How to Plot A Complex Novel in One Day (It WILL take all day)

Now first, I have to say, that the plot you’re able to come up with in one day is not going to be without its flaws, but coming up with it all at once, the entire story unfolds right in front of you and makes you want to keep going with it. So, where to begin? 

  • What is your premise and basic plot? Pick your plot. I recommend just pulling one from this list. No plots are “original” so making yours interesting and complicated will easily distract from that fact, that and interesting characters. Characters will be something for you to work on another day, because this is plotting day. You’ll want the main plot to be fairly straight forward, because a confusing main plot will doom you if you want subplots. 
  • Decide who the characters will be. They don’t have to have names at this point. You don’t even need to know who they are other than why they have to be in the story. The more characters there are the more complicated the plot will be. If you intend to have more than one subplot, then you’ll want more characters. Multiple interconnected subplots will give the illusion that the story is very complicated and will give the reader a lot of different things to look at at all times. It also gives you the chance to develop many side characters. The plot I worked out yesterday had 13 characters, all were necessary. Decide their “roles” don’t bother with much else. This seems shallow, but this is plot. Plot is shallow. 
  • Now, decide what drives each character. Why specifically are they in this story? You can make this up. You don’t even know these characters yet. Just so long as everyone has their own motivations, you’re in the clear. 
  • What aren’t these characters giving away right off the bat? Give them a secret! It doesn’t have to be something that they are actively lying about or trying to hide, just find something that perhaps ties them into the plot or subplot. This is a moment to dig into subplot. This does not need to be at all connected to their drive to be present in the story.  Decide who is in love with who, what did this person do in the 70’s that’s coming back to bite them today, and what continues to haunt what-his-face to this very day. This is where you start to see the characters take shape. Don’t worry much about who they are or what they look like, just focus on what they’re doing to the story. 
  • What is going to change these characters? Now this will take some thinking. Everyone wants at least a few of the characters to come out changed by the end of the story, so think, how will they be different as a result of the plot/subplot? It might not be plot that changes them, but if you have a lot of characters, a few changes that are worked into the bones of the plot might help you.
  • Now list out the major events of the novel with subplot in chronological order. This will be your timeline. Especially list the historical things that you want to exist in backstory. List everything you can think of. Think about where the story is going. At this point, you likely haven’t focused too much on the main plot, yeah, it’s there, but now really focus on the rising actions, how this main plot builds its conflict, then the climactic moment. Make sure you get all of that in there. This might take a few hours. 
  • Decide where to start writing. This part will take a LOT of thinking. It’s hard! But now that you’ve got the timeline, pick an interesting point to begin at. Something with action. Something relevant. Preferably not at the beginning of your timeline - you want to have huge reveals later on where these important things that happened prior are exposed. This is the point where you think about what information should come out when. This will be a revision of your last list, except instead of being chronological, it exists to build tension. 
  • Once you’ve gotten the second list done, you’ve got a plot. Does it need work? Probably. But with that said, at this point you probably have no idea who half your characters are. Save that for tomorrow, that too will be a lot of work. 

After you’ve plotted the loose structure of your novel from this, see my next post to work on character

This writing advice was so helpful that it deserved its own picture heading.

A huge part of writing is cause and effect, but when worrying about conflict, resolution, characters, the plot as a whole, and more, we tend to forget about this and our stories end up being described as “this happens and then this happens and then this happens…”

So a piece of writing advice from Matt Stone and Trey Parker addressing this completely changed the way I plot and I ended up flying through my outlines with full plots in a very short amount of time. Here’s the advice:

When you are outlining/summarizing your story, you should be able to put “because of this” or “therefore” between each scene/event.

This keeps the story going. It connects everything together to make it one narrative instead of a series of slightly connected short stories. Once you start describing your story as “this happens and then this happens”, then you’ve got a problem. Everything should transition easily in a connected narrative.

