It’s an age-old question: should you plot or write by the seat of your pants? I, for one, am a plotter. Over the years I’ve changed my methods, my technology, and how much I plot. Today I want to bring to light some of the resources out there for plotting. Everyone plots a little differently, so I want to try and cover a variety of resources. My advice would be to try several different ones and see which works best for you.
There are some wonderful programs out there designed to help you plot, here are some of my favorites:
Writer’s Café. It has a neat pin board feature you can use for timelines. They provide three of them so you can get an overall look at your story. It has a scrapbook for you to put random things (text, pictures, links) that you can refer back to or use for other projects, tips, prompts and many other features.
If you want something a little simpler, I fell in love with Microsoft’s OneNote (For Mac’s there is GrowlyNote, a very similar program and free It’s a digital notebook that has different tabs to separate what you need. I have one for Characters, Plots, World and Notes.
Scrivener is also a great program. It allows you to have notecards for chapters and scenes as well as a feature where you can rearrange them and save the order if you want.
A while ago I ran across a website/webzine called Scriptorium, which has a great toolbox with plenty of resources for plotting, anything from character building to scene layouts. It’s a great place to go if you’re not sure where you want to start. You can print them or save them and fill them out on the computer. Whatever you prefer.
Some people like to write out everything point that happens in a chapter, some people just like to write a little overview of the chapter. I’ve gone from one extreme to the other, where I had to have every single detail written in an outline (think like the outlines you wrote/write in school for essays, that’s how I used to novel plot) and now I write just an overview with major plot points. There are people who do a three act type of planning. You split a paper into three pieces, beginning, middle, and end, and you work with that. Act. 1, Act 2, and Act 3 all have different plot points that need to be filled and expanded on.
What About If I’m Writing A Series?
Okay, so all that works well for one book/story, what if you’re writing a series? Then things get crazy because you don’t want to end up with giant plot holes between books or drop important details. My suggestion is to take all these great resources or others that you find and use them to create a bible. Keep characters, overviews of the book plots, and anything else you need in it. Either digitally or physically but it needs to be easy to access. Keep that in mind. A great way to lay out your plot for a series (if you have the room) is to take sticky notes and write plot points, times, character deaths, anything you need to keep track off and place them on a wall. (I’ve also seen it done with paper on a clothesline) Or it could be done on a pin board with the title of each book above where you place the pins.
There is not just one way to plot, there is not just one resource, and some people don’t even refer to a resource for the actual plotting. (Now for information and fact checking, that’s a whole different story.) I said it before, and I will say it again, you have to find what works for you. From start to finish, what I do won’t be what you do, but here is how I work. I start on a blank page of a notebook and do a mind map (you know the things with bubbles for brain storming) I start with characters, ideas for the plot, subplots, background, and anything else I can think of. From there I decide what I like, what I want to keep and what is rubbish. If it’s a romance I write on the top of another blank page: Boy meets girl, obstacles, resolutions, and put plot points where they go underneath. From there I do a chapter by chapter synopsis and then I start writing. The only that differs when it’s not a romance is my page with boy meets girl, it reads Start, Middle, end.
I’m Stuck With Plotting – Help!
Some methods for dealing with getting stuck: Step away, do something non-writing related. Character interviews are great for getting the flow going, go back to previous plotting you’ve done and you might find something that was tripping you up. Don’t forget, sometimes you have to go with the flow, let the characters do what they want and don’t freak out! I wish you all happy writing!
Writer’s Café: http://www.writerscafe.co.uk/
OneNote: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote/ (there is also a web form of this through skydrive)