Plotting the Course

I already have three ideas for novels. Two come from short stories I have already written, but feel there is much more in them…they are the spark of novels to come; and the third idea is one I have been milling around for a while now, wondering what to do with it. One is definitely young adult historical fiction, and this is the one I am planning to work on this year.

I think I need to work on plot, but I have no idea how to do this. I have never really been much of a plotter. I have taught students about developing a strong plot, and dealt with this in workshops, but again this has only been in regards to short stories, not novels. For me, writing begins in a more organic way, around the research or reading I am doing at the time, from an emotion I want to convey, or in making sense of some part of world that I am trying to understand. Once I have momentum, I might do some minimal plotting; however, in order to sustain an idea in writing over the course of a whole novel, I think some kind of plan is needed. I feel plotting could help extend my writing beyond short story and assist me set goals and deadlines to help me actually a novel.

Not all writers plot their stories, and if you are taking this novel writing challenge along with me, you shouldn’t feel you need to emulate the same steps. Much of what I will do this year will be experimental, trial and error.

Yet again I turn to Google. I spend about 15 minutes doing a quick search and found dozens of plot templates. Many are PDFs, and really to be useful to me, I want something in Word so I can input into it. I find many different types of plot templates: basic plot, detailed plot, basic character, detailed character, different perspectives, freytag model (apparently “more scientific”), mind-maps, storyboards – you name it! I have used a number of similar things in my teaching days, but these seem somehow insufficient for the purposes of plotting a novel (as opposed to a short story).

Searching for a template can become procrastination – don’t waste too much time on it! Look at a few things then make your own template to fit your purposes.

I found the following two websites the most useful:


  • Writer’s Workshop: From Here to Publication – Writing Tips: More on Plotting


  • Iconoclastic Writer: Plot Development and Other Tools for Fiction Writers and Novelists – John Truby’s 22 Plot Building Blocks



Now the fun begins…to actually plot this thing!

Here’s my novel writing goals:

  • Plot and break down into parts
  • Research (I’m sure I will get an idea of research direction after plotting)
  • Write (break down into weekly and monthly tasks)
  • More research (as I write I will inevitably come across gaps in my knowledge where I need to do more research)
  • Edit: what, how
  • Get a critique
  • Review the writing again
  • Write a synopsis and proposal
  • Search publishers & literary agents
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