Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Discover Your Plot

Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Discover Your Plot

Are you new to fiction writing? If so, you may be confused about plotting.

You have questions:

  • What’s a plot?
  • Do you need a plot?
  • What if you’re convinced that you “can’t plot?”

Let’s answer those questions.

Fiction writing: plotting for beginners

Basically a plot in fiction is a series of events which are linked by cause and effect.

And yes, your fiction needs a plot. Plotless fiction isn’t satisfying to readers and it’s not much fun to write either.

If you’re convinced that the plotting fairy failed to bestow her gifts on you, that’s fine. Some authors love plots and outlines. Other authors would rather stick a fork in their eyeball than develop a rigid outline — I belong to this group.

In Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Create A Character, I shared my cavalier approach to plotting:

Once I have a main character, a BIG problem for the character, and an antagonist, I start writing. I’m a pantser, pretty much. That said, I rely on my intuition. Should some good ideas magically arrive, I might outline the major plot points (beats) of the novel.

I’ve become competent at plotting over the years. However, I know that I’m a natural pantser. When I force myself to plot I risk losing my inspiration for a novel.

Let’s look at a couple of tips which will help you to discover your plot while you’re writing.

Discovering your plot while you’re writing is easy, and it’s fun too.

1. Focus on your characters: give them lots of problems, and make choices

Plotting starts when you have a character with problems and a goal. This isn’t just any goal — it’s a goal he MUST achieve, or die. He may not die physically, but his life is over.

Many of your characters’ problems stem from who they are — as many of our problems do, too.

In Plotting Fiction Made Easy With Strong Characters: 3 Tips we recommended that you give your story people positive and negative character traits, and:

A suggestion: any positive character trait can become a negative trait (flaw.) Traits, both positive and negative, tend to be on a continuum.

Your plot is what your characters DO — and what they do in response to any event depends on their traits (attributes).

For example, let’s say that your novel’s main character, Bill, is arrested for murdering his ex-wife. Bill has a problem. Bill also has a goal: to prove that he didn’t murder his ex-wife.

You’re the author: you have ultimate power. So you choose Bill’s attributes, and decide that he’s: introverted, self-critical, and witty. Bearing these traits in mind, how will he react to his arrest? Who does he call? What does he do next?

Vital tip: once you’ve decided what kind of personality Bill has, that immediately affects what he does.

Bill is your character — you can give him any personality traits you choose. Perhaps you decide that Bill is honest, intelligent, and attractive to women. Now he’s a different kind of person from introverted, self-critical Bill.

This alternate version of Bill will react in a different way to his arrest for murder.

After you’ve created a main character and have given him certain attributes, your plot begins when you give him a BIG problem. Your character’s step by step actions, and reactions, create your plot.

Major tip — the bigger the problem, the better.

Go to Amazon and read the blurbs of bestselling novels for examples of big problems.

(BTW — speaking of blurbs; here’s how to write blurbs.)

2. Plotting fiction: keep your characters acting and reacting

You’ll give your main character a BIG problem — one that seems overwhelming, given the personality he has. Readers like to see main characters fight for what they want.

Fiction is about change, so your main characters need to change in response to the events of your novel. Remember the cause and effect of your plot: something happens, then your character acts, and as a result of his actions, something else happens… And your PLOT grows.

We talked about your novel’s milestones in this blog post. By the end of the setup phase of your novel (the setup is around 25% of a novel) you need to have everything in place for ongoing fireworks as your main character struggles and grows.

Now your story takes a major twist — you need a major change at the end of the setup point; something readers don’t expect.

For example, if you were writing Bill’s story, by the end of the setup Bill is released from jail. He’s out on bail. Not only has poor Bill lost his job so he needs to find money for a lawyer, his teenage children believe that he’s guilty. They’ve gone to live with their grandparents who hate him…

The twist? Bill discovers that his wife was leading a double life.

As long as you keep cause and effect in mind, you’ll discover your plot when you keep writing. Remember cause and effect, write on, and have fun. 🙂

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

eBook: $5.99

You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell.

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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.

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Resources to build your writing career

Check out Angela’s Writing Classes and Angela’s books for writers.

Editing Your Book? You May Not Believe It, But Apps Can Help

Editing Your Book? You May Not Believe It, But Apps Can Help

You’re all done with writing; now you’re editing your book.

Editors cost money, so you’ve done as much self-editing as you can. Self-editing is vital, because:

Leaving aside the fact that if you dump a mess into an editor’s lap it will cost you a small fortune to get it cleaned up, your own editing is important, because:

  • It’s your chance to discover the story you want to tell (this applies to both nonfiction and fiction);
  • It’s your big chance to make your book better.

