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Author Life 3: Plotting

Welcome to part three of my author life series. This week I’m going to help you lay down the bones of your novel. If you haven’t yet read them, I recommend you check out part one and part two of this series first.

Plotters v Pantsers

There’s a lot to be said for writing by the seat of your pants, and some fantastic authors such as Stephen King write this way. However, I’m sure you’ll find that most authors make notes of their ideas and characters. I switched to plotting early in my career. I had to trash 30K words because I had painted myself into a corner and had to rewrite most of the book. It was heartbreaking but a valuable lesson. Now I plot all my books and find it to be an invaluable tool.


There’s a quote on the wall in my writing room, which I have referred to many times in my blog. ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ It’s so true. It can be overwhelming and offputting trying to plot a whole book from beginning to end. The good thing is, you don’t have to. A vague idea is often enough to get your book off the ground. The best tool in my writing armoury is a spreadsheet. It’s so easy to use. I plot about seventy chapters horizontally, with a couple of lines in each box. Quite often, lots of the boxes are empty to begin with, then as time goes on they get filled up. Above the chapter numbers are colour coded boxes to show whose point of view the chapter is written in. You can see a snapshot of my timeline template below.

Story Structure

There are so many ways to plot your book. I like to use the method above when it comes to my story arc. Check out the three-act story structure, which is used by screenwriters and novelists worldwide. You can read a very educational post on it here. They are currently offering a free course on the subject too. I also recommend the book, ‘Save The Cat.’ You can find lots of useful tips and advice on their site here, as well as breakdowns (beat sheets) and analysis of popular movies. It’s fascinating, but be warned – you may never look at a movie in the same way again. If beat sheets are too much for you at this stage, find out more about how to plot a novel in a very simple but effective style here. Just remember that nothing is set in stone and you can change your story as the characters come to life.


The main thing to remember is that this is meant to be fun. I love this part of the book, when ideas and characters are flying around my head. I’ve always been a daydreamer, and I feel very fortunate that I now get paid for the luxury of doing what I love. Have you found a better way of plotting? Comments and questions appreciated below. Next week, we’ll progress your writing further. Good luck with plotting your book.

That’s all for this week. I hope you’ll join me for my next blog post. If you enjoyed my post do give it a like. Please note the small print: I don’t get a commission for the links that I share. They are external links and have no connection with me. My advice is solely as a result of my personal opinions and experiences, and my willingness to #payitforward Please don’t hold me responsible for any problems you may encounter during your writing journey. Images (except mine) are courtesy of stocksnap.

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