There have been countless times that people have asked me what I do to plot my writing. In this post, you’ll learn what my favorite novel writing tips are when it comes to plotting.
Ever since I was little, I struggled with outlines. I tried writing them in high school and didn’t do so well, teachers tried making me do them, I tried again in college, and even again while trying to find a good method for getting a little more organized when it comes to writing my books, so I end up with a cleaner 1st draft!
I struggled to find something, because I was not an outliner. I was what you’d call a pant-ser.
But now, I’ve found something that’s really helped me, well actually two things! Here are my secret novel writing tips:
The Novel Writing Tips That Helped Me The Most
The first novel writing tip is from the Snowflake Method. A friend mentioned it, when I was writing my first book, which I had to edit a thousand times. (Not exactly, but close to it. It was a MUCH MESSIER first draft than the book I just wrote using my new method.)
1. Design Documents (from the Snowflake Method)
I read Randy Igermanson’s blog post called “How To Write A Novel With The Snowflake Method” and it changed my thoughts completely. I don’t outline, but this is amazing. And in the snowflake method, Randy talks about something called Design Documents.
The Design Documents are basically a Bible for your story. You start out with a one sentence log-line of sorts and then work your way up to a paragraph, and then a page to four pages. You keep building on it and before you know it, you have enough information to write your entire book.
2. The 15 Beats (from Save The Cat)
My writing critique partner told me about this awesome book. It’s actually a screenwriting book. And inside this book there is a genius novel writing tip. It’s called the 15 beats. They are basically 15 plot beats that happen in most stories. And if you break down each character, they each have their own 15 beats. Which makes your story a lot deeper.
- The opening image: Is basically the opening shot. What is the before shot of your characters world?
- The theme: This is a statement you’ve chosen from a character that will help show the theme. And usually it isn’t your main character who states the theme here.
- Set-Up: In this section you’ll learn what the hero’s life is like before their life is changed by the inciting incident.
- Catalyst: This can also be seen as the inciting incident. The moment that throws your character on a different path.
- Debate: (A reaction beat, where your character reacts to what happened before.) Your character is now wondering what they are going to do next and this section in your story will show your character trying to figure that out.
- Break into two: In this beat, your character accepts the call to action from the inciting incident. They embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
- B Story: You’ll meet other characters here who will help build up the main character and help them in their journey.
- Fun & Games: You see your main character in their “new” world and adventuring around, learning new things. This is also the hook in the story.
- The Midpoint: It’s kind of silly, but this is known as the middle of your story. You’ll want something to raise the stakes here.
- The Bad guys close in: If your midpoint wasn’t a victory, the following chapters will be a downward spiral for your character, but if it was a victory, then your main character’s situations will get better. But another thing to keep in mind is your character’s demons.
- All is lost: Your character hits rock bottom.
- Dark night of the soul: (A reaction beat) In this section your character will react to what happened in the “All is lost” beat.
- Break into three: Your character will make a realization. They realize what they’ll need to do to solve the problem.
- Finale: You’ll write this beat so that your character has finally learned the theme. They have stopped the bad guys, or saved the princess. Your character is now the hero.
- The final image: Think of a way to mirror this off of the opening image, but to show how your character has changed. I always like to think of the Hobbit when it comes to this beat. At the beginning Bilbo was a good Hobbit that never wandered outside of the Shire and he was fine with that. Then, at the end he comes back to the Shire a changed Hobbit, having seen many things he had never imagined and experiencing problems like he had never before, because of a certain ring.
You can see how having a process like this for each of your characters would really help you see their mission and purpose in your story on many different levels. I love this so much!!
Give It A Try Yourself
I’ve made a Design Documents Checklist for you to download and keep with your own novel Design Documents as you put together your story. I hope these novel writing tips help you with your writing. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes!
What are your favorite novel writing tips when it comes to plotting?