How to Plot Your Novel

I’ve been plotting novels and short stories for some years now, but that doesn’t mean I think I know everything that needs to be known on the subject. Because of this, I continually borrow books from the library, or purchase them if they are being sold at the right price, to ensure I’m not doing things the hard way, or I’m not forgetting to do something altogether.

I recently borrowed a book called How to Plot Your Novel by Jean Saunders. It’s a relatively old book, but in this case the content is still viable. I didn’t read the entire book (and rarely do with this type of book as I usually pick out the sections of interest to me), but I wanted to share – in point form – the main items I got from the book.

  • Find a theme you are passionate about.
  • Know the kind of book you want to write.
  • Keep the proposed length within publishing bounds and plot your novel to appeal to the widest audience.
  • Create good characters, who you know well, and who have real motivation and goals.
  • Learn how to ask yourself questions such as “What if…?”
  • Scenes and chapters should be linked together.
  • Throw the reader a curve now and then, without relying on coincidences.
  • Don’t allow your story to sag in the middle by sustaining pace and keeping control of your characters.
  • Dramatic scenes need their calming counterparts.
  • End your story without leaving loose ends, and leaving the reader feeling satisfied.

I believe the points outlined above are common sense, but should be reiterated often because it seems that many books being published these days are not paying attention to these important details. Hence, the quality of reading is lowered and the chance of the author becoming a best seller slim.

If you’re a writer and you can place a tick beside each of the above, then you’re off to a great start. Naturally, there are other items that could be put on the list too, but these are the essential ones, in my opinion.

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7 thoughts on “How to Plot Your Novel

  1. Hello! Long time reader, first time commenter.
    I can’t say I agree with everything in this particular entry. Being the type of author who writes from my own heart, I could never alter anything for the sake of reaching the “widest audience.” I’d rather write what it is I actually feel.

    If I want to leave something hanging, which happens quite effectively in a lot of good stories, I can probably do so.

    What I’m trying to say is… the current popularity of experimental literature (at least where I’m from) goes to show that we don’t always need to conform to such a strict set of rules, that we can learn to explore our own creativities without fear of needing to reach a bigger audience.

    Now of course, disregard anything I’ve said. I have no desire for profit, after all, so that’s half the reason I’m able to be so confident about writing the way I want to. By all means, if you want to make a living off of writing (lol), or at least any sort of distinguishable profit, you probably WILL have to conform to these guidelines.

    Either way, I intend to fully enjoy future postings. Keep up the good work!

  2. Hello, MTM, I’m glad you decided to post. The key to your disagreement (which was written in the nicest way) is that you don’t care about publication. For those of us who do strive for publication, we have to conform…at least until we have a bit of a following, then we can do as we please (almost). 😀

    Alan, I think I’d have a heart attack if I saw mistakes in a published works of mine. I know it happens all the time, but the embarrassment would be extreme.

  3. Ooo! Actually, I hadn’t thought of it that way, to conform until you have the power not to do so. Very clever.

    Also, just to note, I was once a member of your forum. I went by either Fhate or Kante Red. It was a little while ago, I guess.

  4. Kante Red rings a bell. *waves* It has been a long time. I hope your writing is coming along well and you feel happy with what you’ve done. That is important, no matter how much we have to conform.

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