Tag Archives: plotting

Plot Fiction: Fill-In-The-Blanks Plotting For Pantsers

Plot Fiction: Fill-In-The-Blanks Plotting For Pantsers

“I can’t plot fiction,” a student told me. “My mind doesn’t work that way.”

She’s a fellow pantser. We pantsers can plot, if we have to, but plotting kills our inspiration for our novel.

In our Hot Plots program, I teach an organic method of plotting which convinces pantsers that they can plot. However, all you need to do to become comfortable writing your novels is a basic structure for a novel which stops you getting hopelessly stuck.

Think of it as “fill-in-the-blanks” plotting.

Let’s look at that now.

Fill-in-the-blanks: a way to plot fiction for people who hate to plot

Here’s all you need to know for fill-in-the-blanks plotting from Writing Fiction: Show It, Don’t Blow It:

* The setup (approximately a quarter of your novel, in which you set up your story.) After you’ve set things up, you’re moving to…

* The midpoint — what it says. This is the first big turning point of your story, where everything changes. Your story goes in a new direction. Next you head for…

* Story twist number 2. Another turning point. Your main character has tried to change. It’s not working. Things look black, and you’re heading for…

* The showdown. The make or break. The big fight your character needs to win. The story winds down, with…

* The resolution. The killer’s identified in a mystery. The world’s saved in a thriller, and it’s hearts and flowers in a romance.

Story Twist 2 happens at around the 80% point of your novel.

How to get started with fill-in-the-blanks plotting

Yesterday I finished the first draft of a novel, so this morning I started a new novel, with very little preparation. The novel is in a sub-genre (actually a sub-sub genre of romance.) I’ve never written a novel in this category before, so it will be fun, albeit challenging.

Last night I jotted a few ideas on a pad. This morning, I roughed out a couple of ideas for the main character, using an easy character-creation method. All you need to create a basic character is an adjective, combined with a noun. The noun is usually the character’s job. Some examples:

  • Naive model;
  • Bedazzled lottery winner;
  • Hardworking hairdresser;
  • Jealous chef.

You can come up with any number of these thumbnail “characters” in a minute or two.

Once I had my main character, I wrote a couple of paragraphs of background, and I was good to start writing. I always like to keep very loose during a novel’s setup. I find the best character and plot ideas come to me while I’m writing. If I plot without writing, all I get are cliched characters and obvious plots.

After an hour, I had 1200 words, which was a good start.

By the time I’ve reached the 30% point of the novel, I’ll have the first plot twist, which kicks the main character into action, as well as the midpoint twist. And by the time I reach the novel’s midpoint, I’ll know what the novel’s climax will be so I tend to write that next.

Make fill-in-the-blanks plotting your own: it’s a freeform way to “plot”

When you’re using the fill-in-the-blanks method, you have way-markers you need to reach. In between those markers, you can write any scenes you please. There are no rules, but do remember that you essentially have two plots, as I explained in The Big Secret To Plotting Fiction:

* The external plot is what happens.

* The internal plot is what your main character, or characters, think(s) about what happens.

Just keep asking your characters WHY. I’ll need to ask my main character of my new novel exactly that shortly, because this morning I had no idea of her motivation for what she did. 🙂

Try fill-in-the-blanks plotting. It’s plotting for pantsers. 🙂

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

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Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →

The Big Secret To Plotting Fiction: Two Story Lines (Plots)

The Big Secret To Plotting Fiction: Two Story Lines (Plots)

You’re writing a novel. Are you tearing your hair out yet? (Grin.) Plotting fiction can be a challenge, but it’s made easier when you learn the big secret. Here it is: you have two plots, rather than one.

Plotting fiction: your two plots

I discussed this on Facebook — Today’s writing tip for fiction: realize you have TWO story lines (plots) in your novel. Since Facebook posts tend to vanish quickly, and Facebook’s search function is woeful, here’s the gist.

When you work with two story lines/ plots, it will make plotting a novel (or a short story, for that matter) easier and more fun. Readers will enjoy your fiction more, and that translates to sales.

In fiction, you have (at least) two major story lines: external, and internal

Consider these two plots-in-one; your novel or short story/ novella needs both:

  • The external plot is what happens.
  • The internal plot is what your main character, or characters, think(s) about what happens.

In some genres, the external plot is primary — thrillers, for example. However, in other genres, the internal plot is primary — women’s fiction and any form of romance, for example.

That said, ALL genres, without exception need both. It’s common for beginning writers to “plot”, focusing on the external story line. That’s fine, in a first draft. However, as soon as possible, you need to pay attention to the internal plot/ story line too.

For easier writing, look on the “character arc” as a story line

The internal story line is often referred to as the “character arc”, but I’ve never thought that that was a particularly useful construct.

For example, in the novel that I’m currently working on, a romance, I realized this morning that something wasn’t right. The main character’s internal story line wasn’t working. I could get it to work, but that would require an extra 20,000 words, and it would throw off the pacing. Or instead, I could start the story earlier, and revise what I’d written to reflect that.

So, I decided to revise. Luckily, the revisions will be minor, because the major character isn’t aware of the importance of what happened earlier; it was formerly backstory. All I need to do is write a single scene to start the novel, bringing that part of the backstory alive. In addition, I’ll need to revise the internal story line (character arc) to reflect that. Since I’m halfway through the novel, that means a week of work, but it will make the story more entertaining. And it will be fun to write, which is always a good thing. 🙂

Although I’m not a fan of doing revisions in the middle of a first draft, I decided to do it anyway. It’s the only way I can get the internal plot to work — and the novel to work, for that matter.