But what if you’re on a self-publishing budget, and can’t afford an editor?

Editing your book takes time (and money)

Recently I started revamping and republishing several of my older books, published years ago.

Rather than hire an editor, I decided to try an app.

My reasoning? Using an app’s faster than hiring an editor. Although these books have been edited, I’m revising and rewriting scenes, so an app might help me to catch typos and other errors.

Also, I’ve never tried any of the editing apps. Since they’re proliferating, they must be useful, so I decided to download ProWritingAid.

ProWritingAid: amazingly useful

My expectations were low. I’ve been writing professionally for 40 years so — an app? Surely you kid….

After a month of serious use, I can report that ProWritingAid is useful.

Not only does it catch obvious errors like typos, but it also tightens up my writing.

Another benefit: we authors can get a little precious about our words.

However, once you’ve dumped your precious words into ProWritingAid, they no longer seem as sacred. You’ll slash and burn with abandon, and your writing gets better.

Check out a writing app or two: you may be as surprised as I was

I’ll do a proper review of ProWritingAid soon.

The app has also inspired me to take a look at other writing apps. As soon as I get time, I’ll be looking at Grammarly and others to see how they compare with ProWritingAid.

Hard as it is to admit, I’ve been properly humbled by ProWritingAid. Anything which improves your writing is a good thing.

Self-Publishing Strategy Made Easy: How To Market Your Books In 15 Minutes A Day

Self-Publishing Strategy Made Easy: How To Market Your Books In 15 Minutes A Day

eBook: $5.99

Do you enjoy writing and publishing your books, but find that marketing them is a challenge? You're not sure what works, so your efforts are muddled, half-hearted, and inconsistent.

What if you could market in just 15 minutes daily?

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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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Resources to build your writing career

Check out Angela’s Writing Classes and Angela’s books for writers.

Writing Short Stories For Fun and Profit: How Fast Can You Write?

Writing Short Stories For Fun and Profit: How Fast Can You Write?

Thinking about writing short stories? Many writers are, and some are making amazing money.

Established erotica short fiction writers are making five figures a month, but they don’t promote themselves – they can’t. Amazon’s cracked down on “monster porn”, and there are few venues for erotica writers to promote their offerings.

No, I’m not suggesting that you start writing erotica. 🙂 You can if you like, there’s money in it. However, there are many more genres in which you can make a handsome living if you write short fiction.

I receive endless questions about short stories. Writers still can’t believe they can make money from their imagination. Hard to believe, I know – I used to feel that way myself. Before self-publishing became hot, I would have giggled if anyone suggested you could make money with short stories.

Let’s look at some of the most popular questions I’m asked about writing and selling short stories.

How long are short stories?

Short stories can be as short as you please. Back in the days when I wrote for magazines, I’d sell the occasional “flash” fiction story. They were always shorter than a thousand words.

If you’re selling short stories on Amazon, I suggest that that your ebooks contain over 5,000 words. If you’re writing flash fiction, compile two or three or more stories. This is a suggestion – you can write at whatever length you choose.

Occasionally Amazon will tag authors who publish extremely short material for not providing a “good user experience.” Your mileage will vary. Those of my students who sell erotica, tell me that their stories of eight to ten thousand words sell well.

What kinds of short stories sell?

Erotica, romance, and mystery do well. Choose whatever genre you please. One writer I know sells horror short stories. Initially her stories languished. Then she built up her mailing list and sold bundles, and she’s doing well.

Write whatever you like. Experiment. Who knows, there might be a huge fan base for you.

How do I promote short stories?

The best way to sell your stories is to write more of them, so that you continually appear in Amazon’s New Releases lists. Also, make sure that you create a mailing list.

Can I freelance short stories? Will people hire me to write them?

People will hire you to ghostwrite almost anything. I’m cutting down on my ghostwriting activities. I enjoy it, because I love to write, and anytime anyone gives me a brief, I can’t wait to get started.

However, it doesn’t make economic sense. Your short stories will make money for you for years, if you sell them on Amazon. However, if you’re ghostwriting, you’re selling “work done for hire.” That means that you’re trading hours for dollars; if you need to do this, do it.

The big benefit of ghostwriting is money in your bank account. Build up your own short story publishing catalogue as soon as you can.

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

eBook: $5.99

Why write serial fiction?

Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.

It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.

If you’re a new author, a serial serves to introduce you to readers. A reader may not be willing to commit to a novel by a new author, but be willing to read an episode of a serial.

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Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

$5.99

Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction.

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