3 Quick Tips on Plotting Your Book

Plotting a book can seem an overwhelming task when you're just starting out, but it does get easier when you understand various plotting strategies.

Here are 3 quick tips that could be all you need to get you started:

  • One: You'll find it useful to analyse published books.

  • Two: Decide on the main events

  • Three: Use a synopsis as a plotting tool
Tip 1: Work Out How Other Writers Do It

Here's something you can do if you get stuck: borrow some books from the library - the most popular books would be good! - and go through them while wearing your writer's hat. Jot down short notes about what happens in each chapter - and also look at how the author ends each chapter. If the author is skilled, they'll have some kind of chapter hook (something the reader wants to know) to keep the reader turning pages. This kind of analysis is quite fun - it's always interesting seeing how other authors structure their books and get their effects!

Tip 2: Decide What You REALLY Need to Include

Not everything that happens in your character's life is a plot. What a boring story if you recounted everything even in one day. Readers couldn't care less about the myriad details that make up most of our lives. Do you really want to know what the character eats, how he eats, what toothpaste he uses, where he keeps his car keys, etc etc.. .all of these things are part of his life, but they're (mostly) not part of your book's plot.

Choose the details you include carefully. A plot is a specific collection of events that affect that outcome of your narrative. If a story event is not relevant to the narrative - pluck it out.

Tip 3: Write a Synopsis First

It helps to write a synopsis of the story before you start. (Yes, I know that lots of you like to 'just let it all flow' and you don't know what's going to happen next. Hmmm. Fast way to write yourself into a corner.)

Use the synopsis to plot your book. It doesn't have to be perfect. Your "planning my story" synopsis can be as rough as guts, actually. It's just for you; it's not for an editor. (You can polish it at your leisure somewhere down the track if you want to send it to a publisher.) But in the initial stages, just jot down the high points of your story. A lack of detail at this point is likely to be your friend - you'll see quite clearly if something is irrelevant.

(c) Copyright Marg McAlister

Marg McAlister has published magazine articles, short stories, books for children, ezines, promotional material, sales letters and web content. She has written 5 distance education courses on writing, and her online help for writers is popular all over the world. Sign up for her regular writers' tipsheet at http://www.writing4success.com/

In The News:

Marilyn's writing debut  Royal Gazette
Public Writing and the Junior Scholar  The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Heavy Unseen Labor of Writing Reference Letters  The Chronicle of Higher Education
Writing his way out  Alton Telegraph
Here Come the Prose Police  The Chronicle of Higher Education
The struggles of writer's block and how to overcome it  University of Virginia The Cavalier Daily
Scholars Talk Writing: TJ Stiles  The Chronicle of Higher Education
Tinker, Tailor, Writer, Spy  The New York Times
Newspaper writers win top awards  Whidbey News-Times

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