Tag Archives: plotting

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

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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

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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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New Author? 3 Tips To Help You To Outline Your Novel

New Author? 3 Tips To Help You To Outline Your Novel

Hate writing outlines? If you’re a new author, do your best to write an outline anyway. If nothing else, an outline assures you that yes, by heavens, you’re writing a novel, rather than a mass of words.

The following tips will help.

Why outline? One simple reason: you’ll avoid a horrible fate… Unlike the vast majority of new authors, you’ll write a real novel, one that has a real story.

The most common new author pitfall: nothing happens

Here’s your challenge, if you’re a new author.

You must make something happen. Preferably on every page. Moreover, that “something” must be relevant — integral to your story.

Does that sound easy? It is. However, when you’re a new author, you’re all about the pretty words. Experienced authors don’t care about the words — they care about the story.

An experienced author knows that you can fix your word choices, scene construction and grammar, but if nothing happens in your novel, then you’ve just wasted all the time you spent writing.

1. Make something happen NOW

You’re a new author, so you want to start writing NOW.

Please don’t…

If you go ahead anyway, please avoid these kinds of common and horrid novel beginnings…

  • The “waking up in the morning” novel opening. Trust me, no one cares. As I’ve said before, if you don’t wake up with a space alien bending over you, or beside a corpse… we don’t care.
  • “Poor me, I’m having SUCH a bad day…” — romance novelists love this opening. Sadly, similarly to the above, we don’t care. If your main female character spills hot coffee over her new silk blouse, rear-ends a car, gets fired… Nope, we don’t care.
  • Please also avoid the “bang, bang, you’re dead…” — the dead bodies/ or car crash opening, loved by new thriller authors… We’re reading a novel, not the news, so we’re not interested in dead people before you’ve made us care about them.

An experienced author may have the skills to begin his novel with these kinds of first pages, but you don’t — attempt them later in your career.

Write your novel’s opening pages after you’ve outlined a real story.

Start by thinking about your novel as a STORY

Before you think about your novel’s first page, think about the novel, as a whole. What happens? What’s the story?

From How to Write a Novel Even if You’re a New Writer:

Now you have your title, it’s time to brainstorm a fantastically crazy situation.

Mysteries usually involve a crime of some sort, often murder. So, who’s your victim? Why was he/ she murdered?

How was he/ she murdered? Where was he/ she murdered?

At this stage, you don’t need a complete plot, you just need enough material to become enthusiastic and inspired.

Choose a genre (category) and dream up some situations which would be appropriate for the genre you’ve chosen.

Choose one situation.

2. Create your milestones: they’re the bones of your outline

After you’ve chosen a situation, list your milestones:

• The setup (at the 25 per cent point of the novel);

• The midpoint, where everything changes, at 50 per cent;

• The OOPS milestone: the kick in the pants. Think of it as a sharp jolt, or the dark moment. It occurs at the 80 per cent point.

Etc…

This article tells you about milestones; I don’t want to repeat the information here.

3. Choose your Point of View character: your novel starts when his life changes

Well done, new author! You’ve got the bare bones of a real story.

Next, choose your primary character, your Point of View (POV) person — the one through whose experiences you’ll tell your story.

For example, in a mystery, your POV character is usually the sleuth. In a romance, the female protagonist is your POV person.

You may even choose to create an “unreliable” main character. An unreliable POV character is common in psychological thrillers.

Plot out several scenes, new author, then start writing

Got your main story, and POV character? Excellent. Note down a couple of scenes in your outline, if you wish.

Alternatively, just start writing.

Your process will probably change with each novel. My goal is always to start writing as soon as I have an intriguing idea for a story, plus a main character, because I know that new ideas will develop while I write.

You may want to develop your outline further. Whatever you choose… onward. 🙂

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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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

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Write Fiction: 3 Tips To Kickstart Your Bestselling Novel Today

Write Fiction: 3 Tips To Kickstart Your Bestselling Novel Today

You want to write fiction — a bestselling novel. It’s your dream, but how do you get started? Your novel may turn out be a bestseller, or a dud, but you’ll never know until you complete it, and it’s published.

Of course, something is holding you back, otherwise you’d have started your novel the first time the thought occurred to you.

Here’s the thing. Writing fiction is simple.

Truly, it is, as long as you remember to daydream.

If you want to write fiction, start daydreaming stories

Consider that you’re already an expert on stories. You’ve read thousands of novels. (If you haven’t… start reading, today.) Stories are everywhere. Movies, TV, Netflix.

Story starters are everywhere too; just watch any reality show to get dozens. Choose someone you hate on a reality show, and daydream about them. Or choose someone who intrigues you in a coffee shop, and daydream about the kind of person they are.

If you can daydream, you can write fiction.

These tips will help you to write fiction.

1. Sit down somewhere: grab your computer, or a notepad

This tip is vital. Put your rear end in a chair — chances are, you’ve heard this suggestion before. Please — DO IT.

I like to start my novels and short stories with a pen and notepad, but use a computer if you’re more comfortable.

OK. Let’s start writing your novel.

Write:

  • About a movie you saw. Think about someone in the movie, and write a description of them. Let your mind wander… and imagine something horrible happening to that person. Write your imaginings down.
  • A list of words. Any words you like. Just write them down the page — aim for 20. Choose any five words from your list, and use them in a paragraph. Close your eyes, and daydream. Keep writing.
  • A description of an acquaintance — someone at work, or a neighbor. Write about this person’s biggest secret. It’s a huge secret, a secret that they would literally kill to keep.

See what you did there? You were writing.

Anyone can write fiction, but don’t say to yourself: I’m writing a novel. That’s fatal. You’ll immediately become self-conscious, and your fears will crowd in.

Just start writing, without expectations of anything.

You’ll be surprised at the result.

2. Build a treasury of ideas to help you to write fiction

We read fiction for an emotional experience. Before bedtime tonight, you can pick up your Kindle, or a paperback novel, and you can immerse yourself in someone else’s world.

You might become:

  • A gladiator in ancient rome;
  • A submarine mariner in a nuclear submarine;
  • An astronaut, setting foot on Mars for the very first time.

To write fiction, you need a treasury of ideas. Each of these ideas must have emotional resonance for you — that’s essential. Something about an idea intrigues you, and before you know it, you’re daydreaming…

Pay close attention to how you feel. Most people avoid their emotions, and that’s sad. If you’re doing this, keep a gratitude journal, so that you can start familiarizing yourself with your emotions.

Ideas are everywhere:

  • Look out the window. What do you see?
  • Read the news. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has made the news;
  • Listen to people. Most people like to gossip. Squirrel away the stories they tell you.

Write down your ideas, just a sentence or three, in an idea notebook.

3. WRITE fiction every day: start by creating characters

Remember: avoid saying — to yourself and others — I am writing a novel. Tempting yes, but it might be fatal too.

To write a novel, you need:

  • Characters
  • Those characters do things, because they MUST and that creates…
  • A plot.

Every short story or novel begins with a character who has a huge problem. He can’t avoid the problem.

So, start writing about a character who has a problem.

Then create another character with a problem.

And another…

See? You already know how to write fiction.

Get started.

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

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Do you love your life?

If you don't ADORE your life, you can change it — more easily than you can imagine.

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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.

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