How to Plot a Novel

How to Plot a Novel
Plot Like A Novelist 5-Day Challenge October 14-18, 2019

Monday, September 23, 2019

Writers Who Run Monthly Giveaway Contest

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Awesome Author Treasure Box


Many writers struggle with creativity, productivity, confidence, and so much more. I'm hoping my brand new contest for writers will help one lucky winner each month to combat those issues.


free giveaway contests for writers and authors

What's Included


Enter the #WritersWhoRun Monthly Giveaway Contest for a chance to win the Awesome Author Treasure Box mailed straight to your home, which includes:

  • a journal
  • pens
  • a bookmark
  • a mug
  • Dove chocolates
  • a scented candle
  • a framed art print of the "10 Commandments for the Writer"


Confident Writer Resource Bundle


All contestants can also get the Confident Writer Resource Bundle of 4 printable PDFs to help you become a more confident and productive writer. The more you share with others, the higher your chances of winning the Awesome Author Treasure Box.

To unlock the Confident Writer Resource Bundle, all you have to do is get 150 points, and you get 50 automatically just from entering! The Resource Bundle includes the following downloads:
  • Surprising Writer Mistakes TIP SHEET
  • Power Up Your Focus WRITING WORKOUT
  • Persistence to Publication CHECKLIST
  • Writer's Block Breakthrough GUIDE

Share For More Chances to Win


I'll choose a brand new winner every month, beginning in October 2019. Trick or treat!

For every referral who enters the contest from your unique personal invite link, you'll get an additional 25 points, so that's your incentive to keep sharing on your favorite social media channels each and every month.

I can't wait to mail out the very first prize box! Good luck!

ENTER THE CONTEST HERE!




Learn How to Map Out a
Basic Plot For Your Own Novel






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Friday, August 23, 2019

You Know You're a Writer (Who Runs) [9 of 10]

Patience, My Friend, is a Virtue


I like to think that everyone has a passion. Maybe they don't. I don't know what the ratio is for those who have a passion vs. those who simply have a hobby, but a passion is something that drives you. It can often become an obsession. It's not passive. A hobby is for relaxation.

I am passionate about writing - and you likely are too. I'm also passionate about running, but writing definitely takes a front seat there. If you like writing and/or running, you'll love today's quotes.



You know you're a runner when running 5 miles is more fun than standing in line.



You know you're a writer when revising is more fun than waiting in line.


Running 5 Miles in More Fun than Standing in Line


You know you're a runner when you have more patience running for over an hour than you do standing in line at the store for 5 minutes.

You could run in place to pass the time. Or start planning next month's workout sessions.

Or you could just be patient like a normal human being.

Revising is More Fun than Waiting in Line


You know you're a writer when you have more patience re-writing the same paragraph for an hour than you do waiting in line at the bank for 5 minutes.

You could get out your notebook and start jotting down ideas for your next story. Or write down physical descriptions of everyone else standing in line and let your mind wander about where they came from and where they're headed. Let your mind wander.

So, the next time you have five spare minutes, take a moment to write something. Or just pretend you're still waiting in line.


Until next time, keep on keepin' on!


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You Know You're a Writer [1 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [1 of 10]
You Know You're a Writer [2 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [2 of 10]
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You Know You're a Writer [8 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [8 of 10]



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Friday, August 16, 2019

You Know You're a Writer Who Runs [8 of 10]

When Half the Luggage is Packed Before You Actually Start Packing for Your Trip


When I realized that the only time I ever traveled was for running events, I knew I was a runner. I never said I was fast or rail-thin, but I do love to race! The goal of running is to feel good. Sometimes, it's to get a new PR. Other times, it's simply to get up and move, which consequently always makes me feel good.








Traveling for a 10k Race


You know you're a runner when your running clothes and shoes take up half your suitcase on trips!

One of my favorite races (aside from charity races that promote literacy) is the Cooper River Bridge Run - the largest 10k foot race this side of the Mississippi.

I've even traveled 12 hours in a car just to participate in an 8-mile trail race. We only stayed for 2 to 3 nights. Of course, I stayed with my sister, but my bags were packed with running gear! LOL.

Heading to a Retreat or a Weekend Writing Conference


You know you're a writer when your books, notebooks, and laptop take up [the other] half of your suitcase on trips!

Yes, we writers love to travel for races and writing events. It's a wonder we have any room left in our luggage for regular clothes!

