I mentioned in several of my 500 February posts that I was going to post about different plotting strategies, but I realized that I’m note versed enough in different plotting strategies to really say which ones are best or even how to fully do them. I’m still pretty new to the writing game, and I’m trying to figure out all the nuances of plotting. I decided, because of the inexperience that I have, I’m going to create a post where I link readers to articles by people who do know what they’re doing, but I’ll give a short description of each plotting method. That way, anyone can just look at this article, skim for a plot method that fits their interests, and then check it out. Did I need to tell you exactly what I’m doing in this blog post? Probably not. I wanted to, though.
I also wanted to make two notes before I get into the rest of the post.
First, there’s a spectrum of writers: pantsers (who write off the seat of their pants/ construct the story as they write) and plotters (who plan the story before writing). Knowing where you lie on this spectrum can help you figure out how much of a plot you need to construct before you start writing. I started writing as a pantser in high school and have shifted to a massive plotter in the past few years. Personally, if I find that if I get too off topic or don’t have constant goals while writing, my story won’t have the arc and won’t make sense. I need to have a solid plot before starting my writing, so realized that my opinions of this piece will be biased toward a plotter perspective.
Second, there’s a very slight different in plot and outline. Plot refers to the main events of the story, while outline is more of a description of everything (or most things) that happen in a story. These terms are sometimes used synonymously in articles about plot. I’ll do my best to differentiate between the two in this article, though, so I don’t further any sort of confusion on the matter.
The Ten Point Method:
If you notice, this is a link to a post on tumblr. I realize that Tumblr is not the most reliable of websites, but I personally think that this is a pretty good description of this type of plot. A ten point plot (she calls it an outline) basically focuses on creative ten different plot points. The plot points can basically be divided into 6 sections: opening, event, complication, point of no return, climax, and ending. Three of those points only happen once (opening, climax, and ending). Therefore, the other three (event, complication, and point of no return) make up the other 70% of the plotting method. Pear, the writer of this post, described what events, complications, and points of no return are in the post.
Who is this method good for? This method is good for people who want just a quick outline of their plot, and not much else. This is also a good starting point for people who are really unsure of where to start with coming up with their plot.
My thoughts on it: I actually really like this plot model. I think that it’s a really a good frame work for coming up with a plot, because it makes you focus on THE most important aspects of your story. The way that plot points (an abstract term that I find confusing and dislike) are broken down into events, complications, and points of no return in this method is a big plus for me. The way that we’re made to look at more specific cause and effect actions seems to be a really good way of approaching the plot of a story. I’m almost definitely going to use this method at some point. (Probably for short stories more so than novels, but I might still use this as a starting point for plotting novels.)
The Snowflake Method:
This is probably one of the most in-depth outlining method I’ve ever seen. The method is focused around the metaphor of a fractal. You take some time (maybe an hour or two) and condense you novel into a 15 word sentence. Then you expand that sentence into a paragraph. Then you take each sentence of the paragraph and make it into its own paragraph. You keep doing this until you eventually get a multi-page long outline of your novel. What’s nice about this method is that it combines plotting with outlining. The first few steps are very plot intensive, making you look at your MC and the main conflict in the story. Then you look into developing plot points, which this method calls “disasters,” where something really big happens in the story that will make it harder for your MC to reach their goal.
Who does this method work well for? This method is great for people who want to spend a long time outlining their book and go really in depth with it. I feel like for anyone who is a plotter, this is the one of the best methods.
My thoughts on it: I have actually tried this method before, but not in full. I did the first few steps or so, before I started to feel like I had a good grasp of what I needed to do. To be fair, I had already written 20-30k words of my book by that point, so I generally knew what I was going for plot wise. Using the first few steps as an exercise was helpful, though. I do think that I’d use this method for my next novel, when I eventually get to planning for that.
The Mind Map Method:
Before writing this post, I had never heard of this method. I think that it’s a really neat method, though, for plotting multiple characters and subplots. The idea is that you writing your characters and their starting points on a piece of paper. Then you create a direct path for you characters from their starting point to their ending point. Then you start connecting the different character plots to each other, which creates subplots and exchanges between characters.
Who does this work for? People who are visual learners would probably love this. Mind maps are very visual and would provide a great quick reference. This would also be a really helpful method for develop subplots and visualizing how they’d work. I think that this will work equally well for plotters and pantsers, because you can get as in-depth as you’d like.
My thoughts: Subplots are kind of a mystery for me most of the time, and I am so happy that this plotting strategy came up with such an easy way to create and show plots. I also am a huge fan of mind maps. I use them all the time to figure out what I need to do for research in my creative nonfiction essays, and I’m really excited about the idea of using them for plotting.
I picked out those three plot strategies, because I personally think that those are the best strategies that I’ve found. However, what works for me might not work for you! Therefore, I’m going to include some links to articles that cover 20+ different plotting and outlining strategies.
Two helpful websites and One awesome tip:
I’ve talked about plotist on here before, but I wanted to formally recommend it to people. It’s a really nice website for putting all your characters, settings, events, and timelines for all your different stories. I’ve only just started using it, so I haven’t used all of the different features yet, but I’m super excited about the timeline one. During my novel writing process one of the biggest problems I ran into was keeping track of which day I was one (as my novel takes place over a span of six days). Also, last time I mentioned this website, their twitter tweeted me a thank you, which I thought was so nice. I feel like it shows that they really want to do the best that they possibly can for the people that use their website. Something about that just makes me really happy.
This is nifty website for tracking progress on your story. I’ve been using for an even shorter time than Plotist, but so far it looks really helpful. I’m one of those people that likes to track progress by word count, and this website is really great for 1. logging that process, 2. setting up word count goals for specific amounts, and 3. representing that progress on a graph (similar to the graph used in nanowrimo)! What I also think is really neat for this website is that it can be adjusted to fit a lot of different needs. You can set it, so that you don’t have a word count goal over the weekend or that you want to have a lower goal on the weekend. You can also track progress by pages, chapters, or scenes, if word count isn’t your cup of tea. Lastly, YOU CAN ALSO TRACK EDITING!!! I am soooo horrible at making goals for editing my pieces (even though I really need to), and this program can let you come up with an editing plan where you track progress by pages for day. For example: I have a submission due in five day for a literary magazine, and I haven’t touched my piece at all. I put in my parameters for the project, and now I have concrete goals for how much I need to edit before submission day. My main complaint is that the interface could be a little more user friendly and the graphs could be a little more aesthetically pleasing, but it’s a really good website in every other aspect.
So I don’t have a link for this one, because it doesn’t really need one? Story bibles are just a place (like a journal or a virtual folder/document) where you keep everything relating to your story. Articles, plot drafts, character questioners, inspirational photos and so on. I have one (a journal with a cover that looks like a postcard) where I jot down stuff about the novel that I’m working on. Once I get started with my longer creative nonfiction piece, I will probably start a notebook for it. (I might actually start a binder, given that a lot of the stuff I’ll need for the story bible will be printed out documents. Same idea, though.) I would highly recommend this as an organization system or dumping ground, depending on how you use it, for your stories. I’ve found that it’s super helpful to have everything you need in one place.
And that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope that this post proved useful if you needed direction in plotting methods or wanted to find some cool writing website to add to your favorites bar. Have a wonderful week, and happy writing!