How do you plot/outline?

I want to know cause I can’t figure out an effective way of doing it. Like how do you decide what’s going to happen in your book? How do you plan it out? How do you know what order things should come in and what will interest readers? Etc, etc.

I’m getting ready to rewrite the first draft of a book of mine (because yes, I’ve given up on nano :pensive:) and the plot needs some major work. It just sort of bumbles along, things happening simply because they do, and there’s nothing really driving it. So I want to completely rework it.

So I’m hoping hearing how you guys do it will help me out <3

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I’m sure there’s people who have an actual ‘plan’ for this but I don’t :sweat_smile:

I just open a word document and start writing a rough outlining of what I want to write about. I write all of my ideas that I come up with. It’s not necessarily with a beginning and an end, just anything I can come up with.

Then I start to write and usually I’ll just set up a chapter and be like hm… what do I want happening in this chapter? so I write it up in short. Write a rough draft and then rewrite.

But that’s just me and for me it works :sweat_smile:

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Thank you, I’ll give it a try and see if it works for me!

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I’m not sure if it’ll work for you, but it sort of does for me :sweat_smile:

So for not-published stories I usually edit it straight on Wattpad. I would put plot points (or what I want to write) in parentheses. Once I feel like actually writing, I will write what I feel like above or below the parentheses and once I’m done, I’ll delete the stuff in the parentheses.

The good thing about putting it in parentheses instead of actually writing is that once you’ve decided to change what happens, you don’t have to delete or move huge blocks of text. It also tells you what to write and where to write it.

it can be as simple as

(insert fight scene below this line)

and let’s say you don’t want to do that in that chapter, you can just copy-paste it to another chapter or delete it entirely

Another thing I like to do is to reread the whole thing from time to time, just to see if it makes sense. If it does, I’d usually keep it.

Actually I should be the last person to comment on this, since my plot often changes at least three times so :sweat_smile: at least the beginning and end are the same

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For my Single Chapter Children’s Fantasy stories, I just seem to have a location in mind, what happens follows with a single idea. That idea could be small, or a large part of the story, but for some reason it just writes its self. I already have MC’s fleshed out which really helps, but other characters, and creatures seem to be crafted as I go along with it.

A small edit here, and another there, and it usually falls into place.

I don’t really put too much thought into plot, once I have an opening scene it usually just takes me where it wants to. The real problem I have, is trying to wind things up for the ending.

Anyhoo, don’t blow your head into a tired state overthinking stuff. Put pen/fingers to paper/keyboard and see where your starter scene takes you.

All the best!

SD

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Ah yes from reading the other comments. I do that too like
(fighting scene)
(Erotic scene)
(Wedding)
And afterwards think about what will happen during the scene.

What I also do is write a kind of biography for my characters. First and last name, place of birth, age, name of parents, ethnicity, colour eyes, hair,… stuff like that. You don’t have to use that in your story but it will make your charachters more alive to you :slight_smile:

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I just write the entire whole what I want to happen in the book in my Outline, and every random idea that comes to me I put in a different document called my Notes.

With the outline, I literally just start at the beginning with a vague idea and a first sentence in mind, and just write scenes I think of at random times during the day. I sit down and have brainstorming sessions, and pick up the residue of any of those storms and put them in my notes. I usually don’t use 90% of what’s in my notes, but I like having them there for referance.
I want to kind of deep clean my outlining process, though, so take this messy advice with a grain of salt.

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For me, doing a detailed plot outline never helps but I normally have the beginning and end in my head and 4-5 major plot points throughout the story. From that, I just write events that could lead up to each of them and make sense. I also do a sort character profile for my characters too which also help with scene building. I hope this helps x

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Find plot for chapter and make it tie in with the rest.

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Thanks everyone for the replies! I’ll try out all your methods and see if any work for me :))

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This is what I do. My outlines for my chapters are usually detailed and long tho but for the sake of not posting a really long reply, I chose this chapter lol. So this is a short outline I made when I couldn’t think of what else I wanted. But once I start writing the actual chapter, more ideas start to come to me.

SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE READING TAINTED WINGS! DON’T CONTINUE READING!

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So I’m an overthinker and my writing style for plotting/planning is sorta complicated, so bare with me as my feeble and very tired brain tries to explain it all to you.

I call it “The Skeleton”.

So, usually there’s three steps to outlining my story I take.

  1. Establish the theme that I’m going for. What lesson do I want to come forth within writing.
  2. The ending. I usually try to find a goal first and foremost before diving into the beginning and middle, because I feel having a goal to get to helps organize my thoughts.
  3. Establish character roles, what purpose they have to the story, and who my main character should be. This often details in factors of who they represent–they are intricately placed so that my main theme is represented through different perspectives. Like, for example, if I was writing a story that had a main theme about grief then each character would, essentially, represent each stage of grief.

From this, I begin the outline. I know what theme I’m going for, what tone, at least what the characters represent, and the end goal of where I’m heading. I detail out the end goal, usually this is very short, three or four paragraphs long of summary. Then I go into the exposition, try to figure out (via tone and theme) what sort of story I’m going for. Slow start, fast start, fast start slow middle, fast beginning fast middle, and slow end, etc. etc.

From that, I develop the overall plotpoints and storyline. I outline the plotpoints first (not chapter by chapter) which I call the skeleton. Usually at this point none of the characters have names.

