Tag Archives: how to plot

Plotting Fiction: 3 Tips For Creating Better Plots

Plotting Fiction: 3 Tips For Creating Better Plots

You have a wonderful idea for a novel and you enjoy writing the book. You can’t wait to show it to your writing group and beta readers. Unfortunately, rather than the kudos you expected, you get a lukewarm response. Eventually.

The first big clue that your “wonderful” novel doesn’t hit the mark? It takes forever to get feedback. Finally, you publish. Despite the amazing (expensive) cover, the thousand readers on your mailing list, and the Facebook ads, you make few sales.

What happened?

The one essential for plotting fiction: conflict

According to the reviews, nothing happened. Your reviewers make remarks like:

  • “I kept waiting for something to happen”;
  • “Save your money — I had to force myself to finish it”;
  • “Where’s the excitement? This is a real snooze-fest”.

You wince. Ouch. Your big question is WHY?

Chances are that you forgot the one big essential of fiction — conflict.

From Write A Novel In A Month: 5 Tips To Make It Easy:

Fiction is all conflict, all the time. You need major conflicts, and minor ones too. Never make things easy for your characters.

Recall that you “enjoyed” writing your novel. I love writing, but a big red flashing warning, warning! sign for me is always when I adore my characters, and have a great time with a novel. Yes, you should love writing, but please check that you’re not making things too easy for your characters.

1. Trouble, and more trouble: kick your characters when they’re down (and kick them some more if they show signs of getting up)

I’m a pantser by nature. I hate long outlines. A detailed outline kills my interest in writing a novel stone dead.

That said, I’ve made it my dedicated habit to focus on the conflict in every single scene. No conflict equals NO SCENE.

Here’s how it’s done: make sure that your characters don’t get along. Your novel needs a big conflict, true, but it needs lots of little conflicts as well.

The main characters in your romance start out hating each other, and that hatred doesn’t suddenly switch to insta-love. The sleuth in your mystery novel alienates not only his fellow detectives, but all the suspects too.

Think about your own relationships for a moment. How many of them are totally conflict-free? None, right? No matter how much you love your nearest, sometimes they’re not your dearest. Your kids can get on your last nerve. On bad days, you’re convinced that your partner is on a mission to drive you insane.

Write on a sticky note: no one gets along. Paste it on your computer monitor.

2. Establish your one big conflict as the spine of your book, then add little conflicts

Conflict is uncomfortable. You hate cruelty and fights. Most people do, in real life. Not so in entertainment.

Plotting fiction is mainly plotting conflicts. Let’s say you have 40 scenes in your 60,000 word novel. That’s 40 conflict peaks you need to hit. The BIG conflicts are the major turning points of your novel. Read about them in Writing Fiction: Show It, Don’t Blow It.

A scene is a unit of action: something must happen in every scene, and that something is… conflict. Here’s what I suggested to help you to plot your conflict in Writing Fiction In Scenes: The Big Secret:

You estimate that your big scenes will be 2,500 words. That’s 15,000 words out of your novel — say 20,000 words, because chances are your big scenes will run longer.

If you list those scenes as A, B, C, etc across a large sheet of paper or a whiteboard, it’s easy enough to decide what you need in the scenes which lead up to a big scene.

3. Ending a conflict? Start another one before you do

Can’t find a way to add more conflict?

Here’s a simple solution. Create a conflict-laden subplot. The only rule for subplots is that a subplot must be related in some way to the novel’s big plot.

Many authors plot their major conflict scenes and subplots on a spreadsheet so that they can keep track of them. Your spreadsheet will help you to ensure that you always start another conflict before you end a current conflict.

Let’s say you’re writing a scene in which your sleuth has finally found his prime suspect. Slot in a scene before that, in which his boss tells him that he’s fired. Or a scene in which he finds evidence against someone who wasn’t a suspect, but is now…

Always, always, start a new conflict before you end an on-going one.

Your ONLY goal when you write fiction is to keep readers reading. When you have lots of conflicts, they’ll keep reading. As a bonus, even if you dislike plotting fiction, you’ll find it easy to create lots of conflicts. Look on it as a way of sneaking up on plotting. 🙂

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular. More info →
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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99
Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters. More info →
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Write Your Novel: Best-Ever Plotting Advice

Plotting Your Novel

I’m currently plotting a novel. In the image above, you can see a portion of one of my Tinderbox maps for the novel. The maps are outlines.

Plotting a novel is huge fun. However, you can get so caught up in your plot that you wander off into enticing byways. “What if” can pull you into an Alice in Wonderland world.

While you’re having fun plotting, it’s hard to remember that your novel is a STORY. At its heart, it’s a story of change for your main character.

Here’s the best-ever plotting advice, 5 Quotes to Plot Your Novel By:

“‘Get your character in trouble in the first sentence and out of trouble in the last sentence.’
Barthe DeClements

Pacing of plots is crucial; never give the reader a place to put the story down. This focus on tension on every page begins at the stage of slogging out a plot and continues till the last copyedit.

Bad trouble for your character, and conflict on every page

Your story starts when your character gets into trouble. That trouble needn’t be on the first page. However, it should be SOON. In the novel I’m currently plotting, I had a wonderful opening scene, and then another three scenes. So, four scenes, but in reality… nothing happened in those scenes that had anything to do with the main story. It was all backstory, with a gap of a year. During that year, my main character was supposed to in mourning. Since the novel’s set in Regency England, she had to stay home while in mourning.

So, I moved those scenes to a “backstory” folder. I’ll still write those scenes, however, I’ll feed the material in when it’s needed, not before.

I tend to spend as much time on plot development as I do in writing a novel. I used to be a “pantser” — I’d just start writing. That meant I had to slash many chapters, because they weren’t needed. Since I always outlined after the first draft, I decided that that was silly. I was wasting too much time, and sending my characters down rabbit holes that had nothing to do with the plot.

Plotting is fun, and for me, it’s the best part of writing a novel. I’ve got a sticky note stuck to my monitor: “STORY — convict on EVERY page” as a reminder.

If you’re character’s not in big trouble, your book is.

Ebook Formula

Can you profitably write and sell ebooks?

The self-publishing frenzy says that you can. However, you need to know what you’re doing, so that you’re as sure as you can be that your new ebook will SELL before you start writing it.

It took me five years of writing and selling information products before I stumbled over the formula I’ve been using ever since.

Now I’m sharing the formula with you. Once you start the right way, ensuring that you have readers who are ready and eager to BUY before you start writing, it’s easy to make sales.

, and on Twitter: @angee