HOW I PLOTTED A NOVEL

Saturday, October 22, 2016
I successfully plotted a novel.

Let me repeat that: I plotted a novel from the start to the end before writing it.

A couple months ago, I would've read that statement and laughed, shaking my head, wondering how such a hardcore pantser like me could possibly have the organized mindset to put the plot in place before writing a novel.

But after I finished rewrites of The Sand Dragon's Song last month, I decided that maybe I should give plotting a try. Since I was going into all these NaNo events without much of a plot, I kept ending up having to rewrite the whole book, which caused me lots of grumbling and annoyance and only ended up in me hating my book. Not fun.

So by plotting out my novel beforehand, I may not be able to avoid rewriting entirely, but I sure will be able to hopefully avoid rewriting the whole darn book. And that's my real purpose in plotting -- to make editing a little easier. (since editing is the actual worst.)

I've had some people ask how I've been going about plotting. Here's how.


(and this is less of a "how to plot post," and more of a, "here's how I did it... give it a try if you want." there's no ONE way to write a novel. do what works to get that plot out of your head and out into the words on the paper.)

One thing that I'm very particular with, is that I have to plot on paper. Some writers love their OneNote or Evernote or Scrivener files, but there's something about the computer screen that doesn't draw out my imagination in the same way. It's been really nice to have a writing project that's not dealing with the computer for once and allows me to do it "the old fashioned way." ;) 

I do miss typing dramatically, but NaNo is soon approaching and my fingers will be able to fly again. Mwahaha. Meanwhile I get to doodle and draw cute little arrows on the page so it works out. xD


I've always had this vision in my head as plotting being this horrible evil thing. But... I...  actually had lots of fun? And it worked?

I used Randy Ingermanson's How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method. (recommended by the lovely Nadine

Best. plotting. book. ever.

It explores all angles with your novel -- target audience, themes, characters, summaries, three act structure, the fears you might have. It begins big and goes small, eventually moving into a scene by scene outline. (which is where I stopped, because that is too much plotting. xD)

The snowflake method helps develop your one sentence pitch, back cover summary, and synopsis. Before I even wrote the book, I've already gotten those three terrible things out of the way. I now have a pretty good idea of what to say if people were to ask me what my novel is about. I have a three page synopsis, that only took me a little over an hour to write.

For me, the snowflake method was magical.  


It helped me sort out the plot of my novel without having to write an icky outline or plan every. single. scene. (which to me seems like a terrible nightmare.) I know all the main disasters and turning points, but little scenes will pop up in between and surprise me.

And... it didn't take very long? I was expecting for plotting to take days upon days upon days. Which it did, but I split it up into smaller chunks per day. I'm now sitting here with the full plot of my novel, after spending about thirteen hours on it.

(oh, and speaking of times and such, I'm timing how long it takes me to complete this book. from plotting to writing to editing and everything in between. basically just a fun experiment for a nerdy lil' stat obsess-er like me)


Above is a picture of all of my plotting pages. There are eighteen shown, but I'm up to twenty and counting. Even though I have most everything figured out, I'm still doing some prequel ideas and worldbuilding and tightening up things in general.

(these pictures is also why I love plotting on the paper. so visual and exciting to REALLY see how much work you've done. *flailing* xD

There are ten days until NaNo. (whoops. freaked you out. freaked myself out. sorry.) I'm rather excited to not be a panster for once. Hopefully the month will go by a little bit smoother.

And hey, if you want to give plotting a try, you should totally do the thing. Ten days is not much, but it's enough to get a general idea of the plot. Well enough to write it. There's an overview of the Snowflake Method here that you can follow, otherwise I would recommend getting the Amazon copy. It tells a story within a story, with examples, and is SO much fun to follow along with. Seriously. Read the sample if you don't believe me. It's definitely the coolest plotting book you'll find.

