Posts Tagged ‘plotting’ Archive

On Plotting (Downloadable Plotting Doc Attached!)

There are a thousand-and-one ways to plot. To write. To draft and edit and tell stories. I’ll be the first to jump on the no-way-is-the-right-way train, that all ways are valid. In fact, I’ll argue that the way I write now isn’t the way I’ve written before and is not the way I’ll write later. It will always be in flux, and I think this is healthy! It allows for growth and change.

Being aware of the above has meant that over the years, I read craft books and explored techniques on plotting (I’m a reformed pantser), and through it all I’ve taken notes to refer to later and to share with friends. A few weeks back while on a writing hiatus, I started to combine those notes into a Google Doc, which turned into a fill-in-the-blank doc for myself for future works, which turned into a question of, “Huh, why on earth don’t I make this available to others?”

So, if you’re curious about my process, please check it out! I would like to emphasize that nothing you see in it is set in stone. I’m not arguing that this is how you should plot or draft or edit, it’s simply a few things I like to keep in mind when I write. I’ve found that drafting often often includes the willingness to forget certain elements now, and the necessity of remembering them later. This doc is one way I’ll help myself to remember elements for later. I very much hope you find it helpful! Please feel free to download it and use it in whatever way you’d like.

Without further ado, here’s my Plotting Overview doc, as well as an EXAMPLE Plotting Overview doc of how one might use it (I’ve used the book example HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE).

Cheers for your writing! Whatever you’re working on, may the writing-gods provide you with a day of joy.

9-Squares to Plotting Fiction

I can’t take credit for this post. All credit goes to the amazing Deana Barnhart for her original post on the 9-Squares, and she, in turn, got the information from Verla Kay. If you haven’t checked out either of those lady’s websites, you need to.

I used Verla’s Plotting Template for the past two books I wrote and I’m using it for my next book. It seems to work well. I don’t over plot (leaving room for creativity) and it gives me a great guideline to stick to. I took the 9-steps and created an Excel doc. (click on the “9-Squares” below)

9 Squares Each of the plot points are described shortly, leaving enough room to jot notes. Feel free to use the document!

The following is from Verla on the 9-Steps for Plotting Fiction

1 Triggering event

First thing’s first. What happens? Why have you bothered to write a
book, and more importantly, why should a reader invest time flipping
through its pages. Your triggering event is the answer to those
questions, so make it a good one. Also, don’t make the reader wait
very long for it. First page, first paragraph, first sentence.
These are good spots for a triggering event.

2 Characterization

Generally, books succeed or fail on the strength of their characters
more so than on the strength of their plots. The second box is where
you explore what makes your protagonist tick. No, this isn’t an
excuse for drawn out exposition, history, or back story. If your
triggering event is captivating, the reader will discover enough
about the protagonist in Box Two simply by reading how he or she
reacts to the event.

3 First major turning point

By now, your plot is picking up steam, and because of Box Two, the
reader is invested in the ride. Time to throw a curve ball. This
turning point can be either a positive event for your protagonist,
or a negative one, but it should lay the groundwork for the negative
turning point in the sixth square. There is a reason these boxes are
touching one another; they interrelate. For example, Box Three may
introduce the motivation of the antagonist, which then justifies the
events in the sixth square.

4 Exposition

You’ve earned some time to fill the reader in on important data.
Since this box touches the first square, here’s where you shed some
light on that triggering event. Since it also touches Box Seven, you
get to foreshadow your pro-tagonist’s darkest hour. Box Four often
reveals a relationship, character flaw, or personal history that
contributes to the dark times in ahead.

5 Connect the dots

Here is where many plots fall apart. Box Five represents the
trickiest part of fiction and since Box Five is the center of the
book it must connect to all the squares around it. Kind of like the
nucleus at the center of a bomb, Box Five should tick systematically
upon elements introduced in Box Two and Four. And like the calm
before the storm, the fifth square should give the false impression
of resolution before heading like a freight train to Box Six. Most
importantly, it needs to provide foreshadowing for the protagonist’s
revelation in Box Eight. That’s a lot for a little box to do, but
focus on efficient prose to get it right. Your plot depends upon it.

6 Negative turning point

Here’s where that bomb explodes and all (Satan’s home) breaks loose. Good
thing you laid the groundwork in Box Three. Good thing, too, that
Box Nine will deliver some just desserts.

7 Antagonist wins

The protagonist is defeated here, and the antagonist apparently
wins. How the protagonist deals with the darkest hour of defeat
depend upon the traits and/or story developed in Box Four, which
leads to his or her revelation in the next square.

8 Revelation

Of course! The protagonist’s revelation turns the tide. Here is
where the protagonist connects the dots and overcomes the obstacles
of Boxes Six and Seven via the device introduced in Box Five.

9 Protagonist wins

The negative turning point in Box Six is rectified while the
character’s resolve from Box Eight is brought into full bloom.
Congratulations! Another great tale told greatly.


I’ve read two posts on plotting recently, the first by Chuck Wendig and the second by Angela Perry.  Both of them are fantastic and have inspired me to revamp my plotting style.

I’ve always been a plotter, but it has been in the form of a shabby outline and more often than not, it’s all done in my head.  I’ve always liked leaving things in my head for a while to stew before getting it down on the page.  That all has changed in the past week.

Rupert is finished, and by finished I really mean not even close.  I’ve changed the beginning a bit and have a lot of work still to do on the ending.  It certainly is exciting though to have a whole book put together!  Anyways, I’m going on vacation in three weeks and am going to use those weeks in two different ways.

  • I’m going to keep editing Rupert, and
  • Plotting!

I’ve had a novel sitting in my noggin since high school and recently it has been itching to get onto the page.  I tentatively began plotting this novel a few weeks ago but really didn’t want to get into it before Rupert was done.  After reading Angela’s post on plotting, I decided to plot more…and more…and now I have many many pages of plotting done.  It’s exciting!  I’ve decided to use my vacation in three weeks to use the plotting I’ve done and write as much as I can of this other novel.  It will be a vacation from Rupert!  haha.

Here is what I have figured out I like to do when plotting:

  1. I draw a map.  This is one of my favorite things to do when I am beginning to world build.  My maps begin by pencil and are slowly filled in with colored pencils, the more I figure out what the world looks like.
  2. I write a one page, quick overview of the major events.  This will be expanded and filled in later.
  3. I write a list of characters filed into two columns – if they are major or minor characters.  After this, I take the major characters and put them into a chart.  In it I include their motivation (abstract), goal (concrete), two values that conflict, their main conflict, and the change that occurs in them.  This is something I have taken from Angela.
  4. I write an outline, including chapter titles.  I love making up chapter titles.  Under the titles I write, and highlight, the characters who are introduced in the chapter.  I try to write about a half a page of what I want to happen- character dilemma’s, how the main characters are evolving, conflicts that are resolved and conflicts that are created, etc.  I also write questions here that I need to still find answers to.  Snippets of conversation get stuck here also.
  5. Something else I have taken from Angela is writing from each characters point of view, even the minor characters.  I did this and ended up discovering unknown aspects to characters personalities and what makes them unique.
  6. Lastly, I take a page from J.K.Rowling’s book.  She puts together a spreadsheet that contains all important elements and character development that occur through out the novel.  I love doing this because everything gets stuck in one easy place to refer to.  This isn’t always the easiest part of plotting for me, but when I finish I feel very accomplished.

Those are the main pieces for plotting I have fallen in love with.  What are your habits for plotting?