Tips for Painless Plotting

When I first started writing I wrote by the seat of my pants--I had no plot in mind, and just sat down and started writing. Over time I've learned the value of plotting before I start a new novel. Even the simplest outline can be useful, because taking the time to plot your novel gives you an escape route when you hit writer's block.

Book cover, SunSinger by Robyn Bachar
I almost always hit a writing wall at about 30k words. I get stuck on a difficult scene, and it's hard to find the motivation to get past it. The shiny newness of the story has worn off, and my muse starts eying plot bunnies like my puppy discovering a nearby squirrel. But with an outline, I can skip the difficult bit that I'm stuck on and move on to the next scene, because I already know what that scene is supposed to be. I leave the problem area in brackets, like [fight scene here] or [important clue here], and come back to it later.

"Do All Roads Lead to Plot Mapping?" by Tracy Montoya has been an enormous help in my writing. It explains the three-act structure chapter by chapter, and uses the movie "While You Were Sleeping" as an example to explain each step. Now, before you say, "But I'm not writing romance!" let me assure you that this article and its technique works for any genre. Just ignore the romance details if you're not including a romantic pairing in your novel.

What I like to do is to use this article as a guideline in creating an outline. I take her basic structure, like:

Chapter 1
Scene A (The Oh No! moment):
Scene B:
Scene C (Inciting Incident):

And fill in the details for my novel, adding or deleting scenes/chapters as needed for my story. Writing software is also helpful with this. I've used WriteWayPro for a few years, and it's been helpful in outlining, allowing me to move scenes and chapters around easily.

When I get stuck on a scene, I always go back to the basics--Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. What does the character want? Why does she want it? What's preventing her from getting it? When I write the first draft of a synopsis I take three highlighters and mark the GMC of each scene. If something is missing (like stating that a character did something but not why she did it), I go back and fill it in. In some cases doing this to the synopsis made me realize that I was missing key details in the novel, and allowed me to go back and fix it before submitting it.

If you're stuck on a scene that just isn't working, stop and figure out the GMC. Not understanding a character's motivation--or not having a motivation--is a problem that can trip up authors while writing the first draft. Your character may not yet understand the reason behind her actions, but you need to. You're the boss of your characters. Now put them to work!

Robyn Bachar enjoys writing stories with soul mates, swords, spaceships, vampires, and gratuitous violence against the kitchen sink. Her paranormal romance Bad Witch series, historical paranormal romance series Bad Witch: The Emily Chronicles, and spicy space opera romance trilogy Cy’ren Rising are available from Samhain Publishing. Her books have finaled in PRISM Contest for Published Authors, the Passionate Plume Contest, and twice in the EPIC eBook Awards.

As a gamer, Robyn has spent many hours rolling dice, playing rock-paper-scissors, and slaying creatures in mmorpgs.


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  1. Thanks for hosting me today! :)

  2. Thanks what an interesting write up. If I ever decide to get creative and write something some of your tips would sure help


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