This might seem like an obvious thing, but I know a lot of writers, including myself, who tend to forget about it.


Hello, writerly friends~ ♥︎

It’s finally here! I’ve finally gotten around turning my old planning guide into a video series– and just in time for NaNoWriMo!

Over the course of a couple of years of running this blog I’ve gotten tons of writing questions, and without a doubt the #1 question I’ve gotten is: “Max, how do *you* plan a novel?” Well, click on the video above to find out how I go about brainstorming, fleshing out, and plotting a book! :D

This planning guide is broken into two parts. The video above should be annotated to take you to the second part, otherwise feel free to click on this link!

► Want more writing advice videos? Subscribe to me on Youtube!

And, of course, if you want your daily dose of writerly advice, positivity, and prompts, then make sure follow my blog:! ★
Top 10 Plotting Probs

This post comes to us from, Alicia Rasley. Hit it, Alicia!

#10. Too Much Backstory: Well-meaningly, you try to give the reader too much infor too fast, leaving nothing for them to wonder about!

#9. Boring Beginning: Basically, the story doesn’t get going soon enough, there’s no reason to read on. Remember Fault in Our Stars? *SOBS* How long does it actually take before Hazel meets the ever-intriguing Augustus? Exactly what I’m talking about!

#8. Unsatisfying or Glossed Over Conclusion: You want your ending to feel right for the story. This is what the protagonist has worked for (or, alternatively, worked to stop). Make sure everything has a fitting end.

#7. Saggy Middle: Remember, friends, the middle is a non-stop rise of tension and intrigue. It isn’t just a way to get from the beginning to the climax, it’s the majority of your story. You have to keep testing your protagonist, set bigger and bigger obstacles in their way!

#6. Too Many Characters with a Story: The story happens because of the protagonist, not Palace Guard #2. I’m sure he’s a great guy, and yes, he can be present in the story if he adds something, but I don’t need his history and contact info.

#5. Bad Pacing: What events are essential to the story? Which are more important than others? What events set-up the climax? All good questions, Me. Thanks for ripping them off bringing them up.

#4. Coincidence!: There’s nothing more dissatisfying than a story that solves itself without the characters having to do anything. IF I WANTED TO SEE A LAZY BUTT DO NOTHING I’D BUY A MIRROR,.

#3. No/ Not enough Conflict: “But, we love our characters!” We also want them to learn and grow, and since nobody wants to change a fundamental part of themselves, it’s going to take a lot of suffering before they can get it through their skulls that they actually might hurting themselves, or those they care about, by remaining the same.

#2. The Structure Sucks: Hidden protagonist, meandering setups, a protagonist who wouldn’t likely be involved in the story if not for the author- all symptoms of suckiness in structural regions. The cure? Understanding the structure of your story, the questions set forth in the very beginning, and how you’ll resolve them.

#1. Passive/Unmotivated Protagonist: The main character is the one that causes the story to happen, or, as Ms.Rasley puts it, “the protagonist should be involved in nearly every event, and his decisions and actions should drive the plot." It’s their story, after all! 

Let's Talk Sub-Plots and Character Arcs: Time to Work on Character

Now, if you’ve read my post “How to Plot A Complex Novel in One Day,” here’s your next step. It’s character day! Now let’s think about those characters you came up with. You know a little bit about them, but now let’s look deeper, get them more rounded out so some will even carry their own sub-plots and a good number of them will show some kind of genuine development. Remember, when you first plotted out the novel (if you followed this from my last post), you were looking at the role of the character, a character with a role to play may require development to be fleshed out, but also might not. How you pick and choose who gets the air time and who doesn’t is really going to depend on what potential they have as you continue plotting. Let’s get this show on the road: 

