There are several schools of thought when it comes to plotting out a novel. The first one is: don’t plot your novel!
For some people, the very act of sitting down and working out what the story is going to be about and the twists and turns of the novel takes away from the experience of writing it. Some people enjoy seeing where the mood takes them and writing when the muse strikes. I have to say men that I have tried this style of plotting myself. I had been thinking about my idea for a while, allowing it to ferment, before sitting down and writing it down in roughly 1,666 word chunks. That is roughly the word count you need to make each night if you are to succeed at NaNoWriMo, the challenge that asks you to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.
Because the amount of words I wanted to achieve each night was fairly structured, I found it reasonably ok to make the target, sometimes less and sometimes more. I tried to leave my story in a place where I could come back the next night and pick it straight up. I had thought about the characters for a number of months so I knew them fairly well, but there was no real attempt to plot the novel.
It did not work so well. I managed to complete NaNoWriMo, but I am not happy with the result. It did not work as well as it could – there is no coherence and a lack of development within the plot. I am reasonably happy with the characters, the setting and the dialogue, but the novel shows that I had only a vague idea of where it was going when I sat down and began to write it.
I have had other attempts to write a novel, but they have just not stayed the course. So when it came to my latest idea, I was looking for a way to plot my novel that could give me a firmer foundation on which to work. Here were my top contenders:
- Rachel Aaron/Rachel Bach – Rachel writes science fiction and fantasy world books and her blog is very thorough when describing how she comes to plot a book. I really enjoyed this blog post on plotting and thought it was very good advice.
Simon Haynes also has a great article on plotting a novel. He explains the difference between how he plotted and how his novel turned out. He also writes software to help writers. You can read about Simon and his books at Spacejock.
Lisa Gardiner has also produced an interesting article on how to plot a novel. She likes to make sure that everything is well-researched and that she has the whole novel outlined before beginning to write. Again, she offers some good tips in ‘Plotting the Novel or the Real Reasons Writers are Neurotic”.
The She’s Novel blog explains how to take a plot bunny – a novel writing idea that just won’t go away – and turn it into a fully-fledged novel outline.
The Snowflake Method. The snowflake method builds your novel plot up sentence by sentence. You start with a sentence that sums up your plot, then you expand on it, then you build up information on your main characters and what happens in the story. Randy Ingerson has written the article and some software to go with it. This is a very detailed explanation on how to plot a novel step by step.
This is just a snapshot of the kinds of resources that are on the web, so if you have a ‘plot bunny’ hanging around your head, why not check out some plotting resources and see if you can capture that critter on paper!
In the interests of clarity, there are no affiliate links in this article, and all opinions are my own.