I’m currently plotting a novel. In the image below, 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.’
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 your character’s not in big trouble, your book is.
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