My current WIP novel started as three ridiculous paragraphs that I wrote to try and make my friend laugh. I had no intention of creating a fourth, let alone trying to flesh it out into a beefy novel. But, here I am, a few months later sitting in Look Mum No Hands feeling like Look Mum I’ve Written 27,000 Words.

This word count relates to the first of three proposed parts of the novel. This could not have been possible if I didn’t actually spend a few moments plotting the thing.

How Did I Do It?

I was always put off by plotting. It seemed like something that would slow my writing down. I imagined it would be like when Hank in Breaking Bad had all those boxes of investigation snippets and evidence delivered to his house to piece together. Luckily for him, he had a Rocky-quality montage to help him get through it all. I barely got past the first chapter’s details, became overwhelmed with character arcs and subplots and then my story melted into an anxiety-creating stranger.

So I tried breaking it down. I approached the story by drawing a simple timeline and writing down the major events of the novel. I then used the following set of questions and headers for each chapter that lead to each major event.

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  • [Chapter Number/Title]
  • Scene Brief
  • How Does This Move The Story Forward? What Is The ‘Point’ Of The Scene?
  • How Does It End?
  • Things to mention
  • Potential Dialogue
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By doing this, my wee brain was allowed to focus on a small chunk of the story and not get stressed out by the weight of the whole novel. It even made the words flow better because I knew exactly what was going to happen in the current chapter. By having the ‘How Does It End’ header, I was able to work backwards from the chapter and this made for some creative and interesting chapter starts.

Below is an example of the template in action.

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Chapter 3 aka Father and Son 3

Scene Brief:

The father and son have left the son’s apartment and are making their way to Red Bridge. The father needs ammunition and weapons, so he instructs his son to head towards a bar (Lana’s) in Prescott, AZ.

How Does This Move The Story Forward? What Is The ‘Point’ Of The Scene?

The scene is needed because it is the start of the journey for the father and son. This is the very first time that they are alone. Through the son’s internal monologue, we learn more about the type of person the father is (or rather, what type of father he was to his son in the past).

This scene will mention Red Bridge, which is a major scene in the book. This is where we discover what the father is after. The father and son’s relationship is tested.

It moves the story forward because it physically moves the characters towards Red Bridge. It also serves as a way to connect Gray’s story to the father and son’s.

How Does It End?

The father stops the son as he tries to flee Lana’s.

Things to mention:

Red Bridge

Gray’s shooting (Five years prior)

Mention that the father needs to meet with a buyer in Red Bridge.

The son is a writer. He is a minor celebrity in the world of self-publishing. He writes books with hints or themes of failed relationships.

The father’s finances – make the son curious about his father’s finances. In Father and Son 4, make the son ask the father about his money situation.

Potential Dialogue:

“It’s the thing some people don’t seem to realise – when a parent is lost unexpectedly. You are burdened with two excruciating losses – the parent who died and the one who survived them. They’ll never be the person you saw when you were playing happy family. You surrender the memory of them, woefully witnessing their psyche fracturing. Their days are stuffed with suffering, and you behold, in crippling detail, their torturous breakdown. And, my God, will you see them break.”

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It’s a pretty simple tip and it’s worked well for me so far. But, as I’ve found with plotting and dancing, everyone has their own weird, little way of doing it.

Keep writing your way, guys.

Dean.

Written by Dean