How to Write a Plot

how to write a plotSometimes, the hardest part of figuring out how to write a novel is deciding what to write about and how to plot it out. As you remember from our two-part blog post on how to write a novel, plot is essential when beginning your writing journey. You wouldn’t go on a road trip without mapping out your drive, would you? Writing a novel is like that. You need to map out where you’re going, otherwise you’ll write in circles without ever going anywhere. A plot keeps you on track.

What is a narrative arc?

A narrative arc is simply the natural progression any story should follow. Of course there are several narrative arc examples, but one of the most basic narrative arc templates is exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Pretty simple, isn’t it? Let’s go a little more in-depth into what each of these terms mean:

  • Exposition: introduction of the story, characters, themes
  • Rising Action: a series of events that begin to create tension or problems for the central character
  • Climax: the peak of the tension, all of the rising action has led to this moment, and this marks the change to falling action
  • Falling action: release of tension
  • Resolution: the end of the story, typically where things wrap up, or the tension is resolved between characters
  • Now that you know the narrative arc definition, we can discuss what this will look like in various types of books.

How to write a plot outline

How the plot/narrative arc looks will depend upon what type of book you’re writing. A narrative arc in nonfiction (so therefore a narrative arc in memoir), for example, won’t be as clearly defined as that of a fictional book, because it draws from real life. Real life isn’t always so cleanly laid out for us. Though, it is easier to construct a plot when writing nonfiction, because the plot is already established for you.

Fictional plots, however, require more effort on your part. First, you must establish the general story: what do you want to happen? What do you want to be the central conflict to me? Once you have a vague idea of what you want to happen, you can start to make more concrete decisions, like what will happen in the exposition–what characters will you introduce right away, how will you set the scene, how will you tease at the tension, etc.

Probably the most important part is getting the rising action right. You need to map out exactly how tensions will rise, what events will transpire, and what order they’ll occur in. As you write, these may change, but it’s crucial to have as stable an idea as you can. Writing a novel can take awhile, and as it can be mentally draining at times, you’ll be thankful you have something you can consult to make certain you’re headed in the right direction.

Follow your ideas

No one can tell you how to write a good plot: these things are subjective. You either have an idea for a story, or you don’t. Whether that idea is good will come down to how you treat it. If you do all the research you can, plot the story out, and stick to the plot (while understanding that some things will need to change with the organic flow of the story), then you’ll be in good shape. Stick to your ideas and follow your writerly instincts. You’ll be ready for publication in no time!