I’ve been plotting novels and short stories for some years now, but that doesn’t mean I think I know everything that needs to be known on the subject. Because of this, I continually borrow books from the library, or purchase them if they are being sold at the right price, to ensure I’m not doing things the hard way, or I’m not forgetting to do something altogether.
I recently borrowed a book called How to Plot Your Novel by Jean Saunders. It’s a relatively old book, but in this case the content is still viable. I didn’t read the entire book (and rarely do with this type of book as I usually pick out the sections of interest to me), but I wanted to share – in point form – the main items I got from the book.
- Find a theme you are passionate about.
- Know the kind of book you want to write.
- Keep the proposed length within publishing bounds and plot your novel to appeal to the widest audience.
- Create good characters, who you know well, and who have real motivation and goals.
- Learn how to ask yourself questions such as “What if…?”
- Scenes and chapters should be linked together.
- Throw the reader a curve now and then, without relying on coincidences.
- Don’t allow your story to sag in the middle by sustaining pace and keeping control of your characters.
- Dramatic scenes need their calming counterparts.
- End your story without leaving loose ends, and leaving the reader feeling satisfied.
I believe the points outlined above are common sense, but should be reiterated often because it seems that many books being published these days are not paying attention to these important details. Hence, the quality of reading is lowered and the chance of the author becoming a best seller slim.
If you’re a writer and you can place a tick beside each of the above, then you’re off to a great start. Naturally, there are other items that could be put on the list too, but these are the essential ones, in my opinion.