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Plotting an Outline: Finish your story on time

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” – Anais Nin

I’ve heard numerous Authors discuss how they detest plotting storylines because the process detracts from the natural creative process of writing; preferring instead to write when the whim strikes. This method of writing often manifests as random scribblings on fly away post-it notes and envelopes meant for the cable or gas bill. While this whimsical approach may work for a few, it certainly isn’t the most advisable route.

Why? Writing in a free-flow or non-structured state of mind allows the writer to only delve into the story when he feels the ‘creative juices’. In this case, he is more susceptible to the distraction of the latest cat memes chasing around Facebook and before he knows it, hours have gone by. Plotting the story will give the Author a jumping in point each day and the willpower to shut off the Wi-Fi (except for the occasional connection to google to research a different word in place of the one he keeps using). If he knows exactly what to write next, he will focus on writing each scene and finish the book more or less on time.

Plotting the story out first will also cut down on time and money spent once the editor sends the manuscript back for suggestions on re-writing and fleshing out characters, tying up loose plot points or adding conflict to make it more interesting. An organic writing process can cause a bunch of back and forth between the writer and Editor before the story is ready for the market. Though every book written needs an Editor to review it and revise it, there will be less volleying between the Author and Editor if a plot is planned well.

What are the key elements to a plot? I’m glad you asked. There are a number of ways to plot a story, but here is the most basic type of structure.


Authors should keep a chart on each character. What are their attributes, their strengths, weaknesses, etc. What motivates them through the story? Did they have a tough childhood? Are they seeking revenge or retribution? Chart out their backgrounds so that the Author knows who each character really is, whether or not they use the details is not the point. They have to intimately know each character they are writing about.

Call to Action:

Keep the story moving with action and dialogue between the characters. As the story builds toward the middle, there should be surprises and twists along the way that add to the conflict. Remember that too much description can make the story boring, keep it moving along!


This should be the approximate middle of the book. At this point, everything that has been building will come to a head. By this point, your reader is so concerned for your characters that he can’t put your book down.

A Softening:

Toward the middle of the second half of the book, characters should start to see the light or experience changes of heart. Or the bad guy might make that crucial mistake that leads to his capture. This is to set up the resolution at the end.


The Author ties up all plot twists and characters resolve their differences or resolve to never resolve them, whichever makes sense. This is the conclusion of all things…or where a cliffhanger can be added for a sequel. And if the Author plots the story well enough, the reader will want to continue with the second installment!

Remember that BookFuel has many services to help the self-publishing Author! Our Editors are top-notch and can help you hammer out missing pieces that will make your story more compelling.

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