How To Plot A Novella: 3 Tips

Want to plot a novella? Avoid complex, multi-layered plots.

How to plot a novella: keep it simple

Think of a novella as a stripped-down version of a novel. If you were writing a novel you’d have time to write leisurely scenes, expand on minor characters, create a subplot or two… in a novella, you need to stick to the point.

The point is: the story question.

These tips will help you to plot a novella so that you can breeze through your novella in seven days or less. (One writer wrote his novella in two days.)

1. Use a mind map or Trello to lay out your scenes

I use both mind maps and Trello to plan all my writing, but use whatever works for you.

How to use Trello to plot a novella or novel:

  • Create a board for the project;
  • Next, create your first list: the story question. This is your most important list. Knowing what your story question is is essential to building your plot. Once you’ve answered the story question, the novella is finished.
  • Your next three lists on the board are for your plot: setup, midpoint, and climax;
  • Populate those three lists with cards. Add one card per scene to those three plotting lists;
  • While writing, create additional lists and cards as you need them. You might want lists for revision notes and research, for example.

2. Write FAST in your first draft (this stops your internal editor derailing you)

Your creative self slides off the rails easily, especially if you think too much. If you’re writing slowly, this article on creative anxiety may help, because:

Writing demands focus. You’re shutting out the world to concentrate on a scene between characters in your imagination, or on ideas you’re trying to capture in words.

Use the power of streaks if you’re anxious. You might create a streak to write for 20 minutes without lifting your fingers from the keyboard, for example.

The BIG benefit of using writing streaks is that your anxiety dissipates when you’re writing, rather than thinking.

3. Use “XXX” liberally

Tempted to stop to check the spelling of a word, or to research something? Don’t stop. Mark the spot with XXX and keep writing.

At the end of that day’s writing session, go back to create tasks out of each XXX. Some XXXs won’t need a task — you can look up a word’s spelling in seconds.

Other XXXs take longer. You might want to think carefully about how you introduce a character, or describe the setting of a scene. Create a task for each XXX in your novella’s Trello board.

Struggling to plot a novella? Start writing

Writing is always the fix for any challenges you face with your writing. Here’s why: solutions will appear while you’re writing.

Let’s say you’re struggling with your plot because you’re writing a novella of 20,000 words and you know you need 15 scenes. Your brain stalls at ten scenes.

Start writing. If you’re using Trello, add placeholder cards for those five scenes. Keep writing. You’ll get ideas for those scenes… but only if you keep writing.

Not sure about how many scenes in…? This graphic will help.

Most importantly if you want to plot a novella — have fun with it. 🙂


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