to plan out your plot, with a little something extra by my favourite newsletter writer Holly Lisle.
Let's start this off with my opinion: I hate the stupid idea of a plot line. I hate the whole Rising Action, Climax, and Resolution idea. I do not write to add these elements, it's just how it works. Don't worry about fitting these in, if you know how a story works they will follow.
How do you write a plot? Everyone works differently, everyone has a different way to create a plot. I start with a simple idea, and create a brief plot. And by brief I say something like "she was born to a pirate captain and was raised as a pirate herself. Suddenly, it all crumbled. She was captured and her father was killed. She was left to rot in a cell, constantly beaten by those wishing to uncover the location of her father's hidden treasure. Finally, they sold her as a slave to a rich family. All was well, until the Master almost beat his wife to death and the pirate's daughter killed him to protect the Master's wife. She ran away...".
That's how I make a plot. I have some hints and ideas to follow, but it still leaves from for the little details and any twists that may pop into my head. Personally, I like it that way. It's somewhat vague but tells me what's coming up.
You don't want to start off a novel or story without having a plot somewhat formed in your head. Otherwise your plot will be meaningless to your reader. Your ideas will bounce around in your head like a two year-old high on sugar.
Think about the story, let it flow. If it's boring, use my favourite writing tip, add a piece about your character that you didn't even know! Kill off character, do something out of there that will send your readers on a big adventure. Stories tend to create themselves, and that's how it should be. Write loosely so you can give it room to build. If all else fails, chat to a friend or fellow writer and ask what they would do or recommend. Don't feel like you have to follow their suggests (after all, it's your story!), but they can give you some ideas that could really help.
Now, if you're new and haven't known me very long, I'm a huge fan of Holly Lisle's writing tips. She is an amazing writer and knows how to teach. Here's here view on how a plot should work, and why is should be plotted loosely not a strict 'this, then that, then this happens, etc'
"1) You'll keep your main story in front of you.
A loose plot outline is NOT one of those A,1,a
outlines you learned in school. Neither is it
a 30-page condensation of your entire story
such as you'd do to sell a book on spec*.
You do it with index cards, and you just hit the
high points---what your main characters will be
doing. By having these index cards available and
in front of you, you remember what you're writing,
and why---it's easier to stay on track and to
avoid those "but what if I did this instead"
digressions that can leave you with a whole
lot of pages and no coherent story.
2) You'll allow space for surprises.
With a loose plot outline, however, you are free
to follow those brilliant side ideas will actually
add to your story. You don't have to walk away
from a rigid 30-page outline---you just have to
rewrite a handful of index cards to fit your new
3) And you'll save your sanity.
Overplanning a novel makes you feel like you've
already written the book---why would you want to
do it again. It's like working in a straightjacket.
As one of the world's (reformed) great overplanners,
I have been this route. It will suck the joy
right out of creating.
Underplanning, however, leaves you in a constant
state of anxiety. You have no idea what happens
next, you never have a clear vision of what it is
you're trying to create, and when you finish, you
don't know whether you accomplished what you set out
to achieve or not.
Having started out as a pantser**, and having finished
only some very bad short stories and one utterly
irredeemable novel while doing so, I can attest to
both the anxiety and the constant feeling of trying
to work my way through fog.
Neither straightjacket nor fog allows you to do your
A loose plot that contains flexibility, elbow room,
and a sense of direction without a sense of
You can do this."
"*ON SPEC---You sell the book before you write it,
based on a synopsis, an extended outline, and
**PANTSER---someone writing strictly by the
seat of the pants, with no planning whatsoever."
I strongly recommend signing up for her free, weekly writing tips and joining her free plot course. The links will be at the bottom. If you're looking for a more in depth look at plot, you should really think about buying her plot clinic book. It's so helpful and, no doubt, will help you grow your plotting skill. If you listen to her, you will improve and become a better writer.
Added on June 15, 2011
Last Updated on June 15, 2011
AboutI'm a (currently) unpublished author from Canada. I've been writing since I was very young, and have been making up stories for as long as I can remember. I've recently finished my first full novel, b..