How to Plot A Novel
Let me start by saying, there are so many different ways to plot a novel! But whether you prefer character-driven stories or ones that center more around the overarching theme and execution of the storyline itself, your book NEEDS a plot. The plot is the foundation on which the majesty of the book is grounded!
It took me FOREVER to figure out how to plot a book. My first novel I ever truly adored was very character-driven, and I loved those boys DEEPLY, but the plot in which they operated was all over the place. I had no idea how to tell a cohesive story from start to finish, and it's taken me years to get to a place where I feel my plots are equal to my characters.
So here are some tips I've picked up along the way for executing a well-done plot! Hopefully my methods are helpful to someone out there! 📖 PICK YOUR PLOT. There are all KINDS of plots, including Chosen One, Secret Royalty, Magical, Betrayal, Murder, Mystery and more! Start by figuring out the kind of story you're most captivated to tell! 📚 RESEARCH THAT PLOT. Look for some examples where this plot style is done well! I suggest looking at movies, shows, and video games as well as books. Get to know how other creators execute this plot, what it's tropes and archetypes are, etc. 😮 TWIST THAT PLOT! Now that you know the "rules" of your plot type, it's time to break them! Spend time figuring out what you can do to make your plot uniquely yours. Think retelling, genderbending a famous trope, etc. Whatever the plot, be sure to add a unique YOU fingerprint fingerprint to it! 🔄 BOOKEND THAT PLOT. This step has saved my bacon many times! Try to gain a perspective on where you want your plot to start and end. What's the journey like? What might be your opening and closing images, if you will? What's Pont A and B? This will really help you weave a tight plot, as we will see in later installments!
🛑 ADD IN SOME ROADBLOCKS. A plot is, after all, basically the story of what kept your character from easily achieving their goal (whatever it may be). So now you get to start asking yourself what unique particular obstacles will make it worth following along to see how your MC arrives at their destination! Now, I want to elaborate on this point: a lot of authors have stumbled here because they don't make the stakes or obstacles big enough, realistic enough, engaging enough. If the only thing keeping your MC from the goal is some dillydallying, convoluted sidetracking, or unbelievable misunderstandings to elongate the book, readers are likely to lose interest over time. Don't t get me wrong, some of this can be good, but it all needs to have a purpose beyond just "Let's distract the MC from fulfilling an otherwise easy goal!" I'm going to use a silly example here but I think this is one of the best plotted movie trilogies: Kung Fu Panda. How engaging a plot would the first movie be if the only thing keeping Po from becoming the Dragon Warrior was that he decided to stay home and eat dumplings? Yawn! We would eventually get bored of Po not just going and accepting his title. Instead, we gave a combination of Po's ineptitude and low self esteem, Shifu's inability to teach how Po learns, the disbelief and contempt of the Five, and the mystery surrounding the dragon scroll itself - as well as the threat of Tai Lung. These are all mitigation that make up a plot, because each obstacle must be addressed before Po can get to point B: embracing his destiny.
MIDWAY SHAKEUP - The meaty middle of a book can sometimes drag, especially since that's where most of the roadblocks happen. One way to keep readers engaged is to plan a shakeup about halfway through. Change locations, pivot something that was becoming familiar, make them sit up and start turning the pages faster!
SEASON WITH YOUR FAVORITES. Do you love dance scenes? First kisses? Sparring sessions? A card game? Think through some of your favorite kinds of scenes and see where you can fit in several "on brand" moments that will keep YOU inspired and looking forward to writing even on the tough days!
🧬 WEAVE IT TOGETHER. Now that you've plotted roadblocks, a midway between A and B, and some of your favorite sort of scenes, you can start linking them together! What goes where? What could be caused by the midpoint shakeup and what needs to be established before that? 📝 REVIEW. Take a look at everything you've got now. Are there any questions not yet answered? Is there enough conflict to keep the plot interesting but enough momentum to satisfy the reader? Look for any gaps in logic and pacing and see where you can add points to fill those in! ⚖ KEEP THE BALANCE! You want to make sure your book contains both plot relevant scenes and ones you personally love. These may not always be the same, but both are crucial. A book can be really tedious if it's JUST the kinds of scenes an author loves without a cohesive plot tying them together; but a plot that just checks off the boxes of going from plotpoint to plotpoint can feel a bit desolate. I've written both kinds of books and found the balance to be crucial for keeping me engaged as well as keeping the book structurally sound! So, what does this miniseries all look like in action? I've got bonus content to give an example!! Check out below how all these plotting tips worked in DARKWIND, the first book in THE STARCHASER SAGA!