I imagine the day when I'll have a whole BOX full of books to sell at a conference! Until then, I'll keep going to conferences and retreats. Heck, even after that day comes, I'll still continue attending writing retreats and conferences.

SOOO... the next time you travel, be sure to pack your bags (with running gear and writing tools). And try to save a little room for a pair of jeans and your toiletries.

Until next time...

Keep on keepin' on!


RELATED POSTS:
You Know You're a Writer [1 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [1 of 10]
You Know You're a Writer [2 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [2 of 10]
You Know You're a Writer [3 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [3 of 10]
You Know You're a Writer [4 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [4 of 10]
You Know You're a Writer [5 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [5 of 10]
You Know You're a Writer [6 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [6 of 10]
You Know You're a Writer [7 of 10] | You Know You're a Runner [7 of 10]



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Friday, May 3, 2019

Plot Summary of Stargate

A 1994 Sci-Fi Adventure Movie

Even though I’m not a huge sci-fi nerd, I did watch Stargate a couple of times. Once when it came out. And once a few days ago.

Here’s the basic plot summary:

“In modern-day Egypt, professor Daniel Jackson teams up with retired Army Col. Jack O'Neil to unlock the code of an interstellar gateway to an ancient Egypt-like world. They arrive on a planet ruled by the despotic Ra, who holds the key to the Earth travelers' safe return. Now, in order to escape from their intergalactic purgatory, Jackson and O'Neil must convince the planet's people that Ra must be overthrown.”


A professor and a retired Army Colonel unlock a galactic gate to an ancient Egypt-like world where they become stranded and in order to get back home, they must convince the people that their dictatorial leader must be overthrown.


To turn this summary into a one-sentence logline, it might look like this.

A professor and a retired Army Colonel unlock a galactic gate to an ancient Egypt-like world where they become stranded and in order to get back home, they must convince the people that their dictatorial leader must be overthrown.

This simple plot summary of the Stargate movie can be further analyzed with the following breakdown into the 5 main plot points.

The Signup


Daniel Jackson, an Egyptologist and linguist, is invited to a military base to help solve the coordinates of a hieroglyphic “stargate”. If he was never invited, they stargate would never have gotten solved, and thus the story would never have happened.

The Gunshot


Jackson solves the puzzle and opens a wormhole where he and several military members travel to a distant planet. There’s no turning back now. The “race” has begun!

The Halfway Point


One night, Ra’s ship lands atop the pyramid structure and a large-scale battle ensues. Jackson dies, but Ra puts him in a tomb-like healing contraption so that he can heal.

The Wall


Jackson’s love interest, Sha’uri, is killed. He is emotionally at his lowest.

The Finish Line


The people of the planet Abydos learn the true identity of Ra’s soldiers and revolt against the “kingship”. When they join forces with Jackson and his military soldier comrades in the war against Ra, they are able to defeat Ra and win the battle so that the humans can return to Earth.

There are a lot of things that happen, obviously, in between these five main plot points, but this is Stargate stripped down to its essence.

Even if you’re like me, and you’re not a sci-fi nerd, what’s your favorite book or movie in the genre?? Share your comment here.

Outline Your Novel With a Simple Plot



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Monday, April 8, 2019

Plot Summary of My Girl 2


When I watched this movie with my two kiddos, I knew I had to include it in the Plot Arc Library.

My Girl is a story of a spunky 11-year-old hypochondriac tomboy who isn’t afraid of death, but when her best friend and neighbor dies saving a ring she had lost, she experiences death first hand.

Fast forward a couple years to My Girl 2, and Vada Sultenfuss is a maturing young lady vying for her own independence. When her teacher assigns a report, she decides it’s time to learn more about her mother who died during childbirth.

In My Girl 2, Vada Sultenfuss is a maturing young lady vying for her own independence. When her teacher assigns a report, she decides it’s time to learn more about her mother who died during childbirth.

The Signup


Vada Sultenfuss is assigned a class project to write a paper about someone she has never met, but still admires. This gets her thinking about her late mother.

The Gunshot


Vada buys a plane ticket to California, where her mother graduated high school, and she plans to stay with her uncle Phil during spring break.

The Halfway Point


Once in California, Vada learns that the high school her mother attended burned down. But eventually she and Phil’s soon-to-be step-son, Nick, are able to track down an old yearbook.

The Wall


After visiting several people that knew her mother, Vada learns that she might have a different dad and feels betrayed, lost, and like she doesn’t belong anywhere in the world.