(i'm beginning to sound like I'm sponsoring this book but I just found it REALLY helpful for my panster soul to ease into xD)


All in all, my experience with plotting was positive. Will I continue to do this for later books? Probably. Depends on the overall first drafting experience and edits. But let's not think about editing right now with NaNoWriMo in the future. :P 

I wish you all the best in the last week of NaNo Prep, and may you conquer the NaNo beast in November. :D

// katie grace

Are you a pantser or a plotter?
How do you prepare for NaNoWriMo?

55 comments :

  1. Wow this method looks really good, I think I might give it a try. I'm a big old plotter. I need to know what's going to happen in the book before I start writing it. It makes me feel safe and like I know what I'm doing even though that's far from truth. :D My story has a lot of history so before I got into writing I needed to have that sorted out because I can imagine the editing stage and it wouldn't be pretty. But I'm so glad it worked for you and I wish you luck with Nano. I'm still deciding whether to join the writing madness or not. :D

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    1. You should totally give it a try! It's been fun trying new writing things and branching out to change the process up. I think it's easier for pantsers to try plotting... I can't imagine seeing plotters like yourself suddenly try to pants your way through a book. xD

      You should totally do NaNo! It's crazy, but it'll be so much fun.

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  2. Good on you for trying plotting (and for keeping a record of how long it takes - I would totally do that too)! I hope it makes the editing easier for you. :)

    I haven't written a novel yet, but I like to have a rough plot for basically everything I write, so I will check out that snowflake method - it sounds really good!

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    1. (Right? It's going to be so much fun. xD)

      Eeep, it's such a good way for when you do plot our your novel someday! I hope it will work wonderfully for you. :D

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  3. I've been wanting to plot my story out for a while but I have a hard time keeping my imagination running when I'm NOT actually writing chapter by chapter. I'm going to look into that method though.
    Congrats on your story!!!

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    1. Ahh, yeah. That's a hard task. :P
      I hope it works out for you!

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  4. AH I'M SO HAPPY THIS WORKED FOR YOU. I'm a pretty hardcore plotter, and I used the overview method on the website instead of buying the actual book, and I still tweaked a few things here and there... but. :P I really liked it.

    One thing I "tweaked" was not doing a mere FEW-page synopsis after the first page one. ;) I COULD NOT RESTRAIN MYSELF. Right now I think I've got about... seven right now? And I'm still adding. The! Climax! Is! Almost! Here! I'm kind of dreading how I'm going to tie off all the little complicated threads and fill in all the blank spaces at that point, but it's going to be fun. :D

    I absolutely love how you plot on paper. <3 There's just something so magical about filling a blank page completely with your own writing, and knowing that that writing is building a story. But... it's kind of a must for me to plot on the computer. *cries* I will BRAINSTORM on paper, but when I'm actually plotting... my brain can barely even keep up with my insanely fast typing hands. Much less with an actual pen. :P (but I love the way you do it. Maybe that's something I'll experiment with for a future nano.)

    (random question: did you buy the ebook of the snowflake method or a paperback?)

    BASICALLY I'M SO EXCITED FOR WHERE SHADOWS LIE. It's going to be completely epic. And so is NaNo. ;) *freaks out because tEN DaYS*

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    1. I KNOW IT WAS ABSOLUTELY MAGICAL. And all methods are made to be tweaked a little bit. :P

      Dude. Seven?? That's insaaaane. SO MUCH PLOT THERE MUST BE. *doesn't know why I suddenly spoke yoda but oh well* ughh, trying to tie everything off at the end is always difficult. There are so many problems but how to FIX them all? :P

      IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY. <3 AI'm obsessed with plotting on paper. But I think brainstorming on the computer is actually smarter... Because what if there's a fire and you only have time to either grab your computer or plotting notebook? Your way they're all on one system. xD

      (I was gifted the ebook by the lovely nadine, so... the ebook. xD)