  • List out all your characters. I suggest making a list just so you don’t forget about anyone and you’ve got them all there in front of you at once. It can be hand written on paper or on a word document - it doesn’t matter, it’s up to you. Just having the list is a good idea. 
  • Write down next to each character’s name what drives them. What are their motivations? Why are they a necessary part of the story at all? The more necessary they are to the story the more likely they will need to be fleshed out and seem like dynamic characters. Do these characters have any secrets? Write that down too - write down whatever the character is outwardly telling people. It may be a secret or it could just be something that doesn’t come up in conversation. Either way, it’s something your readers will as the character becomes more rounded out. 
  • Now actually think about these characters’ personalities. Don’t go too wild filling out 100 question character sheets. This could take hours anyway with only a few characters to work on. Just go with the basics:  1) Character’s name (first name or nickname is fine at this point, it can still be changed) 2) A few general concepts about what kind of a person they are (can be taken from the stuff you’ve already decided about them) 3) Personality traits (pick 4 or 5 - roughly half positive, half negative) 4) Personality type Indicators - give them a Zodiac sign and/or a Meyer-Briggs Type if you find this helpful and can do it fairly quickly. 5) Dreams and Aspirations - this can be quick, but this is important. Not only does it tell a lot about the character, but it gives opportunity to engage in character arcs and subplots. 
  • A deeper look into those Dreams and Aspirations. The important thing here is that most characters will want more than one thing. Say the character wants to go into business. He’ll want that top job, but beyond that he’s still got a life, maybe he wants a wife and kids too - this is a very quick generalization, but you get the point. The other things that a character wants are going to create subplot. This is why it so easily takes shape as a love story, but really it could be anything. 
  • Now character arcs: these also have to do with the characters’ dreams and aspirations. These come into play when the character’s dreams are challenged and when conflicts arise. You don’t have to know what these arcs will look like just yet if you’re not really into planning out your whole story, but here are things to think about: what happens if the dream they had is made impossible? What happens when they fail drastically? What would happen if they actually got what they wanted? Character arcs are where personality meets conflict. The character will be changed by this conflict or come out with some realization about themselves or their situation. This is the character arc. 

Now you’ve got a lot going on in this novel. It’s a good thing. Now just make sure you stay on top of these characters! Don’t let any of this hard work go to waste! Happy writing!

brispeak asked:

I see you give all these people such great advice and I have this huge problem so I thought I'd ask you. In my novel there's this conspiracy theory that turns out to be true but I want it to sound as if this conspiracy theory is the most unbelievably, unrealistic thing possible in this universe. I want them to be utterly convinced that the believers in this theory are nut jobs well before they find out that it is indeed true. What's your advice?

To make a conspiracy theory you need the following ingredients

  • An event
  • Someone asking a question. Sometimes the question
  • Evidence
  • Logic
  • People willing to believe in a conspiracy theory
  • People willing not to believe a conspiracy theory

After you’ve gathered all those ingredients, you need.

  • A context

Now the recipe

  1. Choose your event .It can be an accident, the death of a public figure, a natural disaster, a war, a terrorist attack, something related to the food industry, or to the health system, an abandoned place, a moment in history, even dates can be a conspiracy theory.
  2. Show information related to your event. The what and how the information is presented is crucial for the next step. (X person died and X person was killed are not the same, just like We are eating human meat! and X industry is putting human meat in our food)
  3. Now the question. First, who’s asking the question (it’s not the same a respectable figure than the guy who’s always seeing conspiracy theories). Second, what kind of question the conspiracy theory wants to answer, you already have what or who (your event), you can use: how, why, who else is related, who gave the order, how they kept it hidden, who’s helping, when did it start, and the most important, why they haven’t told us everything about the event.
  4. On this step you have to provide evidence to support the answers to your questions. You can get evidence from everywhere and any kind of evidence can help you.
  5. Let your event and your questions rest for a few minutes and work on the evidence and information. For this you will need logic. Any logic that to your eyes makes sense will work. A leads to B; B leads to C, ergo A leads to C. Water contains iron, therefore any kind of beberage contains iron. Remember it has to make sense to some people.
  6. Don’t forget the context. A conspiracy theory about war in peacefull times is not the same than a war conspiracy theory during war times.
  7. Mix everything and make public your conspiracy theory. If it gets viral, even better. Some people will believe it, some other people won’t. But that’s the idea.
  8. Congratulations! You have a conspiracy theory to feed the hungry.