The Finish Line


She tracks down the man she thinks might be her dad and gets to see old home movies of her mother and learns a song she used to sing.

Of course, there are lots of other things that happen, even after the Finish Line, but this gives you the gist of the 5 main plot points.

If you'd like to see more plot summaries, you can read Wonder Woman, Jurassic Park, or Shrek.

What’s the last movie you watched or a book you recently read? Share your comment here.



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Monday, April 1, 2019

How to Write a One-Sentence Pitch


When people find out that you’re writing a book, they’ll ask you what it’s about. Having a short one-sentence summary (aka logline) as your go-to resource will help you quickly share what your novel is all about. It’ll save you the frustration of floundering around for the right words so you don’t have to tell the backstory of your secondary character and explain why something important happened 10 years ago, blah, blah, blah.

You’ve likely been in that situation before, whether as the writer telling what your book is about or as the listener feeling sorry for the writer struggling to share the plot succinctly. This list of 10 examples comes from a mix of movies and Newberry Award winning novels.

When people find out that you’re writing a book, they’ll ask you what it’s about. Having a short one-sentence summary (aka logline) as your go-to resource will help you quickly share what your novel is all about. It’ll save you the frustration of floundering around for the right words so you don’t have to tell the backstory of your secondary character and explain why something important happened 10 years ago, blah, blah, blah. You’ve likely been in that situation before, whether as the writer telling what your book is about or as the listener feeling sorry for the writer struggling to share the plot succinctly. This list of 10 examples comes from a mix of movies and Newberry Award winning novels.

Using a Logline Generator to Help You Write Your Own Loglines


A logline is a one or two sentence description that condenses your book’s dramatic narrative into the essence of your story’s plot. As you read through these examples of short novel pitches, you’ll begin to see a pattern. But before you dive in, I’ll go ahead and share the formulas with you so they’ll be more recognizable. The first variation applies to the first four examples. Replace the ALL CAPS with your own words. The second variation (among others) can be applied as well.

Quick Pitch Formula


Variation 1: When CHARACTER ACTION (ie. finds, is thrown back, recruits), he/she ACTION (uses, must make sure, discovers), STAKES (but, or, before).

Variation 2: CHARACTER must ____ STAKES, but ____.

Tips to Remember When Writing a Novel Pitch

  1. Keep it short.
  2. Avoid using names.
  3. Include the main character, the conflict, the goal, and the stakes.

Elevator Pitch Examples for Authors


  1. Aladdin: When a street urchin finds a lamp with a genie inside, he uses the lamp to turn himself into a prince in order to win the heart of a beautiful princess, but an evil vizier is after the lamp too.
  2. Back to the Future: When a 1980s small-town California teen is thrown back into the '50s during an experiment that goes awry, he must make sure his parents fall in love or he'll cease to exist.
  3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: When a sixth-grade girl recruits her 9-year-old brother to run away with her to a museum, they discover a mystery they must solve before returning home.
  4. The Phantom Tollbooth: When a bored ten-year-old comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room, he drives through the tollbooth's gates and begins a memorable journey, meeting all kinds of interesting characters.
  5. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH: A widowed field mouse with four small children must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death, but her youngest son has pneumonia and must not be moved unless someone can come up with a solution.
  6. Holes: Stanley Yelnats, a very unlucky boy, gets shipped off to Camp Green Lake to serve a sentence he doesn’t deserve: digging holes all day, but when he discovers a secret, he tries to expose the truth to lift his family’s curse.
  7. Where the Red Fern Grows: Billy and his two coonhound pups roam the Ozarks trying to catch the elusive raccoon and win the gold cup in the annual coon-hunt contest.
  8. Bridge to Terabithia: A 5th-grade boy befriends the new kid in school (a girl) and they work together to oust the school bullies, stand up to parents, and face their fears.
  9. Aquaman: The human-born heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis goes on a quest to prevent a war between the worlds of ocean and land.
  10. Black Panther: Faced with treachery and danger, the young king of the African nation of Wakanda must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

You might also like "How a Book Pitch Changes with Each Revision".

If you would like to see more writing related "how-to" guides, you can read How to Get Published, How to Personalize a Query Letter, or How to Overcome Writer's Block.


Now try to write your own novel’s logline with a one-sentence summary using this simple pitch formula. Share your comment here.



