The Ultimate Guide to Plotting Your Novel Without Thinking

Look, we’ve all been there before. You have this great idea for a book, but then you realize you have to make a plot to go with it…and you die a little on the inside. Maybe you do a simple Google search like “How to plot a novel”, click on the first article, and die even more because all of the methods you got required actual thinking! Thinking is hard, people!

Fear not. In today’s post, I’m showing you the 100% effective plotting method so easy, you won’t have to break a sweat. It should be noted that I tested this method out on my own ideas. If it doesn’t work OR you want to give up, sue me. I took bits and pieces of other methods for this one, so some of it may seem familiar. Let’s start, shall we?

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Developing the Idea

1. Start by writing what you know your book is going to be about.

If you have a pretty good starting idea, it may look something like, “Young boy must save his planet from alien invaders who like cheese.” If you don’t, it may only be one word, such as “assassins” or “dystopian”. Think of this step as your elevator pitch; there’s no wrong way to do this. Here’s mine (as stated above): Young boy must save his planet from alien invaders who like cheese. I don’t know where I’m going from there until I do the next step.

2. List all the elements that must be in the story.

You have your idea; now you just have to elaborate. You might already know several things about the story you have no idea you know, be it tropes, settings, characters, plot points, etc. List everything you know about your story, and I do mean list:

I color-coded mine, but you don’t have to.

If you’re having trouble forming sub-ideas, try to create a mental image of your story. If you were to sum your story in one image, what would the image look like? Is it peaceful or is it an action scene? If so, what events led up to this action scene? Are there characters in it, or is it a landscape? If there are characters in it, what are they doing and why?

3. Research the things you aren’t sure about

Although it’s more important to get words down than to get facts correct for the first draft, researching can give you ideas you might not get otherwise.

A lot of people think that they should be focusing on the actual idea while it is fresh in their brain, but it’s tough to do one thing for extended periods of time. Use this time to take a break and do research on things you feel curious about. For example, I’m not a specialist on asteroids, so I did a quick Google search and found out that an asteroid a mile wide is of sufficient size to destroy Earth.

This, of course, led me to wondering about the existing methods we could use to prevent a strike and which forms of life would most likely survive if Earth was hit by the aforementioned mile-long asteroid (explode it into less dangerous smithereens, use gravity to alter its course; and mammals would suffer the greatest extinction rate but adapt the quickest, however, some animals, such as birds that could eat long-lasting seeds and smaller organisms survived because they were just built for it.

I hope that research gave you plenty of ideas to keep you going. If it didn’t, keep researching, but start from something completely unrelated to your idea and work your way back home. Proceed to the next step when you have ideas running around your head again

  • Go on a wormhole on Wikipedia by clicking a random article and the links within that article until your knowledge transcends time.
  • Go to an online dictionary and find a random word you know nothing about. Click on the links within that article.
What I added to my brainstorming list after going through a Wikipedia wormhole.

4. Now come up with all possible scenes in the story.

Thank goodness you have so much knowledge in your brain, it’s practically spilling over! Right? Now it’s time for the hard part. Look over your list of ideas and research. If your story was a movie, is there any scene that would absolutely need to be included to make it work? Or is there anything cool on your list that you must write a scene about?

Think of it as a storyboard, except it’s out of order and doesn’t have any pictures.

Make a seperate list of all possible action scene ideas ranked from the most amount of action to the least amount of action, and then make another list going from the most amount of emotion to the least amount of emotion. Feel free to add more lists if it helps you. Here are my action scenes:

So TECHNICALLY I put them in the opposite order, but whatever!

As you do this step and the ones before it, constantly refine the original list of story elements you created. You might find yourself deleting things and replacing them with other things, or editing the things that happen. The best part? You don’t even have to think.

Putting the Plot Together

1. Write a blurb for your story

By now, you should have a developed idea of the plot. You should know who the protagonist is, what their motivation is, who/what the antagonist is, and the general genre and setting, which is coincidentally just enough information to write a blurb. Think of it as a more elaborate version of your first elevator pitch. Keep in mind that eloquence is not your main focus here; rather it’s to create a goal that you can compare your story to later on.

5. Create charts and diagrams of your ideas!

Until you organize your ideas, that’s all they are: ideas.

With all those ideas swirling around in your brain and your lists looking like the fifth circle of hell, one thing’s clear: You need to organize your ideas. The best way to do this is to create flowcharts, timelines, and other types of graphic organizers that will hopefully put your plot into chronological order. This sounds challenging; in reality, all you have to do is take the scenes from the previous section, put them into an order that logically makes sense, and fill in the blanks.

When you are doing your timeline, make sure that your emotional/action/etc. scenes are evenly spread out throughout the story so that there aren’t any pacing issues with it. The timeline creator I linked to above lets you assign each event a color, so I chose to assign each type of scene a different color. When you view the timeline as a whole, you should see a wide variety of colors scattered through it, with no section having a lot more of one color than the rest of the timeline.

3. Create subplots and refine the main plot.

Typically, stories have more than one plot running through them. For example, if you’ve ever read a fantasy book where the main character tries to slay a dragon while dealing with their love life, the dragon-slaying is the main plot while the romance is the subplot. You should have subplots in your story too, but be sure that the follow the three basic rules of subplots: that they serve to enhance the main plot, that they never overtake the main plot, and that the subplots build on one another. I give more info about this here, as well as other information that will help make your plot the best it can be.

Another problem writers have when coming up with the plot is their inability to cut out scenes that don’t do anything. To prevent this, give each character a clear goal for every scene, preferably one that is related to the climax. If you can’t think of a plot-relevant one, take that scene out. If you don’t, the scene will only feel tension-lacking and altogether pointless. You would do well to establish more twists in the plot altogether as well, giving plot twists the appropriate amount of foreshadowing and subverting the audience’s expectations.

Additional Plotting Tips:

  • Use sticky notes or keep a journal for when inspiration strikes you at an unusual time.
  • If you’re stuck on something, move on. It’ll come to you later.
  • Pinterest is an awesome source for coming up with ideas (just search ‘steampunk aesthetic’ or ‘fantasy art’ and you’ll see what I mean).
  • If you’re having a hard time with anything, switch how you’re writing. If you make diagrams and write on a computer, switch to pen and paper and vice versa.
  • Think of the worst thing that could happen to one of the characters at any given scene, and that’s probably what needs to happen.
  • Write about what interests you!
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Thanks for sticking with me to the end, writer! Best of luck on your future endeavors, may all your sentences be blessed, and have a wonderful day! 😀

3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Plotting Your Novel Without Thinking

  1. Those tips are really cool. I loved the way you color coded the specific aspects of a novel plus the diagrammatic way. This way I think things get more organised and clear thinking is possible otherwise things can get all jumbled up after writing a good number of pages. I think your whole blog is quite unique.

    Do check out my blog. I have got some good travel content which you might like. Do follow if it interests you and help me grow.. Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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