Plotting…What’s that?

Always thought planning a novel looked like this?

planning photo

I did too.

I’ve always been a pantser, starting with a character, a line of dialogue or a scene and continuing from there, and dreaded the thought of plotting. The trouble with pantsing, I’ve found, is that when I’m near the end I have no idea how the sucker should end because I have so many threads I could pull on.

tangled photo

Oh dear, what a mess.

sad face photo

Time for something different. Having pantsed two novels, and spent hours editing and plotting out afterwards, (and seen many people publish and write a ton more than me in the meantime) I decided to have a go at plotting my next project, a series of romances set in Montana. Who doesn’t love cowboys?

cowboys photo

I knew if I wanted to actually achieve this, I needed to think about structure.

scaffolding photo

For me, structure sounds as exciting as that picture above looks, so I set about discovering what plotting actually is, whilst being terrified that it would stifle all creativity (a common fear for pantsers). What I did discover opened up a whole new world.

I didn’t have to plot out my entire novel!

I didn’t have to know what happened when, to whom, and why.

I could start with a character, as I always do.

And then I found something else that helped:

Annie Neugebauer

On her page she has downloadable worksheets designed to stimulate the beginnings of a plot. These focus on character and ask questions such as:

What happens to the protagonist to put her unavoidably in the path of the antagonist?

What stands in the way of your protagonist’s goals? What will happen to her if she fails?

And more, besides. Obvious questions, you’re thinking. Well, yes … and no. Sometimes we do this naturally, but then we get to a certain point and our brains need to take over from our subconscious.

For me, these worksheets are great. I can take my character and use these questions to think about motives and problems, which I had never really done before, it had all grown organically. I’m not saying I’m going to plan it all out using these, what I’m going to do is keep these questions in mind. I’m also using Storyweaver to help, but don’t want to get too bogged down in that at the moment.

Of course, the biggest question we must keep in mind as we write: Who cares? So what?

Got any tips for Planning a Novel you’d care to share?

Louise

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