You need two plots in one, for an engrossing (and salable) story

Think about the books you’ve loved — the Harry Potter series, for example. Do you remember the plot of each of the books in the series, or do you remember the characters?

Novelist and academic E.M Forster offered this famous definition of plot:

The king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief is a plot.’

The reason the king died — “of grief”, combined with events, gives you a plot.

Simply recounting events, which newbie fiction authors tend to consider a “plot”, is unsatisfying to readers, because you’re only telling half of the story. You end up with cardboard characters. Readers complain, give your novel low ratings, and they won’t buy your next book.

Chances are that while you’re writing, you’re aware that your plot isn’t working, but you don’t know how to fix it. The solution is to look at your main character’s internal story line.

You’ll find that your plotting becomes easier, once you start thinking of your plot as two strands, intertwined.

Of course, sometimes you have three strands to braid together.

What happens when you have three plots/ story lines?

Some genres have more than two strands to the plot. Mysteries and thrillers for example have three. The crime, or disaster, is a storyline of its own. Your murderer, or evil antagonist, has his own internal and external story line.

Is this starting to sound way too complicated? 🙂

Relax. When you’re writing, just write. Later, when you’ve finished your writing session for the day, think about your story, and ask yourself whether you’ve included an internal story line, as well as the events of your plot.

You’ll find that if you do this, writing fiction becomes more satisfying for you, and reading your fiction is more satisfying for your readers.

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Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
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Writing Fiction: Show It, Don’t Blow It

Writing Fiction: Show It, Don’t Blow It

You’re writing fiction: a novel. You’ve exhausted your first burst of enthusiasm. You can’t figure out where the story goes next. You’ve got 10,000 words of nothing.

Sadly, outlining doesn’t help. You’ve written an outline, and it has all the appeal of a jar of baby food. It’s bland. There’s no spark. You don’t care about your characters. You don’t even care about them enough to dislike them.

Relax. This kind of thing happens often. Look on the bright side — you’ve got 10K words, and that’s something. Here’s why you’ve lost your way: you’ve stopped feeling the emotions you’re aiming to portray. It’s easy enough to get them back.

Start by planning.

Plan and plot, to boost your enthusiasm

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m not a great fan of outlines. I prefer organic outlining, as we discuss in Hot Plots. When you use ordinary outlines, you’ll try to force your characters where they don’t want to go. You’re fighting your creative self, which knows what’s best for your story.

Go back to basics.

Think about:

  • The setup (approximately a quarter of your novel, in which you set up your story. After you’ve set things up, you’re moving to…
  • The midpoint — what it says. This is the first big turning point of your story, where everything changes. Your story goes in a new direction. Next you head for…
  • Story twist number 2. Another turning point. Your main character has tried to change. It’s not working. Things look black, and you’re heading for…
  • The showdown. The make or break. The big fight your character needs to win. The story winds down, with…
  • The resolution. The killer’s identified in a mystery. The world’s saved in a thriller, and it’s hearts and flowers in a romance.

When you consider the above way markers for your story, you’re not writing an outline. You’re giving yourself points to hit. Over time, as you write more short stories and novels, and read them as well, you’ll recognize these way markers instinctively.

SHOW it, don’t blow it: put yourself, and your readers IN your story

Get a big sheet of paper, at least A3 size. Or grab a whiteboard. Make circles on the board. List your main characters down the side.

Fiction is about people. People who CHANGE, over the course of the story. In your first circle, write your main character’s name, and his situation and major attribute at the start of the story.

It’s your challenge to show your main character’s growth, and change, throughout the story. A “plot” means nothing if your character doesn’t change. You’ve heard of the character arc, and character development. That means change.

Let’s say that at the start of your novel, a thriller, your main character, Lola, is a trader in a bank. She loves numbers. People make her shy, so she rarely stands up to anyone. She’s divorced with a small son.

Over the course of your story, you’ve got to show Lola change. She changes into someone who stands up for herself, and what’s right. She becomes a whistleblower: she saves the financial lives of hundreds of the banks’ small investors.

Using your sheet of paper, or whiteboard, start brainstorming scenes. Lola starts out as timid and becomes a heroine. What happens to her, and what does she do, along her journey?

When you’re done, slot your scenes into the basic “plot” we discussed above.

SHOW in every scene: see it, touch it, hear it, say it…

Now start writing a scene you want to write. Any scene. There’s no reason to write your story chronologically. Write any scene you like, from Lola’s point of view (POV) and BE Lola. Be there, in the moment.

If you can do that, your readers will be there with you. They’ll feel it.

Once you’re done with the scene, choose another scene, and write that one too. Keep BEING LOLA. When you feel it, you build your enthusiasm, and the words will flow.

Have fun… 🙂

Hot Plots: Craft Hot-Selling Fiction in 5 Minutes (or less)

How To Write Commercial Fiction With Hot Plots

The big secret of making money from your fiction is writing a lot. And publishing strategically and consistently. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program ensures that authors can make money from short stories, and all kinds of fiction. Moreover, whatever you’re publishing, you have a global audience.

You’re about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you’re writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. Discover Hot Plots.

 

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Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Updated: February 6, 2017