How to plot a novel.

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deddmann_writing
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How to plot a novel.

Postby deddmann_writing » Sat Oct 21, 2017 10:03 pm

This site suggests doing it backwards.
https://www.novel-writing-help.com/developing-a-plot.html

I found that interesting because an optimisation method called dynamic programming actually starts at the end and works back to the beginning.
Also the site lichess.org when it analyses a game by computer starts at the end and works backwards.
It would seem that the direct forward approach is not always optimal.



The start of the article:

You might think that the best way of developing a plot in a novel is to start at the beginning and work your way through to the end…

First, you introduce your central character living in their ordinary world.
Next, you furnish them with a goal by disrupting their status quo.
And so on, all the way through to the story’s conclusion.
If you are not the planning type, you will actually have no choice but to work from the beginning to the end.

Working out how the plot progresses is something you will need to do in your head as you write, and you simply won’t be able to write the second chapter until you know what happens in the first one.

The big danger of plotting a novel from front to back, particularly if you don’t have a huge amount of experience as a novel writer, is that it can lead to a lot of wasted work.

Writing a long work of fiction is a bit like making an argument. The conclusion of this argument – or the essence of the message that you want to get across – happens at the end. Everything that comes before this should contribute in some way to the final message.

When you are developing a plot chronologically, with no firm idea of the place you will end up at, it could well turn out that your conclusion isn’t supported by everything that came before it.

The ending
Working out a plot backwards – that is, knowing how the story ends in advance – doesn’t take all the fun out of storytelling. If you start at Point A and know you must finish up at Point B, there are still 1,001 different ways to get there.

It is simply that knowing your destination in advance allows you to write a tighter and more focussed story.

One of the biggest champions of knowing how a novel ends before you figure out how it starts (and everything that happens in between) is the novelist John Irving. As a matter of fact, Mr. Irving doesn’t just need to know the ending but the final words themselves. Here he is on the subject…

“I don’t begin a novel or a screenplay until I know the ending. And I don’t mean only that I have to know what happens. I mean that I have to hear the actual sentences. I have to know what atmosphere the words convey. Is it a melancholic story? Is there something uplifting or not about it? Is it soulful? Is it mournful? Is it exuberant? What is the language that describes the end of the story? And I don’t want to begin something – I don’t want to write that first sentence – until all the important connections in the novel are known to me. As if the story has already taken place, and it’s my responsibility to put it in the right order to tell it to you.”
As I have said countless times before, there are as many ways to write a novel as there are people writing novels. If it works for you but breaks every rule and suggestion in the book, so what?

The next time you start work on a novel, though, at least try out this idea of knowing how the novel ends before you return to the beginning and start plotting it chronologically.

Developing a plot with an ending firmly in mind is arguably much easier. And it should certainly lead to a stronger work of fiction.


This was by British author Harvey Chapman:
Harvey Chapman became interested in novel writing in his teens and set about teaching himself the rules of fiction.

Several hundred “how to” books and a dozen courses later, his novel hadn’t progressed very much… but he’d become an unwitting expert in the theory of how to write novels!

He figured his time would be best spent teaching folks what he’d learnt.

He founded Novel Writing Help in 2008 with the simple aim (albeit a slightly big-headed one) of becoming THE go-to resource for aspiring novel writers – newcomers and the more experienced alike.

Harvey lives and works in Woodbridge, England.

His hobbies include walking, plugging away at that unfinished novel and talking about himself in the third person.

You could read that as knowing all the theory won't help you write a novel.
But still that plotting tip is intriguing.

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Alice Holt
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Re: How to plot a novel.

Postby Alice Holt » Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:05 pm

Agreed. Sometime in the first 100 pages, I realized exactly how I wanted the story to end and the scene that would end it. So I feel I know where I'm going and can edit to make sure every scene is moving me to that ending. But I did not consciously set out to do that, it just came to me in a logical way while I was writing. Was it luck, or was it the writing of the story and scribbled notes of scenes to plug in at some point? I don't think the average unpublished writer with a modicum of talent (me) can come up with an ending independent of a story arc and a whole lotta pages.

deddmann_writing
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Re: How to plot a novel.

