10 Ways to Plot a Novel

Ways to Plot a Novel

Working on a plot outline so you can plunge into your next big creative project, or getting ready to jump into National Novel Writing Month — could you use at least 10 ways to plot a novel? I have a list of articles for you. Actually, it’s a lot more than 10 ways.

Writers in the Storm has an excellent article on different ways to plot your story. From a basic framework, such as Martha Alderson’s Plot Planner, to Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, this article has lots of ideas for you, even if you’re a freewrite kind of novelist.

Plot Bunny Method

Then there’s my favorite The Plot Bunny Method. Step one is to have an idea that won’t let go. Step two is to write it down. Sounds simple? I did that after spending seven years in the torturous process of learning what a plot is and turning my plot bunny into a full-fledged novel, then testing it on beta readers, agents, and editors. (The Renaissance Club is forthcoming in January 2018 from Fiery Seas Publishing). The second time I did it the other way around. I developed a plot bunny and immediately tested it on agents who were complimenting my pitch but regretfully making an exit. Here’s my plot bunny, just as I first wrote it:

The Romantics is the story of two half-sisters who clash over inheriting a cottage on the Ligurian coast of Italy, along with its resident ghost, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Every single agent and editor said they wanted to read that book! So I went for developing the plot bunny, only I didn’t outline. I proceeded to Step Two. Determine an element that interests you. That was easy. It was the complicated relationship between siblings. I was newly mourning the death of my beloved brother, my only sibling, and thinking about just what such a connection with another human being is worth in your life. That was what I wanted to explore in my plot.

Theory Behind What Makes a Plot Good

At that moment in time, I happened upon a book every fiction writer should read: Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I think that was the first time I actually understood in an analytical way what makes a story fascinating: the working out of how to solve a problem the protagonist carries within herself or himself. It’s the human story — how we overcome our foibles to achieve our successes.

So those are my 10 ways to plot a novel. But I’m not a born outliner. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, or what’s known in fiction writing circles as a “pantser”. I follow the Plot Bunny Method, only I never knew it was actually a method. For you pantsers dipping toes in the outline water, I leave you with Sigrid Nunez’s Panster Anthem.