Plotting Made Simple: The One-Hour Plotting Strategy

Want to learn a very simple, but powerful, plotting strategy?

Whether you’re plotting a new novel or are rescuing a novel that’s crashed off the rails, your plotting woes will end forever.

Plotting and the pain of pantsing novels

I’m an unabashed pantser. But… pantsing tends to be painful. In my first few years of writing fiction, I cringed away from plotting like a vampire shies away from garlic. That meant that I gave up on a lot of novels.

Fast forward a decade. My business book editor at Prentice Hall offered me a couple of fiction ghostwriting gigs. “You can do it,” he assured me. “Of course you can. You’ve published fiction.”

I couldn’t respond by sniveling — “yes, but I don’t know how to plot!”

So I had to teach myself an easy way to plot. I needed a simple and fun strategy, which combined plotting and pantsing.

Plotting: start with one or two characters

Over the years I developed a simple plotting method: start with a character, with a BIG problem. Once you have a character-creation template, you can create a new character in a minute or two. You can do this over and over again, until your plot (in any genre) is populated with likable characters readers love, and which will do all the heavy-lifting of plotting for you.

At last — a plotting strategy which doesn’t feel like plotting.

Why the one-hour plotting strategy is fun

When pantsing (that is, writing without a plot or an outline) goes well, it’s fun. You’re just telling yourself stories. Each day is exciting: you constantly surprise yourself, because you have no idea where your novel’s headed.

Unfortunately, pantsing is dangerous too because it can and does crash and burn. From one moment to the next, you can go from loving your novel (or novella) to thinking that it’s the greatest trash every written.

When that happens, if you’re ghostwriting, you know that somehow you have to get this load of garbage back on the rails. If you’re writing for yourself, you can set the unfinished novel aside. You’ll get back to it, you assure yourself. After all, your inspiration will come back, won’t it? (No, your inspiration won’t come back, sadly. When it goes, it’s gone.)

Every author develops his own plotting methods

I didn’t bother writing about my one-hour plotting strategy for years. A small part of me felt guilty: plotting was supposed to be hard work, but my one-hour strategy is FUN.

A few years ago, I started to teach the strategy to my students. It works for them, as it works for me. 

If you’re looking for an easy way to take charge of plotting your fiction, check it out. And have fun with it. 🙂


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