Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Secret to Plotting Sans Holes

I’ve discovered a super duper book that’s helping me outline better to avoid plot holes. It’s called: “First Draft in 30 Days” by Karen S. Wiesner. Despite the misleading title, you won’t actually have a typical draft written in 30 days, but you will have a properly formatted outline that’ll help you on your journey to completing the first draft. You really have to take a peek at the book to get a good idea of what’s inside it, but I’ll show you a little.

There are three things you need to write out when plotting your beginning:

1. Conflict is introduced

2. Story goal is introduced

3. Characters are outfitted for their tasks

The middle is where a lot of stories sag because the author doesn’t take certain elements into consideration. Here’s the plan Karen suggests following when plotting your middle:

1. Characters design short-term goals to reach the story goal

2. Quest to reach the story goal begins

3. First short-term goals are thwarted

4. Characters react with disappointment

5. Stakes of the conflict are raised

6. Characters react to conflict

7. Characters revise old or design new short-term goals

8. Quest to reach the story goal is continued

9. Short-term goals are thwarted again

10. Characters react with disappointment

The list goes on, but I don’t want to spoil it all for you. If you’re a plotter, I believe you’ll really enjoy this book. If you’re a pantser, but have been having problems with your plot, maybe you should try this. When I first started writing, I thought I was a pantser, but once I tried plotting out a story, I was hooked. I loved knowing how things were going to come about without waiting forever to get there in the story. Does that make me impatient? However, I’ve always believed nothing is written in stone. If, while writing the draft, a better scene comes along, I have no problem making the changes. Besides, with an outline, my synopsis is practically written already.

Do you have any books to suggest? Have you tried both plotting and writing by the seat of your pants to see what really works for you? Or have you just assumed the one you’re doing is a natural fit? Are you a plotter or a pantser?


  1. Thanks so much for recommending this book! I am a plotter through and through, and these tips are going to be really helpful. I have a notebook that I've been outlining my NaNo story in and I'm going to pull this post up when I do the final prep :)

  2. My first book was completely a pantser. And it showed in the monstrous editing I had to do.

    I plotted the second one and really enjoy the structure, and like you said, already knowing that the important points are where they should be so I can just enjoy the writing.

    Only thing is the plotting process stresses me out so bad. Just eats me up till it's right. And then if I veer off course in the writing? Heart palpitations all over again.

    But it won't change anything, I still prefer plotting to winging it.

  3. First, I panst. After chapter three, I stop to plott. Then, I write, with the option to panst at any time. :)

    The book you posted about sounds very interesting! Right now I'm reading, Writing the Breakout Novel, and it has a very workshop feel...kind of like what you posted. I like it!

  4. I'm a little of both. I like the planning of plotting, but I also like to pants through the development of my characters and see where they take me. My process is definitely evolving. Thanks for the book recommendation. I love a good plot book. These are great suggestions.

  5. Thanks for the info. I'm a loose plotter. I know the main conflicts and events I want to hit, but I pants the stuff in between those.

  6. I've been trying to get out of pantser mode and do some outlining, especially with NaNo coming up. Thanks for the book suggestion! :)

  7. Great advice!!! Since I'm usually focusing on children's picture books, I've been reading Ann Whitford Paul's 'Writing Picture Books' ... it has great information!

  8. Great post, I'll have to check out the book since plotting is not exactly my strength

  9. I'm so not a plotter, but I'm starting to defect. Being a pantser leaves me with no security. No safety net. I'm up on the tight rope with nothing under me but a big *splat* if I can't figure out where the story is taking me. Thanks for the suggestion. I just might check it out, but after Christmas...all my fundage for books is tied up elsewhere:)

  10. The first time I became a 'plotter', I used 'First Draft in 30 Days'. So far, I've managed to convert at least 2 other people to the book... it really is incredibly helpful, and I also agree, nothing is set in stone. But having that outline can make a world of difference.

  11. Oh gosh, that sounds perfect for me. Thanks, Lynnette!

    Happy weekend with your little twins!

  12. Julie: Just remember I purposely didn't post all of the sub-titles for the middle of the book and didn't post anything for the end. While this post might help you, nothing can replace the book itself.

    Sharla: LOL Why does plotting stress you out? I love it.

    Amy: That's a neat way of doing it.

    Heather: There's nothing saying you can't do what you're doing. I do that, too, but my plot is written out ahead of time.

    Roni: Nothing wrong with that. You do what works for you.

    Ash.: Thanks.

    Abby: No prob.

    Kelly: Thanks for the recommendation. I don't write kids' books, but it's nice to have the information available for those who do.

    Joyce: Glad I could help.

    Tina: Maybe your library has a copy, then you could learn those great tips now??

    Faith: So cool that you're already using this book. Ain't it sweet? ;)

    Janna: Thanks. They're really looking forward to it. One of them told me that they've never been Trick-or-Treating before. LOL Short memory, I guess.

    Lynnette Labelle

  13. I'm more a pantser than a plotter. ('Tis the reason I run into snaggy plot problems half way through my books) I love the term "loose plotter". I'm going to call myself a loose plotter from here on in. :)

    Lynnette, good luck plotting your story!!

  14. I like the concept that nothing is written in stone. I feel that way about my current WIP, too.

    PS: Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

  15. I will add it to my wish list, thanks for sharing.

  16. Sounds awesome, thanks for the recommendation! I tend to wobble between plotter and pantser. I come up with what feels like a complete plot beforehand, then realize around 60k that I've run out of ideas and need to throw a wrench in the works. Very stressful sometimes! :)