The Only Right Way to Plot Your Storyline!

Lynnette Bonner gives great encouragement to NCWA writers!

Let’s face it; no matter how great of a fiction writer you are, the work will amount to nothing more than a hill of beans unless you have a great storyline.

You can write prose that causes angels to sing; you can describe a bar-fight so perfectly that the reader feels the stabbing pain as your hero gets his nose broken; you can write an intense romantic kiss that skyrockets the heart rate of your readers, but unless you have a good storyline to go with that talent the book will, most likely, fall flat.

Let’s take a minute to look at several different methods that can be used for plotting a storyline.

First, there is the METICULOUS OUTLINER: The Meticulous Outliner lays their entire story out ahead of time. They plan all the pitfalls their characters will fall into and determine which chapter that will best happen in. They research and know all the intricate details of whatever it is they need to know intricate details on.

By the time they get done outlining they know exactly how their story is going to unfold. Their outline is a road-map and they just follow the map as they write their story.

On the other end of the spectrum is the SEAT OF THE PANTS WRITER: The Seat of the Pants Writer takes a fly-by-night approach to writing. Sit down in front of the keyboard, set your fingers on the keys, close your eyes and just let the story flow down from your brain, out your fingers and on into the computer.

Often a SOTP writer is surprised by things their characters come up with, or directions their story turns. But in the end there is a cohesive storyline just as surely as if they had planned the thing from the beginning.

Somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum fall several other methods of plotting – but generally those other methods utilize parts of either the MO or the SOTP method.

Some people write by the SOTP until about 1/3 of the way into the book and then they stop and do an outline. Another method is to put your scenes onto index cards and then move your scenes around until you have them in a good order to give you a nice story arc. (Story arc is a topic for another time. :))

I recently spoke to one writer who writes SOTP until the 6th or 7th chapter of a novel and then utilizes the index card method of writing several scenes. After that, they move cards around and fill in details by putting in other scenes.

Find the method that works for YOU and that is the absolutely, only, right way to plot your storyline!

I’m sure there are numerous ways to plot that I have not mentioned here. How do you plot your stories? Personally, I’m a SOTP writer but so far I’ve used historical events to keep my work on track.


This post appeared August 17, 2009 on Author Culture. Reposted by kind permission.

Lynnette writes from the Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her husband and four children. She loves to hear from readers and writers alike. Her first novel, ROCKY MOUNTAIN OASIS, debuted summer 2009.  Lynnette has been a member of NCWA since May of 2008.

Visit her website and her blogs: Writer’s Journey and Author Culture.

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