      BASICALLY I'M SO EXCITED FOR WRITING AND NANO AND YOUR STORY. asjdfk;l *freaks out more because niNE DAYS NOW*

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    2. Ha, yes, I kind of broke the rules. xD I'm up to about 15 pages now. :P Almost finished! And then I have to return to a part at the beginning that is super plot hole-y and just does not make sense, so ughh. :P

      ME TOO. *flailing* (and I really do need a title for mine, huh. blergh. *has no ideas*)

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  5. Aahhh okay I keep hearing about this snowflake method thing and I feel the need to have it in my life. XD (Also when I do plot it's only on paper so *fist bump*)

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    1. YESSS YOU TOTALLY NEED THE THING. XD
      (paper buddies unite. *fist bump*

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  6. A pantser to the core :P

    But I always get new ideas while working on one book, so I'll write it down on a notebook. And usually I always plot my characters if I do any plotting at all :) team paper XD

    I'll be plotting too next week so I'll go check this method out :D although I also think scene by scene plotting is a little excessive for the length of the novel I wanna achieve XD not that much patience

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    1. Pantsing is awesome. :D

      IT'S THAT AWFUL? I despise it when I'm trying to focus on one book, and then all these little plot bunnies scamper in my head demanding to be written. Curse the plot bunnies. May they be doomed to bunny prison. XD

      I knowww scene by scene would take way too long. o.o

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  7. I'm a pantser (and sometimes plantser?) of first drafts. I don't prepare XD. BUT YOUR POST WAS SO FUN THAT I ALMOST WANT TO TRY PLOTTING *nods*.

    NaNo. Ten days O.O (I don't know WHY I freak out - I'm pantsing, why would go wrong? *dies* XD)

    ~ Savannah
    scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    1. All these plotting posts around the blogosphere made me say "fiNEEEE I'll give it a try." :P

      ACK GOOD LUCK. Pantsing is always terrifying but it usually works out and is a lot of fun. xD

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    2. IT IS TERRIFYING. BUT IF I DIE, SO BE IT. Or maybe everything will work out fine and everyone will be happy. Either way XD.

      ALSO, I tagged you *nods*.

      http://scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-q-tag.html

      ~ Savannah
      scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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  8. I thought I was part plotter, part pantser...but then I started my ridiculously detailed outline for NaNo and OH MY WORD IT'S SO MUCH NICER. Honestly, I feel like it's the best plotting method I've seen. At least for me. I've looked into the Snowflake method and it honestly just made my brain scream in horror, so I know that's not for me. But I'm so glad it's working for you!!!

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    1. also i tagged you for a thing http://words-inmysoul.blogspot.com/2016/10/get-to-know-me-tag.html

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    2. HA YEAH I took one look at your outline and almost fainted because "omg you are so organized and how could you possibly think through this much."

      Well, your way makes MY brain scream in horror, so we're fair. XD

      Oooh. *reads the thing*

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  9. what if I said I haven't even done any plotting? yeah. i know. i'm nuts

    byyyyyeeee *cries in the corner*

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    1. pffft you are just BRAVE AND COURAGEOUS AND READ TO CONQUER AND yeah probably a bit nuts good luck. o.o

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  10. I am such a panster but I really wanted to try plotting this year. only because I know Im going to be flooded with papers and homework more this year because Im taking more writing focused courses and are a bit harder. I tried plotting yesterday and I FAILED dramatically. like what is an outline??? I dont know???

    Im going to look up this book and see if my library has it! thank you for the recommendation! also, Im like you in that I cant plot/outline on a computer. it has to be pen and paper. its just the way it is. lol

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    1. Gahh yes. I have tried randomly plotting by myself buut I also failed. It was very nice having a book to guide me along and it was super easy that way.

