Becoming a Plotter

I’ve been writing for fun since I was twelve. I can’t even begin to count the number of stories I have started over the past twenty years. I rarely finished things because I “pantsed” these stories, starting with a small element of inspiration and going until it wouldn’t go anymore, which usually happened before I’d reach the end.

I had a problem with finishing stories. I would write myself into a corner or grow bored with the plot because I didn’t have enough conflict or goals.

I started reading writing reference books on plot and improving fiction and I took a few classes from my local RWA chapter and No longer am I afraid that plotting will remove the magical inspiration of my muse. I find myself adapting and tweaking these plot lines a lot, but now I’m getting to The End a lot more often. All thanks to these books.

Don’t fear plotting. It can be your friend too!

Here are some of my favorite resources for learning how to plot or improve a story’s plot. I feel like they make the process approachable and not like some scary thing that only MFA’s can learn.

My Favorite Books on Plotting or Novel Writing:

The Writer’s Compass, by Nancy Ellen Dodd
This is great for understanding the overall story arc and for an approach that is perhaps more visual in its approach than some of these other books. I would say this book was my plotting foundation book.
Writing Love, by Alexandra Sokoloff
Sokoloff recommends reviewing movies with similar elements to the story you’re trying to tell, because you can get through movies in a short sitting and it’s easier to capture the essence of the plot. I could go all research paper on you and quote parts of this text, but it’s still a fabulous review of plotting.
This book is fabulous. Without clear goal, motivation and conflict, I find it’s impossible to plot out a story’s action or turning points.
This book is fabulous, although I wouldn’t recommend reading and applying it to a work-in-progress. Write your first draft, then return to this, or read it before starting your first draft. He has some great ways to tighten up your conflicts and really tug on your readers’ heartstrings. For example, making  your protagonist’s external and internal goals mutually exclusive. Boy does that make protagonists hurt!
I primarily use the workbook, but the book is an important read too: Writing the Breakout Novel.
This book is a fast read and marvelously simple in offering an approach to get you from idea to completed draft. This book really opened up my eyes on how the book writing workflow should go.

Other Resources:

Michael Hauge’s structure is very helpful. I think Alexandra Sokoloff might reference it in Writing Love.
Stephanie Draven’s Plotting with Scrivener class is fabulous, and pulls in a bunch of elements from different sources. (I learned about Sokoloff and Hauge from her.) If you have a chance to take this class, I highly recommend it. She’s publishing a book based on these lessons later this summer. Pre-order your copy here:! (
Writer Unboxed site ( provides daily articles about writing and the industry. You can set it up to email you daily with their posts. Donald Maass is one of the contributors to this site.


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