The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Plot


The basic inception stage: 1. The idea. 2. The germination. 3. The scribbles. *Dream and playing with your story.

The taking shape stage: 1. The beginning. 2. The middle. 3. The end. *It’s becoming more clear! Awesome!

Now you are ready to dive deeper into your story. This is what I call…

The outlining and crafting stage: 1. The set up and inciting event (15-25%) This is where you set the stage and present an event that kicks off the adventure or thrusts your main character into the over arching end goal, desire, conflict or need.  2. The ups and downs (50-70%) This is where your character(s) will face conflicts, challenges, and surprises, and must get around them to reach their goals. 3. The climax (15-25%) This is where your main character comes into everything that has been building up and the showdown happens.

In order to get to the third stage, its useful for me to boil down plot to the bare bones by asking questions–What is the essence of my story: Where and when will this story take place? Who is my main character and what does she want?

Go deeper: How will she get what she wants? What will stop my her from reaching her goal? Who is along for the journey, either for or against her? Which transformations do I foresee taking place? When and where will it end?

There are lots more questions to ask, and the farther along, there will be even more…however, start simple, and if you must, use a “cheat sheet”.

Here is my cheat sheet: Instead of using a blank page or plot outline with blank lines that I have to fill in, I find a book that feels close to my idea either in pacing, theme, voice, or genre. I scribble out a rough outline of that story. I study it… How did they open the story? Introduce the character? Set up the inciting event? What was the inciting event? How long until they formed a plan? Ran into their first conflict? I’m a visual person and it helps me to see how someone else did it. Their planning, helps my planning. I can see which event goes where. Then, I fill in my own plot outline along side theirs. I find that my own story’s clarity emerges much faster. Eventually, my plot overtakes the page and their outline is tossed away.

After you have done this, you will have a clear picture of where your story is going and you can pour your heart into writing. Later, you may need to stop again to outline the even more complex layers that have developed: Sub plots, character depth, backstory, etc. But hey, save that for another day.

Happy writing.


Nova, signing off.





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