Are you a beginning writer and enthusiastic reader? If yes, then you are in the right place, as today we will talk about how to plot a novel. We should all agree that it is not a walk in the park, especially if you plan to create a big and complex novel. However, there are some basic practical tips that would be suitable for different kinds of novels. Are you ready to read and learn? Here we go.
Banal but crucial tip
Well, the majority of you, our bright talented novelists, know that a good novel needs a structure. If you are a genius who can sit down and write a perfect novel, close this page right now and go create miracles. The rest of us do need something to start with. There are, in fact, different approaches to a novel plot structure, but a basic one, created by Aristotle, still exists and rocks. The story, according to this wise forefather of ours, should consist of the beginning, the middle and the end including opening scene, crises, climax and denouement. Sounds simple, huh? However, it has been working for ages, so we don’t have any doubts in its value.
Create an outline
It is not an essential thing to do, but making an outline helps a lot of writers keep it together. It can have different forms: you can note the essential idea of your novel, describe the main characters, or write the beginning, the middle and the end in several paragraphs. If you are plotting a novel and don’t have a clear picture of how it will look like, making an outline is a great way to start.
Think every event, character and detail through. Novel plotting is a serious business so spend enough time to make everything right. First, describe the setting, the characters and the situation. Then something should happen and the main character should make a decision to do something about it. After that, there should be different problems, conflicts, fights, etc. Nothing comes easy here (we’re writing an exciting novel, right? So, we have to suffer before succeeding). Then, when everything seems lost, here comes the realization of the right thing to do and we are coming to the happy ending. Of course, it is a rough plan of how to write a story, but it should help you get the idea of a logically connected plot that we should get.
Don’t even start writing if you don’t come up with a conflict
This is a typical mistake of many beginning writers. They don’t have a clear conflict between a main character and something or someone else. Many authors justify themselves saying that they didn’t want any conflicts in the first place. However, they forget that such novels are quite boring to read. And sometimes it is very sad when there are very interesting characters and an unusual world, so you wait for something epic to happen and bam – here is the end. All you have left in that case is disappointment. Don’t make such a mistake!
Think of your own thing
Your novel has to have your own thing, your own spark that will capture a reader. It can be anything: an idea, humor, inner world of your characters, etc. Think of that when you work on your novel plot.
As Jenny Bravo says in her cool post, “first drafts are generally garbage”. And unless you are a magician, this is absolutely the truth. When writers create their first drafts, they experiment, they seek inspiration, they try to create something special and they are not afraid to be bold. Do just that! You’ll probably have to rewrite or at least thoroughly edit the whole thing, so stop worrying and write your pants off.
Have some memorable supporting characters in your novel
You’ve probably created the main characters in your head already. However, don’t forget to add some supporting character that will be unusual in some way. Such characters can be incredibly witty, dangerous, cute, intelligent or dumb, but they have to be very vivid and memorable. Readers tend to love having such interesting characters to read about along the novel.
Start from the middle
Starting a story not from the beginning, but from the middle of it, is a known and often used technique. You start your novel with an action that keeps your readers in and then tell the beginning of the story through the characters’ conversations or flashbacks. You can get into the insides of this tip reading an amazing post 3 Awesome plot structures for building bestsellers written by a talented author Kristen A. Kieffer.
Don’t give everything up
One of the things people don’t appreciate is when they are lectured. Imagine such a plot: a confused and lost character meets a wise man/wizard/alien/colleague/angel/death/talking bird, etc., who teaches him or her how to live. Sounds boring, huh? And it is twice boring, if the author here is quite young and his or her understanding of how to live your life right is rather naïve so better get prepared and do your research thoroughly.
We have parents and teachers to lecture us. One of the main goals of literature is to make readers think and make conclusions themselves. Remember that when plotting your novel.
Be attentive to details
Your plot may be great and your language may be fine and witty, but without bright and talking setting details your narration will seem “naked”. Learn to notice the details that compose a picture in your head. Let the readers picture all that with you by describing all those details to them.
Don’t get carried away, though. An excessive amount of details that have nothing to do with your story is not good. The same goes with the excessive biographic specifics of secondary characters or the city of action. If the story takes 200 pages, don’t make the descriptions 200 pages more.
Plan your writing routine
Well, this particular tip isn’t directly connected to your plotting itself, but it is very important for you as a person who wants to create a great novel (if you don’t want to do that, why are you still here then?). You need to choose the time for your writing and never skip it. Writing is a hard work. If you write only when your muse comes to you, you’ll never finish your work. Sometimes you need to force yourself to create something great. And don’t procrastinate!
At the end of the day we want to give you the last tips that may seem quite banal, but don’t ever ignore them as they truly help. First of all, always try to get some constructive criticism and remember: it is not you who get criticized, but your novel. Second of all, learn the theory: read literature theory books and informative articles all the time. And finally, believe in yourself and write from your heart. Don’t always write about what’s popular now; write about the things that touch you. Good luck! We cannot wait to see your book on the list of bestsellers.
Alyce is an inspired blogger, private tutor and educational consultant who is passionate about everything related to writing. Now she has found herself as a private consultant/educator, providing seminars and workshops to teachers of English. The focus of her presentations is how to motivate students to enjoy writing and to help them in becoming creative and proficient writers both for their pleasure and coursework assignments. She loves to share her experience in these fields. Stay tuned to get more actionable tips about writing!