Whether you’re a Plotter (like me) or a Panster (oh you crazy kids), at some point in your writing career you are going to have to plot your story. It could be to meet up with a deadline, help write someone’s idea or to avoid those pesky plot holes. There’s no use avoiding it so let’s run head first into how to successfully plot like a pro and outline a manuscript.

All writers have an area of concentration when writing a story, an idea that drives the whole book. It could be how the book ends, the climax of the story, that one terrible situation that changes the course of the whole story, the protagonist and a number of other points. One thing is for sure, you can plot according to any area of concentration.

There is no set in stone order to follow in successfully plotting your story, but there is a golden rule. WRITE IT DOWN. You can use a laptop, a typewriter, pen and paper, index cards or crayons if you have to. You can even draw if visual aid works for you. You just have to have something to reference as the story unfolds. 

Some writers get worried that this whole plotting business can hinder the creative process, but that is simply not true. An outline is not a limit to what you can write, it is just a guide to help you create the best possible version of your book, it is a reference for when you have so many ideas swimming in your head than you know what to do with, it is a motivator and assistance against writer’s block, it is a time saver and so much more.

 Now we can all agree that plotting is a good thing, let’s jump into how we can get that done.

1.LIST OUT ALL YOUR POINTS

Using bullets, numbering or paragraphs, write down everything you can think of that you want the novel to have. A heroine with blonde hair, an estranged uncle, a black market selling dragon eggs, a portal to another realm, a super secretive love interest, how the story ends and so on.

Once you’ve done this, you can then rearrange your points according to the order of priority (you might have to forfeit dragon eggs to make a portal work into your plot and vice versa).

2. GET ACQUAINTED WITH YOUR GENRE

With an idea of the most important points in your story, you can determine what genre and therefore flow your book should have. Is it Fantasy with a hint of Romance or Romance with a hint of Fantasy or any other combination? This would also help you determine what time setting or world setting best works.

3. SECTION INTO BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END

How does your story start, whose view point does it start from, what situation draws the reader in or leads your protagonist? The middle is all about the escalation, the conflicts, that pivotal point that drives the protagonist into a corner and has your readers holding their breath for what’s to come. The end is what it is. Does it end on a cliff-hanger or a proper period, would the hero ride off into the sunset with his princess?

Write down the events that define each of these moments.

4. WRITE YOUR SEQUENCE

This is a more detailed version of you beginning, middle and end, less than chapter by chapter explanation.

This has to be ordered from the first to the last. It’s a guide on how each situation plays out. It covers your hook, roadblocks, goals, comic relief, growth points, accomplishments and what have you.

5. CHARACTER ARCS

There are many types of characters that make up a story. You have your protagonist, antagonist, love interest and so on. Define their personalities, ideologies, weaknesses and their relevance to the plot. How each character affects the turn of events where necessary.

6. CHARACTER BACKSTORIES

All, some or possibly none of a character’s history could go into your story, but having it written can help you decide what it is exactly that drives your character and what you want the character to achieve at the end of the day.

7. TIDBITS AND DETAILS

These are all the little facts that go into fleshing out your story and creating a believable world. When you’ve determined the when and the where you have to start fact-checking. What languages and mode of speech are appropriate, what types of clothing was used, what foods are common and possible, what is the weather going to be like, what animals are roaming the streets or live in seclusion.

8. REVISIT YOUR OUTLINE

Now you have every point you could have thought of at first written down, a clearer picture and direction of your story has been formed. You might start to notice gaps, points you don’t like, things you weren’t sure to add but now look like they would fit n nicely or points you want rearranged. This is your chance to fix all that up nice and neatly. The best part is, even after you’ve done this and successfully gone far in your manuscript, you can always come back and reanalyze your outline. 

This short video should help clarify the steps necessary to plot a novel

Remember you are the author of your story. This is just a guide that works to avoid issues like writer’s blocks and late draft time.

Chio Zoe

Chio Zoe is a Young Adult Fantasy writer. Her debut novel To Cross a Blade amd Dagger placed her as a finalist in the Breakthrough Novel Awards. She is currently working on book 2 scheduled to be released in 2019. Chio studied Architecture and Fashion Design, yet has always loved writing. When she isn’t working on her debut series, she writes short stories on her website (chioojukwu.com).