PLOTTING - MAKE A PLOT, THEN MAKE IT WORK

Here are some notes from my workshop on plotting. Remember, this is the short version. If you are interested in having me teach this session at a writer’s conference, please contact me.

First, there are no right or wrong answers or ways to plot your story. The right answer is to do what works for you.

Note the key word here - works.

The way you know your plot works is that the reader wants to keep reading.

The way you know your plot doesn't work is that it is easy for the reader to put the book down.

There is no formula, and no easy way to do this.  But there are guidelines that experienced authors know that work.  It doesn't matter if you are a Panster or a Plotster, guidelines work. Yes, they can be broken, but before you break them know how they work so you can break them well.

First, your plot needs structure. It needs a beginning, and it needs the right beginning. Most beginning writers begin with too much backstory and explanation.  Regardless of genre, your story needs to start at that pivotal moment the main protagonist makes a decision from which there can be no turning back.

Second, think of our ending. If you are going to be efficient in making every scene count toward your black moment, you must work toward your goal. If you are  plotster or a panster, this does not change. Every scene must be in forward motion to your black moment, which culminates in your protagonist's goal. Therefore, you must know your ending.

Know your high concept.  Then you will be able to make a clear pathway to your goal.

Your high concept won't say what happens, nor will it always say your plot. But the concept will grab your reader and make them want to go through the plot with your protagonists.

Next, it's time to think of your story. This is how you get from A, your beginning, to B, your ending.  You need to know your protagonist's biggest problem, and what they're willing to do to solve it.

After that, onward with the story. Whether you first plot it out, or you just start writing, this is where you make it all happen. If you make it too easy for the protagonist to get their goal, your book will be boring. If you make it too difficult, readers will feel it's forced, or worse, fake, for your protagonist to succeed.

The longer your book, the more leeway you have with sub plots

Basic Plot Structure

1. hook
2. problem
3. backfill (emotional upheavals and personal issues)
4. complication
5. action
6. dark moment
7. resolution

Good luck, and happy writing.

Click here to go back to Gail Sattler's page for writers.