On My Method of Plotting

The problem with plotting occurs when I don't. 


I am apparently that writer now, at least to an extent, who has to plot. Which is really funny because I don't know how that happened. (Actually, I do know how that happened. It was during FMTD when Patricia and I were trying to replot a story line and she was like, "I have markers; let's draw it out.)  I had an "outline" (though I hate that word. I need a new one if anyone has a suggestion!) for Hotboyalicious, and one for the contemp I started before the book deal.

Somehow my brain has reprogrammed! But, in all honesty, I have been procrastinating because I don't want to be a plotter. It feels like so much work, even though it's less time to write things out than it is to stare a blank screen over and over and over again. The great thing about plotting, for me, is that I have direction. I don't waste time staring at that stupid blank screen and analyzing what happens next. I just get to write--and I write a lot faster because of it.

I was talking to Crystal on twitter, who is one of my TV show friends, when we started talking about plotting. I was explaining to her my method and it literally got me so excited that I ran downstairs to grab my plotting goodies. AND, since I had already started this post, it seemed like a good opportunity to show yall how I plot. Or, how I try to plot. Maybe it will help you find a way to navigate through your story the way it helps me.

*please note, these are pictures from my own plotting. One is the sequel and one is another book. Please be respectful or I *will* take them down.*

Step 1: The Tools (For me: Markers and Really Big Paper)
I like markers because they are FUN. And let's be honest: anything to make it fun is better.

© Danielle Ellison 2012

Step 2: A List
Of what? Of things you need to explain in this book. Of questions. Of important moments. Of things that must be addressed in order to fill in the pieces or give backstory, or develop a character, etc. My list is still growing, but this is what I have at the moment.

© Danielle Ellison 2012

Step 3: Major Plot Points
What are the big events in your book? For me, plotting out the things I know HAVE TO HAPPEN make it fun. Then, it sort of becomes connect the dots, which is easier to do on paper than in your head.  I've found that knowing where I am going makes getting there easier.

© Danielle Ellison 2012

The great thing about this, too, is that the smaller things (step 4) can be left open if you want, or filled in as you think of them. Then, you aren't tied down to this has to happen next, which is what I always hated about outline. I'm a pantser at heart, so I need the freedom to let the story take life. BUT the story also has to stay where I need it to go next. It's a balance of knowledge and discover--sort of like science.

Step 4: Minor Things
© Danielle Ellison 2012
As I said above, when I know smaller scene-to-scene things, I write them out. When I don't, I leave them blank. If they come to me, It's good to have them.

Step 5: (optional) Move It Around
I keep a running list (usually on notecards or post-its. I draft in Scrivener so I keep them there as well) of scenes as they come to me if I don't know where they go in the story yet. Say, I know my character is going to react this way to something, and this reaction is going to spark her seeking out an answer--but I don't know what that something is yet. If I keep a record of them somewhere else, then I always have these little scenes to refer to. Step 2 and Step 5 are both handy little items to make sure that I'm aware of as I draft.

Step 6: Write!!! 

This may not work for you, but I've tried plotting a LOT of different ways and this is what came of it. I think it's all about taking techniques that you see and adjusting them to fit how you write. Every writer is different, so it makes sense that we all approach plotting--or not plotting--differently.

The great thing about plotting is that sometimes you learn what you planned doesn't work. Which is what happened when I started this post. That's a bummer to learn, but better to learn on the page before you write it.

If you plot, how do you do it? Why or why not? What have you learned? What other methods have you tried?


  1. I totally know what you mean about feeling resistance to something, putting it off and then realizing that in order to get from where you are to where you want to be (in your story) you just have to bite the bullet and do it.

    I've used a similar method, but with index cards (I know so high school- but now that I think about it in a good way.) That way I can rearrange if need be.

    Great post and I'm newly following.


  2. Good share, you topic is very great and useful for us…thank you

  3. I would like to appreciate your work and would like to tell to my friends.


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