How to Plot?


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on: November 08, 2018, 05:09:27 PM
Pretty much what the title says: what methods do people use to develop a plot?

For my part, I am what I now know to be known as a pantser, but I'm looking to get away from that.  I know about the 7-point plot, and have been using a derivative of that the last week or so to try to work things out (plot matrix), and I've heard of the Snowflake method, but what else is out there?  Does anyone have any tricks?


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Reply #1 on: November 08, 2018, 05:21:24 PM
Oh man there are so many. 3 Act, 7 Act, Save the Cat, Snowflake, Heroes Journey, MICE quotient... almost any writing blogger with their own book will have a method. I've looked at a LOT of them.

I like a lot of things about 7 act, even if I'm not currently using it. Just watching the videos linked below helped me wrap my head around what I wanted to do.

If you are okay with swearing, Chuck Wendig's blog terribleminds has a breakdown of some of the most common methods with some links to them that I found helpful.

Personally, I'm still figuring out my own process. I pants short stories but fail at novels because I can't keep the whole story in my head without an outline. I think one of the biggest parts of becoming a writer is figuring out what works for you, and that takes time and experimentation,


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Reply #2 on: November 08, 2018, 05:33:05 PM
That's pretty much what I use, I start with a one-sentence summary and one sentence for each of the seven points to test if I have enough plot to make it a story that works. If it has passed that first test, I use the snowflake method to flesh out the plot more (I do a modified version of it, I always skip the last step and I shorten the character development steps, as I usually write 3rd person limited POV and telling the story from the POV of the main character is often pretty much the same as the plot summary).

There's also the 3-act structure (which is a more condensed version of the 7-point plot), and there's a method of breaking it down into 27 smaller and more managable chunks, as described in this video. Note that there are different versions of the 3-act structure, in some of them act 2 is the longest, and in others all acts have roughly the same length - both of them work, they only differ a bit in where they draw the line between act 2 and 3.

If you've been pantsing so far, you might want to look into the scenes and sequels approach - it's a good method to keep you going if you only have a general idea where you're headed and need to figure out the details while you're writing.

Then there's the Hero's Journey and the plot embryo approach, which is a variant of the Hero's Journey. They work best for the classic setup of a single hero POV character who develops over the course of the story.

Another pretty popular method is Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet, which is actually for screen plays, but a lot of people on the NaNo forum use it for outlining their novels.

And finally I'd like to link you to this video which gives an overview over 10 different ways of outlining. It names some of the advantages and disadvantages of each method and has some helpful links in the video description. And it names a few more ways of outlining.

Hope you don't feel overwhelmed - keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way of plotting, it's only about what works for you. I suggest looking into different methods and testing the one that resonates most with you :)
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Reply #3 on: November 08, 2018, 06:21:13 PM
My first novel was a pantsed affair and took five years. My second is more plotted, with the three-act structure as a guideline. Nothing too complex, with enough wiggle room for me to shoehorn in loads of wonderfully infodumpy vignettes (should I want to).