Things to keep in mind:

Many conspiracy theories are about things civilian population can’t prove true or false. How are we suppose to know our world leaders are humans and not reptilians? How can we know the meat we eat comes from cows and not from horses? How can we know, for sure, if the moon landing was real and not fake? How can we know Homer actually existed?

Some conspiracy theories have more than one event. Tesla made a machine to create earthquakes, X government stole that machine, they have kept said machine in an abandoned area or a military area and they used that machine to create the earthquake that stroke Indonesia in 2004 to warn the reptilians about a conspiracy theory related to them (I just made that up).

Some people live under the motto, everything is a conspiracy theory until proven true. The reason why they believe in conspiracy theories is one of questions you have to answer in your novel. Why they choose to believe in certain conspiracy theories while others are left behind? And how are they trying to warn the rest of the population about the event? Do they yell on the streets? Do they protest? Do they send chain emails? Do they test certain food or vaccine?

Who are the people who believe in conspiracy theories? Do they dress in a certain way? Do they carry something with them, like Homer wasn’t real? Have they modified some part of their bodies to be noticed? What are their resources? If you want people to see them nuts, show them doing  unusual things to prove their theory, show mass media mocking them for believing in a different version of a story or history. How the government reacts towards them, the police, the army, the church?

Some others questions, how  will be your conspiracy theory proven true? Do its believers have everything they need in order to prove it true or someone or something (like an institution or an organization) is helping them?

Here are some links that can help you to get a better idea:

A brief history of conspiracy theories

A theory of conspiracy theories

How conspiracy theories work

The normal life of crazy conspiracy theories

Why people believe conspiracy theories

The worlds top 15 conspiracy theories of all time

18 “Conspiracy theories” that were proven true

25 Conspiracy theories that turned out to be true

Good luck with your conspiracy theory (:


krispykalle asked:

Hello! I just need some advice on a bad writing habit of mine. I'm a natural daydreamer so I typically walk around in circles, repeating lines aloud to myself a hundred times before I even write on paper. To me, this method seems really...well, it's not working out. Do you have nay advice on how I can put my words on paper? Sorry, if I'm not making any sense. Also, I love your blog to pieces and really appreciate the help you give writers like me!

The leap from daydream to page is sometimes hard to deal with, because it’s so perfect in your head and on the page it’s just a mess. I get it, I do, but you have to create that mess in order to get to the perfect image that is in your head. That’s what drafting is for.

  • Take notes. Take as much as you can. Don’t let it bounce around your head, put it done and organize it. No writer can pluck everything from their head; you have to get it down in order to make sense of it.
  • Create order. Again, there’s this idea that writers can just live in their head and the words just poor out, but it’s actually just a lot of work and rework until the story gets down. You need to outline where you want to go and what you want to do. You need to organize your writing in ways that work for you. Treat it like schoolwork.
  • Daydream, but also write. Two of the projects I’m working on that I’m thrilled about have actually been ‘daydreams’ that have been bouncing around my head for ages. I didn’t think I could make anything of them, until suddenly, I did. But I also realized they had to grow and change from those dreams, and I never would have known that if they had just stayed in my head.
  • Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t be afraid to put your ideas to page, don’t be afraid to change them. If you don’t get it down, it won’t get a chance to grow.

I’ve been where you’ve been, and while it’s fun to keep your ideas in your head, you’ve got to get them down and get some order to them before they will really work for you. And not all ideas are ready yet - take your strongest ones and work on them, and let the others float around for awhile until you’re ready to write them. But you clearly care about them, and they deserve to be written. Good luck!

Agent Black