Postby deddmann_writing » Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:27 pm

Alice Holt wrote:
> Agreed. Sometime in the first 100 pages, I realized exactly how I wanted
> the story to end and the scene that would end it. So I feel I know where
> I'm going and can edit to make sure every scene is moving me to that
> ending. But I did not consciously set out to do that, it just came to me in
> a logical way while I was writing. Was it luck, or was it the writing of
> the story and scribbled notes of scenes to plug in at some point? I don't
> think the average unpublished writer with a modicum of talent (me) can come
> up with an ending independent of a story arc and a whole lotta pages.
===========

If you dont care where you are going any road will get you there. And whenever you stop writing that is the ending.

Some of us want to go to a specific location = ending, so we check the roadmap and figure out the best way to get to where we want to end up.
That avoids detours and deadends that need to be removed later with the time lost writing that verbiage along with effort of typing wasted.

It is easier to plan the sequence of scenes that get from here to there when you are looking at them at a high level where it is easy to spot the holes and remove extraneous scenes. It is easier to see the path through the woods from a balloon flying high than it is to see the path when you down in the jungle hacking your way through the trees and bushes.

Clearly the story arc will take you to some ending unless it is a bizarro non sequitur tacked on. The question is: is it the right ending for the story.

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ostarella
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Re: How to plot a novel.

Postby ostarella » Sun Oct 22, 2017 1:43 pm

Without once again moving into the tired plan/pants argument - road maps are fine if you just want to get to the end destination. Others enjoy the journey itself and take advantage of the wonderful side roads map makers miss.

If you write something you're happy with, who cares how you got there?

deddmann_writing
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Re: How to plot a novel.

Postby deddmann_writing » Sun Oct 22, 2017 3:51 pm

ostarella wrote:
> Without once again moving into the tired plan/pants argument - road maps
> are fine if you just want to get to the end destination. Others enjoy the
> journey itself and take advantage of the wonderful side roads map makers
> miss.
>
> If you write something you're happy with, who cares how you got there?
==========

The question is are you writing for the fun of just writing or are you writing to create the best novel you can; usually with the goal of publishing it and selling lots of copies. And do you want to write more novels better and faster, or just keep writing the same one without caring whtether you ever finish it.

The successful authors who write books with advice on writing novels seem to favor planning to some extent and try to avoid needless detours and side trips. With the average skewed towards more planning.

How much planning and how much just writing is certainly a personal choice. But the majority seem to think that making the ending good works better when you decided on that in advance.

Now if you arrive eventually at a good ending by your method then you certainly dont need anyones' blessing to do it that way. And when you have been published that would justify doing whatever you did. More so if you were successful with many readers and sales.
Too many authors write and never finish. That is why there are millions of unfinished mss in desk drawers.

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ostarella
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Re: How to plot a novel.

Postby ostarella » Sun Oct 22, 2017 5:38 pm

People can write for fun AND to create the best novel they can AND with the goal of getting published. They can also get published and sell well without planning their stories. It's done all the time.

And yes, many writers never finish what they start - and that has nothing to do with their writing method. It has to do with
1) not developing the habit of finishing what you start
2) giving up because you can't do it the way someone else tells you to
3) deciding the story just isn't what you want to write
4) losing interest in writing in general

And again, let's see some facts to back up the assertion that the majority of writers favor planning, and not just your count of "authors who write books with advice on writing novels" that you have chosen to read.

And please let us know how your novels are doing.

deddmann_writing
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Re: How to plot a novel.