Outline Your Novel 

With a Simple Plot




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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

How to Plot Your Novel with a Movie Soundtrack


We’ve been talking a lot about plot lately. A lot of writers use music to help them find the mood of the novel they’re working on. Or they might crank up their favorite tunes to help them write the most words per writing session. Today’s idea is to help you break down the plot structure of a movie you’d like to analyze. One thing you can do to break down the plot of any movie you watch is to use the soundtrack.

The classic 1992 movie, Far and Away, directed by Ron Howard, is the movie we’ll analyze today. The basic plot is that two Irish immigrants seek their fortune in 1890s America, eventually taking part in the Oklahoma Territory Land Run of 1893.

Far and Away Soundtrack


The classic 1992 movie, Far and Away, directed by Ron Howard, is the movie we’ll analyze today. The basic plot is that two Irish immigrants seek their fortune in 1890s America, eventually taking part in the Oklahoma Territory Land Run of 1893.

The two immigrants, Joseph Donnelly and Shannon Christie, are played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, respectively. If you have never watched the movie, that’s okay. Take a look at the Soundtrack. It highlights the most important scenes. You can guess where the plot points happen. But I won’t make you do that. I’ll lay it out for you below.

  1. "County Galway, June 1892"
  2. "The Fighting Donnellys"
  3. "Joe Sr.'s Passing/The Duel Scene"
  4. "Leaving Home"
  5. "Burning the Manor House"
  6. "Blowing Off Steam"
  7. "Fighting for Dough"
  8. "Am I Beautiful?"
  9. "The Big Match"
  10. "Inside the Mansion"
  11. "Shannon is Shot"
  12. "Joseph's Dream"
  13. "The Reunion"
  14. "Oklahoma Territory"
  15. "The Land Race"
  16. "Settling with Steven/The Race to the River"
  17. "Joseph and Shannon"
  18. "Book of Days"
  19. "End Credits"

Plot Summary of Far and Away


In the sections below, I’ve laid out the entire plot of this movie and how all the songs from the soundtrack overlap and perfectly match the plot. This is especially helpful if you find a movie that seems difficult to deconstruct. Try it! Easy peasy! Who knows? You might even crank up the tunes and start dancing!

Pre-Race Life (exposition)


"County Galway, June 1892"

It’s 1892. Shannon wants to run away from her Ireland home and claim some free land in America. Joseph is suddenly homeless (his house was burned to the ground) and he promises his dying father that he would run his own land someday. Shannon is upper class and Joseph is lower class. Shannon loves to ride horses. Joseph fights in pubs.

The Signup (Plot Point 1: inciting incident)


"The Fighting Donnellys"

The Signup is when Joseph Donnelly’s house is burned to the ground. If it hadn’t, he never would have gone out looking to kill his landlord. And he never would have met Shannon. He never would have made it to America. The Signup is the ARRIVAL of the landlord’s men with torches (and the subsequent burning down of the house).

Second Thoughts (refusal of the call)


"Joe Sr.'s Passing/The Duel Scene"

Shannon rescues Joseph from a duel. Even still, he is reluctant to trust her.

The Gunshot (Plot Point 2: point of no return)


"Leaving Home"

On a ship bound for America, Shannon tells Joseph all about the race to the free land in Oklahoma. He is still reluctant to believe or trust her. Regardless, he feels a little hopeful for the prospect of some land to call his own.

Pit Stops (rising action part 1)


"Burning the Manor House"
"Blowing Off Steam"
"Fighting for Dough"
"Am I Beautiful?"

They get a job in a factory to earn money to make it to Oklahoma, but then Joseph starts fighting for money. Even though they are rooming together while pretending to be siblings, they start to feel attracted to each other.

The Halfway Point (Plot Point 3: midpoint)


"The Big Match"

The big fight puts a lot on the line as far as being able to earn enough money for the chance to get their own land. Plus, the romantic subplot adds depth to the storyline.

Runner’s High (rising action part 2)


"Inside the Mansion"
"Shannon is Shot"
"Joseph's Dream"

Shannon’s family has left Ireland to look for her. Inside an empty mansion, Joseph and Shannon share a first kiss. Soon after, Shannon is shot and when Joseph looks for help, he finds her family. They still shun him.

The Wall (Plot Point 4: rock bottom)


"The Reunion"

Shannon is reunited with her old love, Stephen Chase. Joseph feels all is lost. No hope for land and no hope for love. He joins the railroad company laying track.

Final Sprint (the final push)


"Oklahoma Territory"

Joseph realizes the wagon train parallel to the tracks and runs across the fields to join up with the land seekers, hope renewed.

