question: how do YOU plot novels?

Hello there Gracelings. Gracettes? Minions. I require your assistance.

I have decided that for my Finish BY or Die Trying During NaNo project, I am going to hardcore plot. In most everything else I do in life I make plans and lists and put things on calendars and so on and am generally quite organized. With writing I tend to be more loosey-goosey about structure and organization. But I’m thinking for this I will try to be strict and write out the plot very distinctly. I mean, I’ve been working on this for so long, I basically know what happens. There aren’t going to be a lot of twists left for ME. And having it mapped out might help me finish.

BUT. I’ve always been a “pantser.” I’m bad at plotting. I know what some techniques are, but I don’t really know what works for me.

SO. Minions. How do you plot things? I tried the index-card method once so I still have a bunch of those around. And I have about 5000 notebooks of various sizes that I could use (it’s a bad idea to let me in office supply stores). I’d prefer something tactile and by-hand, but if you have something you do with a computer I am also interested. Basically, what works for YOU? How do you structure things? How detailed do you go? Etc.

Throw things at me. I’m looking for ideas.



6 thoughts on “question: how do YOU plot novels?

  1. I pretty much plot by stream of consciousness. I’ll open up a word document and type something that I know happens. And then I’ll type “ummmmm and that’s because of x? or…yeah. no, would y work better? yeah, but that’s because OHHHH okay so what if he was actually a charizard this whole time and oh oh invisible charizard but then how come…” and then I just keep going and going like that until everything comes together.

    About to go do that now, actually.

  2. I use pretty much every technique I’ve ever heard, depending on what stage I’m in. I usually start out in a notebook, just brainstorming big ideas. then, as soon as something occurs to me that is too long to write comfortably (like a full scene or character description), I move to what hannah described above. still very loose. that’s usually enough for me to start a draft, but eventually I always realize that I have a bunch of scenes, but no clear sense of their order/relationship to each other. That’s when I move to a spreadsheet, which allows me map things in two dimensions… say, chapter # vs. real world time, or whatever.

    I guess I’ve never done note cards, but I can see how that would be a good tool.

  3. (also, I should add that my plots are a total mess, and almost certainly the worst aspect of my writing, so you should probably take whatever I said and do the opposite.)


  4. Brainstorming first, I write every scene or event I can think of. Sometimes these are entire scenes, sometimes a name or an item; just things I want to include. Then, in a Word document or sometimes on 3X5 cards, I transcribe them and then try to put them in a logical order. Looking them over for what material is missing -i.e. Glenn kisses Coco- Oh, Glenn and Coco have to meet first!- and then add that.

    I try to make sure I have a map to get me where I’m going without pre-planning every step of the journey.

  5. I had a lot of success getting those last 5,000 words in (without too much garbage, incidentally) because I plotted on the flight home from Miami (Thanksgiving being the bane of all WriMos).

    Specifically, I pulled out a steno notebook (I love those because of the smaller size and the spiral at the top) and began outlining scenes. I wasn’t writing full prose; I wrote the skeleton of the scene: Protagonist has conversation with scary alien intelligence; scary alien intelligence agrees to help out (motives?); protagonist gathers group of allies and storms propaganda center. End of scene.

    And then I moved on to the next scene. By the time I was back home from work that night, I had a skeleton I could flesh out with rhetorical flourishes, conversational fills, and scary alien intelligences (see above). If I was unsure of motivations, I also sketched those out beforehand. Why is the scary alien intelligence helping? And so on.

    This lets me flesh out by the seat of my pants while having a scene-by-scene structure that’s a little tighter than the overarching plot.

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