      *high fives for pen and paper buddies*

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  11. WHAT? LIKE HOW CAN YOU BE SO AMAZING, KATIE?!?!
    I have been wanting to try NaNo for awhile now, but I have decide that I'm gonna wait till next time. I have virtually no time to plot out a novel in 10 days:p
    But when I do, I'm gonna come back to this post! Thanks so much!:)

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    1. PSHH I AM NOT AMAZING I'M NOT QUITE SURE HOW I WAS ABLE TO ACTUALLY PLOT. xD

      Yeaah that would be a little crazy. I hope that next year you can have more time for NaNo!

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  12. Your plotting pages are just /so pretty/ ahhhh *hugs* You're so organized! I've never followed a specific method for plotting. I just make a folder and start making documents for different parts of the story and I also choose a journal to do my brainstorming on because I agree paper is the best for creativity! <3

    Thanks for sharing, lovely! I can't wait to war you in the Nano craze! :D

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    1. *many hugs*

      Dude, I love how you are just able to do it like that. I always need some sort of direction to help guide me because what even is plotting.

      IT WILL BE LOVELY. <3

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  13. **MERGH I just typed up a huge comment and accidentally left the page *WEEPS***
    As I was saying:
    YAY KATIE I'M SO GLAD YOU PLOTTED. I consider myself a plotter but I don't think I've ever done anything this in depth... or maybe nothing this organized. XD I'll have to see if my library has this book! Perhaps it can be used for future novels. I love that you're timing how long it takes you. Can't wait to see how may hours it is by the end.

    This year my method was to write up everything that happens (mostly) bullet point by bullet point. Maybe I'll even have time to divide it up by the three act structure...

    Jeneca @ Jeniqua Writes

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    1. NOOO that is actually the worst thing and it makes me so mad. *hands you consolatory pizza for your loss (of a comment.)*

      I really hope your library does! Otherwise maybe you can request it.

      Ooh, bullet points are fun. They're very pretty and look rather organized. xD

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  14. I am a pantser. I might start plotting my story again (slightly) when I am read to focus on it.

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    1. That makes sense! Thanks for commenting. <3

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  15. Eeeeeep! You FREEEAAAKED ME OUT!

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  16. Ooh that's so cool that yo do it hardcopy! I love typing up my bare bones outlines and then sticking them on my wall and doing the Sherlock-with-strings-and-sticky-notes-mind-maps everywhere. xD IT'S VISUALLY PLEASING AND SATISFYING! I haven't done that for the last two books I've written though because I ran out of all. So inconvenient for my room to only have 4 walls. Sheesh. Now I'm just plotting through Scrivener. ;D

    So YES. Definitely a plotter here! It actually utterly terrifies me to think about writing without a Solid Plan. I get writers block like nothing else omg. But I actually outline scene-by-scene...aaaand I rewrite the whole thing for draft #2 anyway. xD AH THE WRITERS LIFE. I think it's so fun to see other writers' processes too!! It's the best that there's so many ways to go about this. :')

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    1. YEAH you do like the 20,000 word outlines so I understand that you type it out. Writing it would be pure TORTURE.

      Dude. I can't even imagine doing it scene by scene. AND NOO DON'T TELL ME THAT. I'm really hoping that I can avoid rewriting. xD *hides*

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  17. This method looks awesome! And OH MY GOODNESS YOU LOOK SO ORGANIZED! *wishes that my probably-futile attempt to plot would turn out like that* xD

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    1. I TRY MY BEST. It's really all in the pictures. The plot in my head is nowhere near as organized. :P

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  18. I'm a 'plantser', but for November I am going to be SO BUSY that I have to be plotter XD. This looks great, I'll have to check it out. You can see some of my writing, nano & character rambles on my blog, Mic's Room (http://lovelypinkduckshome.blogspot.com/).
    -Mic

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    1. SAME. That's what partially made me do the plotting thing as well. I need a plot if I'm going to be so busy. o.o

      I'll have to check it out!

