Monday, May 23, 2011

Three Tips for Monday

Today's Three Tips for Monday has to do with Plot.

I tend to be a plot first kinda girl. My stories all begin with a 'What if this happened?' question. After I have a plot idea in place, I start wondering about what kind of person would have the worst time overcoming the problems I've lined up.

So, because I love plotting so much, I thought I'd give you three of my tips for plotting a story.

1. Read James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure. If you haven't read this book, and you want to write're making a hard journey harder. This book will break down the essential elements of successful story structure and show you ways to make sure your plot is tight and fast. Jim Bell is a great communicator, and you won't be sorry you read this book. I have read it several times, and it continues to be the GO TO book that I recommend for all beginning writers.

2. List the FOUR biggest things you want to happen in your novel. The inciting incident, the boost in the middle, the black moment, and the conclusion. If you know the major mile-markers in the story, it's easier to see what you need to do, the scenes you need to write to get your characters logically from each place to the next.

3. Write a list of scenes. One sentence, one paragraph, as much as you can fit on a post-it...whatever you're comfortable with. This forms a loose outline, framework, whatever you're comfortable calling it.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, a plot-first or character-first writer?


  1. You know both for me - I'm a plotter and a character-first kinda gal. Although for this last story, I got the plot first, which is maybe why as I read through it, I have so much I need to change!

    Great tips - especially the 2nd one. Not sure you've ever shared that glorious bit of wisdom with me before. But it's a GREAT idea!

  2. I'm a blend of plot and pants. And I'm all about the characters.

    I like having those key moments to ramp up tension and your tip about writing scenes has been extremely helpful so my chapters don't run off track unexpectedly (which they stubbornly try to do anyway).
    ~ Wendy

  3. I'm a plotter for sure, but each story starts with something different...sometimes plot, sometimes character. And I'm with Katie on #2...Great idea! :)

  4. I'm a total pantser. I usually have those 4 things sort of planned out kind of. Sometimes. Maybe. ;)

    But great tips! Usually I have to go back and add stuff in... That second moment wasn't in my one polished MS but then I figured out it needed to be. Oh. That smooch is almost [but not quite really] worthy of Julie Lessman! Or at least my attmept to be worthy of Julie Lessman. It's really not that close... I wish it was... ;)

  5. You're not alone in starting with the "what if" question. Jim Rubart starts all of his books this way.
    I have my major plot points mapped out, then dig into my characters.
    I guess I'm equal on both parts. I haven't tried putting one sentences for scenes, but I may w/ the next book. Several top notch writers have said they do this. I'll see if it works for me. :)

  6. What? Are we thinking the same things?!?! I read your post after I blogged today ... lol ... great insight, though!!

  7. I'm going to look in my writerly library I think I might have this book but if not I'm picking up a copy today as an e-book. I'm a plotter with very strong pantser-like qualities. ;)

  8. Great post. I'm a combo-woman. I have to write the first chapter or two or three before I can sit and plot. I guess I have to "meet" my characters before I settle in with them. :) And I agree Jim's book is excellent. When I first read it, I felt like he'd revealed some secrets to me that other writing books hadn't.