I recently gave a short(…ish) presentation about plotting techniques for the teen writing group at my library and figured, hey, I spent time putting all this together, may as well share it with the world wide interwebs, too.
Look, I make no secret of the fact that I’m an avowed plotter, and I love my outlines with a passion bordering on the obsessive. The mere thought of pantsing a novel both fills me with awe and gives me heart palpitations. As with most things in writing, though, the only correct way to do things is the way that works for you.
That said… we’re here to talk about plotting, which means we’re really here to talk about outlining. Because what is plotting if not an organized list of what happens in your novel? Here’s the secret, though: Outlines aren’t just for plotters, they’re also for pantsers.
If you intend to create writing for serious public consumption, you will end up doing some manner of outlining at some point anyway, whether it happens before or after the first draft. Even if you’re a devoted pantser, you will eventually need to look back on what you’ve written, analyze it, identify the critical elements, and work to polish them. Outlining methods will help with that! (And hey, with outlining, at least you know if a story is broken before you invest weeks of time into a meandering vomit draft that goes nowhere.) Ultimately, I think Chuck Wendig said it best:
Outlining will not “destroy the magic” or any of that wifty supernatural pegasus shit. I believe very much that writing and storytelling feels like magic while at the same time being a wholly and gloriously mundane activity. (x)
The powerpoint (because I’m incapable of organizing my thoughts without a powerpoint) is right here, with all the relevant links included, but here’s the TL;DR version:
Before you start plotting with ANY of these methods, it’s really helpful if you know your Character, Conflict, and Stakes:
Character– Who should we care about?
Conflict – What is the major obstacle?
Stakes – What bad thing will happen if the character can’t resolve the conflict?
Some methods to try:
- Chuck Wendig’s 25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story (clean version | Chuck’s original NSFW version)
- Seven Point Story Structure by Dan Wells (description | videos)
- The Snowflake Method
- Beat Sheets (Save the Cat Beat Sheet Explanation | Lots of Examples)
- Jami Gold’s Excel Beat Sheets for many methods and genres
- Story Engineering by Larry Brooks (book | plotting spreadsheet)
- Scrivener templates for many of the plotting methods above
Try a bunch, combine methods, see what works!
Do you have any particular plotting methods that work for you? Let me know in the comments!