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  19. I think I'm kind of a mix of the two, because I definitely have to plan some things out before I get started writing, but I also tend to have trouble outlining and such (I think it's because I can be kind of scatterbrained xD). Then I have to just throw caution to the wind and WRITE and hope it'll work itself out.

    I totally get how planning on paper feels so much different than typing it. For one, it's just a nice, writerly feeling of actually sitting down with a pen and paper and writing down your thoughts. And I've definitely worked out some of my most bothersome story problems by just writing until I run into something. (Awesome system, right? xD) And it's so fun (and scary) to flip through all your old notebooks and see all the old ideas and versions of different stories.

    I feel like I'm preparing pretty well for NaNo... still some fairly major things to figure out about my plot (and SOOO much time left too... heh... heh...), but I think I've got a pretty good idea of how things need to go.

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    1. Ahh, that makes sense! "caution to the wind." I love it. xD

      YES. Picking out your favorite pen and color and notebook and asjdkl;f it's so amazing. <3

      (yes. so much time. haha. hahahaha. ha. -.^) I'm in the same boat. Some things I still need to figure out, but... kind of ready? ish? We'll see when November 1st comes. xD

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  20. Holy cow, I think you're the first person ever to write a positive blog post about editing xD
    GOOD LUCK ON NANO

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  21. *checking out this book now* i neeed to start re-plotting the end of my book 'CUZ THINGS STARTED TO TURN ON ME

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  22. *applauds wildly* That's so awesome! I stink at plotting, and outline, or anything that smells of organization. Which is not always good for a first draft. I think it's great that you plotted the whole thing out! I'm more of a mix? I plan mostly the characters and the general direction of the novel and then as I start writing I figure it out the details as I go. But yeah. That's really messy. XD I've been trying to plot more recently. Although, I definitely agree that scene-by-scene plotting beforehand is a bit much. I hope NaNoWri goes well! :D

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    1. "or anything that smells of organization." <-- omg that made me laugh so hard I totally want to use that now XD

      Ooh, that's interesting that you plan out most of the characters. Characters are basically the only thing that I DON't plot, because WHO EVEN KNOWS ABOUT CHARACTERS. xD

      Thank you! I hope it goes well for you if you're participating. :)

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  23. OH MY GOSH KATIE YOU PLOTTED A THING I AM SO PROUD OF YOU xD I am the worst at plotting ughhhh

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    1. I KNOW I WASN'T EXPECTING THAT I WAS ACTUALLY GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO IT. But I'm still pantsing major parts of it, sooo. :P

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  24. I can plot but its just hard to start writing!!!

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    1. I KNOW. NaNo starts in 18 minutes and I have no idea what I'm going to do for a beginning and just asjdkfl; HELP.

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  25. Hey, I found this post really interesting. For this year's nanowrimo I'm plotting for the first time and have struggled for weeks on how to get the ideas out. I've heard Nadine mention the snowflake method on her blog before so it might be something I will consider getting sometime in the future. I've called my plotting, plotting by the seat of my pants because essentially all I'm doing is writing a few ideas for chapters. I don't know how it will turn out but I'm super excited for nanowrimo even though I have exams coming up in November. It was cool hearing how you did it. You have inspired me in my plotting.

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  26. You're a plotter now!
    I kind of plot. I certainly plan, but I often only write it down part of the way through. And I cannot plan scenes in detail, my characters don't talk to me the same when plotting, and won't fit what I imagine.

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  27. KATIE YOU'VE JOINED THE LAND OF THE PLOTTERS!!!!!!!!!!! XD

    I would probably die if I didn't plot, to be honest. Speaking of which, I really need to finish plotting for NaNo considering IT'S SO CLOSE HELP. O.O

    I totally agree with you about needing to plot on paper- I seriously cannot plot with a computer. I mean, I've never tried doing Scrivener, and I've heard it's great and all, but I feel like plotting is just one of those things that you've got to do by hand.

    WE SHALL SURVIVE NANO TOGETHER!!!!!!

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