I have never been good at plotting out stories.  I’ve never liked to plot my stories.  I’ve always liked to let them be free.   I do not plot, despite it being much harder to write and finish my stories.   And there lies the problem.  I have such a hard time finding endings, or middles for my stories.  I write and write and then I stop, and sometimes it takes me years to come back and finish.

There should be fanfare and loud clashing of cymbals right about now as I say this: I want to learn how to plot.


Thank you, thank you very much.  You have no idea how my soul writhes against saying that.   But I shall stand firm, this year of 2014 will find me trying to learn how to plot novels.  I can’t promise myself that I will succeed, but I am going to try.


How do you write your stories?  What are some of your favorite ways to plan out a novel/story? 


  1. I don’t think I can make it without plotting. I need to know where the story is going before I can even begin to write it. Sometimes stuff change but for the most part, I have my road map. Without it, I’d be lost.

  2. As long as I have a basic idea of what the novel is about and what my main characters name is, I can start it. As I begin writing, random ideas will pop into my head and I’ll make notes of them. Then other ideas will spin off those and pretty soon I have a whole story. But I don’t usually have an entire novel planned out before I begin. Sometimes things just don’t work out how you think they will and is good to be open to different ideas during the writing process. 🙂 and usually by the end of my novel I have another notebook full of all my notes/outlines that I came up with along the way.
    I say do what works best for you. I’m a pretty spontaneous person so my writing tends to be more that way.

      • Notes are extremely helpful! Write down notes about everything! It makes the writing process much easier. And yes!! I do have problems finishing. A lot of novels I’ve started over the years have only made it about halfway before I run out of ideas. But I think it’s helpful if you have a basic idea of what you want the ending to be. If you know the ending I feel that it helps bring more ideas for the middle.

      • I think one of my problems with notes is I forget to take notes while writing my novel. You know saying, “Oh I’ll remember that”, and then forgetting the MC’s hair color. 😀
        Yes! I think that’s going to help a lot is if I get a more firm idea of what I want my ending to be. Thanks!

  3. I never used to plot, my 1st novella was all done by just writing and going with the flow. But I did plot out my 2nd one, scene by scene, and the improvement was incredible. Now I know I am going to plot out all my future books. Good luck with it! You never know, it may just be something you fall in love with 😀

    • True! Thanks. 🙂 There was one time that I wrote 3/4ths of the novel then I went back took notes and plotted out the remaining 1/4th and it turned out pretty good! I’ll have to keep that in mind.

  4. I’ve fiddled and experimented with many ways of planning and pantsing over time, and my experience tells me that some novels are easier to wing it with than others. Sometimes jumping in with no idea at all of what the book will be like and building on concepts as I invent them works, but taking notes is always a good idea, and outlining the second half or fourth quarter or what have you is also great.

    Sometimes the outline is more like a list of chapters and a sentence or two on the general idea of each chapter, which I only do if I’ve already got an idea of what the book will be about, who the characters are and so on. This works best when I adapt short stories or scripts into novels, and there’s not much change in the plot and subject matter.

    My most rigorous outline method, however, I have found to be perhaps my best, and usually I use it for really fiddly books such as murder mysteries, which require a lot of planning. Essentially what I do is start by just writing out a big pile of notes on the cast, setting, plot, backstory, etc, stopping only when I think I have enough blocks to begin building with. Then I decide how many chapters I’d like to write and how long I’d like them to be–usually 25 chapters of 2k words each or 20 chapters of 2.5k words or some such. (Often I exceed my intended total word count even when some chapters are quite a bit shorter than planned, so this part isn’t so important except you’ll want a good idea of how much plot to cram into each chapter.) Then I take several sheets of paper and divide them into columns which I number until I have one sizable column for each chapter.

    Then I start to fill in each column with a fairly detailed chapter synopsis using my notes. Sometimes I do them in order, other times I space out the important events and fill in the gaps–whatever I feel like. Often I come up with even more ideas during this process or the writing process itself, so I leave room at the bottom of each column for more notes and don’t worry if I don’t start out with an exact idea of what some pivotal events will be. For example, I’ll often write things like “Character X reveals some kind of dark secret” and then worry about what that secret actually is later.

    In the end I think there’s probably no perfect one-size-fits-all method of outlining–or of writing, for that matter. I usually get stuck or suffer a lack of motivation somewhere during all my stories, which is where NaNoWriMo pep talks and early starts or late night writing or even fun, short side projects really come in handy. But I do know that in the end I always finish, and a good outline certainly does help. So I wish you luck with finding the planning style that works best for you!


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