What is a Plot?
Learning how to plot a novel isn’t quick, but it’s a one-time task. The skills you’ll learn in this definitive guide will empower your storytelling forever.
Is plot important? Yup, it’s critical, no matter what type of novel you intend to write. Actually, that’s not quite true…
If you’re more interested in critical acclaim than having lots of readers (and making a living from your writing), you can get away with little or no plot. You could write experimental literary fiction, for example, or character studies in which very little happens.
For the rest of us, plot is the thing that keeps readers turning the pages. It’s the thing that makes a novel entertaining.
There are probably countless reasons why you decided to write a novel. High on many people’s lists, though, is a need to release all those thoughts and feelings that we all have churning around inside us.
Plot is the thing that allows you to pour your heart and soul into a novel without sending your readers to sleep.
*How do you plot a novel?*
You do it by breaking down the plotting process into smaller steps. A plot as a whole may be complicated (enough to make your head spin). But there’s nothing difficult about the individual parts.
This series of posts walks you through the entire process. So long as you go about it logically and build your plot one small piece at a time, you’ll be fine.
The information on this page is a quick overview of everything we’ll cover. It won’t show you how to plot a novel by itself, but it will give you a good idea of where we’re heading in the definitive guide as a whole.
I’ve split the plotting process into three parts…
*PART 1: THE BIG PICTURE OF PLOT*
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of how to plot a novel (in Part 2), here are a few posts looking at plot from 30,000 feet…
What Is a Plot?
Stupid question, right? A “plot” is everything that happens in a novel, from the first scene to the last. Right?
Well, yes. But take a look at my definition of plot…
A plot is a series of linked events concerning a character who urgently wants something concrete and important that won’t be easy to get. The events should reach a satisfying conclusion.
There’s a lot of detail contained within those two sentences. And understanding those details will ensure that you lay a rock-solid foundation for the plot in your own novel.
*How Does Your Character Change?*
We’re talking about your leading man or woman here. And we’re talking about how the events of your novel (the “plot”) transform them.
They can change in a large or a small way. They can change for the better or the worse. All that matters is that they change in some way.
How come? Because if the hero is precisely the same person at the end of the story, both in terms of their life circumstances and their inner make-up, you have to ask what was the point of telling the story at all.
Three Act Structure
Finally in our high-level look at plot, a post on the three phases of your plot: the beginning, the middle and the ending.
We look at the characteristics of each phase. We ask what separates beginnings from middles, and middles from endings. And we take our first look at the 10 specific steps you’ll use to plot your novel.
Three act structure doesn’t tell you how to actually plot a novel (at least not in any detail). What it does do is allow you to take your initial plot idea and make sure that it has all the fundamentals in place.