The Five Stages of Plotting
Plotting, in my opinion, is one of the most crucial stages when it comes to writing a novel. It’s during this stage a writer can explore their story, characters, world, etc., well before he or she dives into writing it. I know for some, plotting may seem tedious or grueling, but those will feel like pats on your back if it saves you from having to rewrite your novel because of a plot hole, ‘better idea’, or an undeveloped detail.
So, how should you plot to avoid making the listed mistakes above? Consider the following tips:
First and Foremost:
The very first thing I do to begin plotting is I write the back-cover snippet on the first page of the journal I’m using to plot in. (Yes, I’m old school. Journals over laptop!) I use this as my statue, as the lighthouse to keep my intended path and story arc clear. It can and may change as the plotting continues, but even then, it will be the bare bones of my story. Now, if you’re thinking you don’t know your future story well enough to write the back-cover just yet, that’s 100% okay! I would then suggest leaving the first page blank and returning to write that piece when you’re ready for it.
Beginning and Ending:
After writing the back-cover goodies, I then use page two to write 1-2 sentences to describe the opening scene, as well as 1-2 sentences to describe the ending. Clearly these are two vital pieces of a story. If you can’t hold your readers’ attention from page 1, then they’ll probably put your book down long before reaching the ending.
Use the next sum of pages to write 1-4 sentences about the scenes, or chapters, of your story, labeling each with a title. Chances are if you feel so strongly about the story in your head to now partake in the prep work that comes before writing it, then you have several major scenes in your head already. Write them down! Don’t worry if they’re half-developed. There’ll be plenty of time to bring it to life later. At this moment, you should be more concerned about not forgetting pieces of your story.
Can you write more than 1-4 sentences about each scene/chapter?
Of course! Typically, the more you write about each scene/chapter, the smoother the writing will be when it’s time to do so. Write as many details as you can.
*Also, don’t worry if your scenes don’t flow chronologically. That’s only a minor issue to fix, which I’ll explain later.
Characters and Settings:
After doing, in my opinion, the hardest and longest part of detailing your story by scenes, you’ll then want to explore your characters and settings.
For characters: I suggest making a page for each major character in your story, and a half page for minor ones. Write down the details you know of your character, such as age, descriptions, voice, tendencies, personality, who he or she is related to, birthplace, etc. Pretty much anything you can think of to let you get a feel for your character, as well as putting the finer details of him or her down so you won’t forget them later. If you need more than a page, then use as many as you need. Again, the more you flesh out now, the better off you’ll be later.
For settings: Look back through your scenes/chapters. Any place you listed on these pages should be further detailed here. Try to think of the places your main character(s) will visit/spend time at, and then go from there.
Making it Flow:
Here comes the fun part. Now that you’ve explored your story by describing the beginning and ending, detailing the scenes/chapters, and explored both your characters and settings, you’re ready to put the pieces together.
So, with a blank page(s) on hand, write down the titles of your scenes/chapters. Once you have all of them down, try to number them in chronological order. Most likely you’ll see some gaps, some scenes/chapters that don’t flow together. This is good! Because now you can come up with the scenes/chapters that can connect them. Seeing the holes now will prevent them from appearing later. And, my suggestion is, don’t rush this part. Think of ways that will smooth the arc of your story, ways that make sense for your story.
*Personally, I REFUSE to move onto the writing process if I’m not happy with the way my story is laid out. If I can see issues in the plotting stage, then there will certainly be issues during the writing one.
Of course, there’re numerous ways to plot a story. Don’t hesitate to do a little research in order to find the method that best suits you and your style.
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