Okay, this is sort of sad since I’ve been writing for so long. You’d think I’d develop a natural rhythm or something, but it hasn’t happened. When I started my mystery, instead of plotting out every little thing like I usually do, I just jotted down main points and trusted myself to fill in the rest. That was a bust. I hadn’t thought the plot through enough, so I stopped writing and did what I should have done in the first place. And then I got a little gung-ho and made a serious list for myself to follow from now on. This list, hopefully, is not for everyone. If you’re lucky, you don’t need it. But I do. Maybe it can help somebody else, too, so I’m sharing it. But if you can think on your feet–or fanny, since you’ll probably be sitting down–faster than I do, ignore this.
First, I start every book with an idea. I ignore it for a while to see if it’s serious and REALLY wants me to write it.
Second, I think of the people who can tell the story. Do they interest me? Do they start yammering in my head?
Third, I write three chapters and see if the story and characters grab me. If they don’t, they’re toast. Even if I pound hard, I probably can’t make them walk and talk. But if they come to life and I want to know what they do and how they do it, I commit to them.
Fourth, I draw out character wheels so I get to really know my characters.
Fifth, I write out plot points.
And finally, I try to bring those plot points to life and start writing.
From now on, this is what I’m using for ME–(and if it helps you, yay!)–to plot my stories:
PLOT POINTS FOR BOOKS (60,000 TO 80,000 WORDS)
The first fourth = set-up: 10 chapters (so that word count = ¼ of total for book) (my chapters can be numbered or not, short or long, one scene or more, depending on length of book) : so, write out 10 plot points that include:
Chapter 1: INCITING INCIDENT
introduce the MAIN CHARACTER through action
introduce book’s BIG PROBLEM (external motivation—what the protag must fix)
Intro. INTERNAL PROBLEM protagonist must face: WHY he has to face problem
Chpts. 1-10: Introduce MINOR CHARACTERS (a friend, antagonist, romantic interest, etc.)
Intro. 2nd problem protag must solve (1ST SUBPLOT ties in with plot & theme)
Intro. 3rd problem (2ND SUBPLOT = ties in, too) *I need 2 subplots to reach 60,000+
Ground the story in SETTING—shown through protag’s eyes, why it’s important to him, right feel for story
At end of 1/4th: Protag learns something new that throws him/her (1st plot twist) *KNOW THIS
The second fourth of book (chapters 11-20, will take you to halfway word count for book) SO, plot 10 more plot points.
Protag sets out to fix problem with a new plan
What seemed easy isn’t, doesn’t quite work
Things get complicated and worse
Subplots get complicated, too
At end of fourth, there’s 2nd plot twist. *KNOW THIS Plan fails, or person they suspected has solid alibi, or a new body shows up, or learn something new that throws off everything, so they have to go in a new direction)
The third fourth of book (chapter 21-30). Write out 10 more plot points:
Protag starts work on a new plan, new direction
Looks like he might fail, afraid he’ll lose
One, last plot twist & new direction to end book *KNOW THIS
The last fourth of book (chapers 31-40+) Write out last 10 (or more) plot points:
Resolve smallest subplot, then bigger subplot, then book’s big question
Wrap up any loose ends, etc.
If I start writing a book with all of this done beforehand, I’m in a lot better shape. Hope this helps you, and if you don’t need it, good for you!