From knowing what the plotpoints are, I place them accordingly, then go into the details about a subplot (usually romance) and place that onto a graph. From this, I put in the chapters that lead up to the different plotpoints, but I make sure that each chapter at least means something.

After that, I write the first draft.

After I write the first draft–which is usually sort of robotic looking considering i’ve not fleshed out any characters–I go into character details. I do this because if I humanize my characters too early on in the plotting of the story, I have a tendency to get too hyperfocused on them and what they represent, and often times drift away from the original goal. So, I find it’s a lot easier to have them as a basic cut-out figure of what I want throughout the story.

But after first draft is done, I flesh out every single character mentioned (other than characters like the grocery store boy that only appears once, lol). Because some of my characters are more important to the storyline, and because some of them only make appearances a couple times throughout the story, I will usually set a goal of a ten page back story for each character (sometimes extended in length because of importance), and then a basic list of their likes, dislikes, and apperance.

From this, I replot the story with my newly established characters. Some plotpoints, due to this, will be deleted, some will be revamped, and some will stay the same.

After, I rewrite, re-read to make sure that it’s all going accordingly, rewrite again, etc.

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This was really helpful, thank you! I’ll definitely be trying out this method

Heads up that it can be super frustrating, and sometimes it’s not as smooth as typed out. But, like with anything, more and more practice makes perfect.
EDIT: After establishing the first three points (assuming you have a story idea) I will do a TON of research why plotting and outlining the finer details of the plot. This is mostly just clinical research, like factual information. Like, for example, if I was doing the stages of grief thing, I would clinically research how grief affects the brain, and how it can look. After doing the clinical research, and once diving into character details, it’s only then that I do the more complicated research in that I ask real people who’ve dealt with whatever issues my character’s going through. I also, because I have a general idea for what type of personality a character should have, will sometimes read short stories/novels about a character that encompasses much of the same personality, in order to get into the right headspace.

There’s also another form of plotting I use, but that’s like actually physically plotting dots in irl. I have three quark boards filled with notes about the plot, along with ribbons that tie the main plot to one another, the side plots, character storylines, etc.

For some, seeing their outlines through the screen of a laptop or phone can be distracting, so sometimes writing it all out by hand and physically plotting it yourself can help a BUNCH. Especially because distractions are taken away, and you only have yourself, your imagination, and a pen and paper.

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This! I hate planning anything on my computer, it’s like suddenly all my creativity just drains away.

Anyway, thanks for all the advice!

Yeah, me too, especially since there’s so many distractions and I’m a HUGE procrastinator. Also having it there with you physically, always watching, always glaring, does spike some motivation inside you.

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I found this to be a really useful template. It’s from K.M Weiland’s book How to Outline Your Novel

CONFLICT

THEMES

PLOT A:
SUBPLOT A:
SUBPLOT B:

PLOT B:
SUBPLOT A:
SUBPLOT B:
SUBPLOT C:

PLOT C:
SUBPLOT A:

SUBPLOT B:

PLOT D:
SUBPLOT A:
SUBPLOT B:

CHARACTER ARC:

FOIL:

25% SETUP

50%: MIDPOINT

25% CLIMAX:

OUTLINE
PART ONE:

PART TWO:

PART THREE:

PART FOUR:

PART FIVE:

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You don’t have to follow strict outlines because you can let your own creativity and logic take your work into different directions, however, it would be good to understand the three act structure, how your character’s arc plays into it, etc. etc.

So 25%: introduces your world, MC, sets up the conflict, hook, etc. At the end of the first 25%, something happens to the MC that pushes them ‘out the door.’ You also introduce the ‘lie that they believe in’ that sets up their character arc

50% is the journey that your MC goes on. The conflict increases and puts pressure on them. The ‘lie’ they believe in is challenged more and more. At the end of your 50% your character experiences the midpoint, something that happens that causes them to ‘turn around,’ per-say, this is a great place to implement a character foil. At the end of the 50% they may still believe in their ‘lie,’ however, the conflict is pushing them into doubt

25% climax, character fully realizes their arc and either accepts or rejects the truth, and experiences the consequences (depending on what your arc is…positive change, negative change, redemption, disillusionment, fallen, etc.). The climax ends, your wrap everything up, and MC returns to a state of equilibrium (unless you kill them or something…which is hard to pull off. Fallen arc sets you up best for an effective MC death)

For my stories personally I do follow that outline I posted and the three act structure pretty religiously…but you don’t have to. It’s really really useful however for organizing your thoughts, and figuring out if your storyline makes logical sense and carries impact. A lot of times you can use the three act structure to plan your story, and then deviate depending on where the logic of your prose takes you…because sometimes our stories end up being very very different than what we expect them to be, and that’s not a bad thing

Hope this helps

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Thank you, this really helps!

Ahaha :joy: honestly my answer to this question literally changes with each of my books. I find that when I use a plotting strategy once, I can never use it again lol. Not sure why it’s like that for me, but it seems to be that way.

The strategy I’m using for outlining my NaNo book is this outline template I found when I searched on Google. The link is just a Google Doc created by the author of the template.

I’ve been using that as my basis, and then just filling it out 3 chapters at a time. Once I write 3 chapters, I plan another 3 chapters, that way my plot can morph alongside my story. It feels like way less work than any other plotting technique that I’ve used, and it’s turning out pretty well so far.

Tbh, I hope my cycle doesn’t keep continuing, because I really like this template and how it breaks stuff down in a way that makes it really good for plantsing a novel lol.

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