Postby deddmann_writing » Sun Oct 22, 2017 5:50 pm

ostarella wrote:
> People can write for fun AND to create the best novel they can AND with the
> goal of getting published. They can also get published and sell well
> without planning their stories. It's done all the time.
>
> And yes, many writers never finish what they start - and that has nothing
> to do with their writing method. It has to do with
> 1) not developing the habit of finishing what you start
> 2) giving up because you can't do it the way someone else tells you to
> 3) deciding the story just isn't what you want to write
> 4) losing interest in writing in general
>
> And again, let's see some facts to back up the assertion that the majority
> of writers favor planning, and not just your count of "authors who
> write books with advice on writing novels" that you have chosen to
> read.
>
> And please let us know how your novels are doing.
=========

Sorry. The majority of real writers that are successful prefer more planning although many leave room for some pantsing as part of their process.
This is based on looking at the books and web sites they host telling others how to write.

My novel is doing just fine. Thanks for asking. I am taking the extreme planning approach so when I am ready to write it will be weeks from being finished. My goal is to be published traditionally not vanity published by some free website host. So I need to plan carefully to ensure that the entire novel including characters and subplots are all the best as can be when thrown together as a unified whole.

We hope your short story does well at glimmer train's contest.

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ostarella
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Re: How to plot a novel.

Postby ostarella » Sun Oct 22, 2017 6:29 pm

deddmann_writing wrote:

> =========
>
> Sorry. The majority of real writers that are successful prefer more planning
> although many leave room for some pantsing as part of their process.
> This is based on looking at the books and web sites they host telling others how to
> write.
>

Again, WILLIAM, show us FACTS to back up your claims. After all this time you should have had ample time to dig something up.


> My novel is doing just fine. Thanks for asking. I am taking the extreme planning
> approach so when I am ready to write it will be weeks from being finished. My goal
> is to be published traditionally not vanity published by some free website host. So
> I need to plan carefully to ensure that the entire novel including characters and
> subplots are all the best as can be when thrown together as a unified whole.

So in other words you still haven't started writing it.

deddmann_writing
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Re: How to plot a novel.

Postby deddmann_writing » Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:11 pm

ostarella wrote:
> deddmann_writing wrote:
>
> > =========
> >
> > Sorry. The majority of real writers that are successful prefer more planning
> > although many leave room for some pantsing as part of their process.
> > This is based on looking at the books and web sites they host telling others how
> to
> > write.
> >
>
> Again, WILLIAM, show us FACTS to back up your claims. After all this time you should
> have had ample time to dig something up.
>
>
> > My novel is doing just fine. Thanks for asking. I am taking the extreme
> planning
> > approach so when I am ready to write it will be weeks from being finished. My
> goal
> > is to be published traditionally not vanity published by some free website host.
> So
> > I need to plan carefully to ensure that the entire novel including characters
> and
> > subplots are all the best as can be when thrown together as a unified whole.
>
> So in other words you still haven't started writing it.

==========

I am writing on my schedule. It is proceeding as fast as my time allows. I do have other things than writing a novel that have higher priority claims on my time. For most ordinary folks, writing requires planning first. I will be done faster better easier with higher quality if I plan first and write later.

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robjvargas
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Re: How to plot a novel.

Postby robjvargas » Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:17 pm

deddmann_writing wrote:
>
> I am writing on my schedule. It is proceeding as fast as my time allows. I do
> have other things than writing a novel that have higher priority claims on my time.
> For most ordinary folks, writing requires planning first. I will be done faster
> better easier with higher quality if I plan first and write later.

There's a couple of variants of a very important word in your last post.

Me.

By all means, write the way that works for you. But, as with every previous incarnation of yourself, you refuse to acknowledge that there is any other way for any other writer to succeed. That behavior, which seems compulsive to me, is what makes you so easy to spot each time you create a "new" ID.

So, at this point, I'm going to take advantage of the forum's ignore function and leave you to argue with yourself.
Slowly putting together a "replacement" forum at http://writerswriting.proboards.com.

It's still under construction, but come take a look.

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