To Plot or Not To Plot?
What is a plot?
A Plot is made up of three things –
Beginning. Middle. End.
Rising action. Climax. Falling Action.
Promise. Progress. Payoff.
As you can see it can be labeled in many ways but it is all essentially the same thing.
Plot point #1 - (Beginning, Rising Action, Promise).
Usually around 25 – 35% of your novel.
It introduces your Main Character and the Love Interest. It shows you what they want but are missing. This is where they meet and sparks fly, but not always for the right reasons. You want to start adding tension by building excitement and suspense.
Plot point #2 – (Middle, Climax, Progress).
It is typically the longest part – usually around 50 – 60% of your novel.
It can be called the saggy center or middle as this is where readers can lose interest if you don’t get the pacing right. Keep the tension tight. Add more conflict. You can have your couple get together but pull them apart by the end of this point. Make sure your subplots are affecting your characters too.
Plot point #3 – (End, Falling Action, Payoff).
Usually, the shortest section of your novel, 10 – 20%.
This is when the MC (or couple), finally gets their crap together and resolves the issues that are keeping them apart. Everything is resolved and we get our Happy Ever After.
Who are you?
One of the biggest questions a writer will get from other writers is, ‘Are you a plotter or a pantser?’
A Plotter – I prefer the term Outliner, is someone who sets out the plot points/beats in their story before they begin their first draft.
A Pantser – I prefer the term Discovery Writer, is someone who writes their novel without knowing where it is heading…they discover their story as they go.
A Plantser – is a grey area, a combination of both, with each person having their own opinion of what that looks like. I personally believe plantsers are Discovery Writers who have a basic beginning, middle, end understanding of their novel, but no clue how they will achieve it. They also start with at least a vague idea of their MC.
It is speculated the first draft from an Outliner will have a less creative storyline than a Discovery Writer. While the first draft from a Discovery Writer will usually have large plot holes that will need to be fixed. If you are aware of the pitfalls of each style you will be less likely to make the mistakes associated with them. A strong book plot consists of essentially two things: organization and imagination.
So, what am I?
I am an outliner.
An outliner, like anything, has varying levels and I think I sit somewhere in the middle.
I have all major and significant minor character profiles created, at least 30 scenes outlined, and usually a firm understanding of my setting if it is contemporary. If it is a Fantasy Romance I will have created a solid magic system and world building portfolio too. All before I being the first draft.
My scene outlines may consist of one sentence or a more detailed description of what I need it to be. I will write that such and such needs to happen to show character. I may write dialogue that has to be in there. Or it might be a reminder to add foreshadowing or subplot.
My one plotting rule.
DO NOT USE YOUR FIRST STORY IDEA.
It will rarely be fresh.
With romance, it is trickier as we establish fairly early on who the Main Character is, and who the Love Interest is and we all know they will end up together. This is where knowing your tropes and being able to give them a creative twist will serve you well.
Info dump your idea, but then sit back and prepare to rework when you realize that it could be more.
Should you plot?
This is one of the few things that only you can decide and most of it will be by trial and error. There is absolutely no right or wrong way, but most successful authors who are able to put out more than a book a year are not true pantsers.
If you are a true pantser you will have to acknowledge that your editing process will be at least one step longer.
*Always remember that my advise is only what works for me. Please feel free to adapt anything you find here to suit your needs. This series focuses specifically on romance writing and not all posts will apply to other genres.
Next blog post we will look at several different types of plotting.
I want to plot – but which one?