The Finish Line (Plot Point 5: climax)


"The Land Race"

Joseph and all the others race on horses and wagons to claim their land. He and Shannon join hands when planting their stake into the lot of land.

After Party (falling action/resolution


"Settling with Steven/The Race to the River"
"Joseph and Shannon"
"Book of Days"
"End Credits"

Shannon finally rejects Stephen, once and for all. Joseph and Shannon kiss on their own new piece of land. ...and that’s all folks!


For more plot summaries, you can check out Wonder Woman, Comes A Wind, or My Girl 2.


What's YOUR favorite movie? Share your comment here.



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Friday, March 22, 2019

The Shape of a Story


Kurt Vonnegut is famous for his rejected master’s thesis on the shape of a story. He proposed that there are six distinct story shapes that can be applied to any story. These six shapes are the emotional arc of three types of stories (and their opposites). Two additional shapes have also been added, for a total of eight different emotional arcs for stories. Vonnegut’s thesis has since been scientifically proven.

  1. Man in Hole
  2. Boy Meets Girl
  3. From Bad to Worse
  4. Which Way is Up?
  5. Creation Story
  6. Old Testament
  7. New Testament
  8. Cinderella

While I’m not going to dive into Vonnegut’s story shapes today, I propose a different kind of story shape.

Kurt Vonnegut is famous for his rejected master’s thesis on the shape of a story. He proposed that there are six distinct story shapes that can be applied to any story. These six shapes are the emotional arc.

Story vs. Plot


The story shapes Vonnegut observed were based on emotional arcs. But story is much more than an emotional arc. Story must include characters, conflict, plot, and theme. Working together, these elements allow someone to feel emotion in the first place.

So what’s the difference between story and plot? Story is the bigger picture. To tell a story, you have to have those four main elements: character, conflict, plot, and theme. Technically, you can tell a story without theme, but no one would care. Theme is what elevates your story to make it better so that people care. It’s what someone gets out of your story and how they apply that emotion to their own lives.

Plot, on the other hand, is merely another element of story. Plot is what happens in the story, the chronological sequence of events, even if you’re dealing with flashbacks and foreshadowing. Plot is action. And plot has a very specific shape - applicable to all stories, no matter what emotional shape it takes on.

The Shape of a Plot Diagram


While there are actually several different plot diagrams, there is basically one overarching simplistic shape of a story’s plot: the witch’s hat.

The left brim is the exposition. The left slope up to the peak is the rising action. The right slope down to the right brim is the falling action. And the right brim is the resolution. But if you read my last post, What Are the Parts of a Story Arc?, then you’ll know how I feel about the simplistic witch’s hat model of story narrative.

The squashed witch’s hat is more like a beret. Kind of. The left brim and slope are the same, but the right slope and brim get merged and shortened.

To give you a better understanding of this plot diagram, I’m going to share with you three different stories to help solidify the shape.

Plot Structure of a Novel


The three examples I’m giving (aside from the already given witch’s hat imagery) to help shape plot diagram are roller coaster, road trip, and marathon. I’m saving the best for last. The marathon method is nearly a one-for-one match. Hold on tight.

Remember, the falling action includes the resolution. I’m adding in another plot point in addition to the climax. The inciting incident is the first plot point and the climax is the fifth and final plot point. There are others, but I’m trying to keep this as simple as possible.

Roller Coaster Plot Example


Exposition = standing in line
Inciting Incident = getting on the roller coaster
Rising Action = climbing to the top of the roller coaster
Climax = the initial free fall and fast-paced exhilaration
Falling Action = coming to the end of the ride and dismounting the car

Road Trip (or Vacation) Plot Example


Exposition = planning to go on a trip and getting packed
Inciting Incident = gassing up the car
Rising Action = driving to your destination (the other three plot points in the middle are stopping at the gas station)
Climax = arriving to your destination
Falling Action = enjoying your time once there

Marathon Plot Example


Exposition = living a healthy life as a runner
Inciting Incident = signing up for a marathon
Rising Action = running the race
Climax = crossing the finish line
Falling Action = enjoying the after party

I know this is a simplistic view of plot, but I hope it helped you to understand the shape of a story, or the shape of the more accurate squashed witch’s hat plot diagram. So the next time you pick up your pen (or keyboard) to write, remember to don your beret and cackle with the best of ‘em.

What do you think about a story shape being compared to a witch's hat? Share your comment here.



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