Every great novel has at least one of two things::
a great plot.
Now you might be thinking, It’s not hard to think of cool and exciting things for your characters to do and that’s all a plot really is.
Yes and no.
It is not enough for your characters to go off on amazing adventures.
While it might be interesting in the moment, your reader will eventually start asking questions.
Why are the characters going through this journey?
What are the characters supposed to learn from the experience?
What am I supposed to learn from this experience?
In other words, your reader will start searching for a purpose.
As we writers go about the task of trying to answer these questions ourselves, we can get lost in the excitement: the moment, the characters, the awesome one-liners etc.
So how do you keep yourself organized while you follow The Golden Rules for a Good Plot?
1.) Set aside a notebook just for fleshing out your plot points
There is nothing worse than having a great idea for a scene that you wrote on a scrap of paper or in the margins of another chapter that you can’t seem to find when you need it.
I had to learn the hard way. . .
Anywho, having a notebook that is solely dedicated to your plot will save you a great deal of anger and frustration.
2.) Write out your plot points in chronological order
Whether you are incorporating flashbacks into your story, starting in-medias res or writing your book from start to finish, writing your plot points in order can help you keep yourself organized.
You will be able to easily identify the main moments in your story and make quick and easy changes.
This is especially helpful if you are not writing sequentially.
For example, in a mystery, the reader (usually) follows whomever is attempting to solve the crime, riddle, puzzle etc.
This means that the reader is not typically experiencing the events of the story in “real-time.”
Writing out a bullet list of your main plot can help you craft a convoluted mystery without risking getting lost in your own imagination.
3.) Fill in the gaps between your major plot points
Now that you have your special plotting notebook and a general list of your plot points, you can start filling in the gaps.
This is when you begin to get into the nitty gritty, fun stuff.
Start connecting the big moments of your plot with smaller chapters or scenes that help the story move forward.
What must occur to bring your character from Plot Point A to Plot Point B?
4.) Keep setups and payoffs in mind
While you are going through your big scenes and connecting them to smaller moments, try to make note of any scenes that need a set-up.
Does your main character have an adversary?
How and when did they first meet?
Will they meet again?
How does this play into your other main plot points?
5.) Write a fresh outline
Once all of your thinking is done, your first list will probably be littered with arrows, side-notes, cross-outs and sticky notes.
Make sure that you compile all of that information together into a clean list.
Use distinct markers like
a1: A scene that leads to Point A
a2: A scene that connects Point A1 to Point A
A: Main Plot Point
A1: A scene that connects Point A to Point B
A clean and well organized list will make sure that you stay on task when you write.
A nice, purty list will also allow you to easily find plot holes, make corrections and ensure that you are telling your readers everything that they need to know.
Now you should have a nice spring board to get your plot in motion