Plot Development: Charts and Tips for Outlining and Plotting a Novel - Writer's Digest

Plot Development: Charts and Tips for Outlining and Plotting a Novel


Handy Advice for Writing Plot Structure and Outlining a Novel

Plot development can be a challenge for both aspiring and published novelists who are working on a new book. To build a great story structure that will carry you through to a finished novel, you have to take a closer look at your plot and work out kinks that may come up as you're writing.

In the free online download, Plot Development: Charts and Tips for Outlining and Plotting a Novel, we offer five resources that will help you with writing plot from the beginning of the novel to the challenging middle, through to a meaningful ending. In addition to plot development charts that help you work through common problems, you'll find insights and worksheets that help you work with writing subplots and developing side characters.

This selection of resources from our Writer's Workbook series includes plot development worksheets, methods for story mapping, techniques for working through problems when you're stuck, and charts for evaluating whether your plot is working. Download this collection to get started today.

Enter your email below to join the Writer's Digest newsletter and get your free download!

Image placeholder title

Preview: Creating a Story Map and Plot Development Chart

What is my novel missing? How can I develop this single idea? Is my story structure complete?

Sounds like you need a story map to help you with plot development and outlining a novel. Just as a road map helps you plot your travel plans, a story map serves as a visual outline that helps you see the direction your story is taking and whether you’ve overlooked any major points of interest along the way while you're writing plot structure.

Here are three keys to successfully navigating your own:

INTRODUCE A STORY MAP AT ANY STAGE OF YOUR WRITING PROCESS. If you’re just beginning your story, implementing a story map will help you see where to start and where to spin off ideas to move your piece forward. As you map your ideas, you’ll discover that they help to propagate more ideas. Especially if you’re stuck at a particular point in your novel, you may want to update or create a new map so it reflects—or creates—fresh ideas and story structure. If you’ve already outlined or written most of your story, a story map may point out where your structure is weak or not fully developed by what you can’t fi ll in, or by what you’re struggling to answer.

BE LOOSE. You’re simply placing on a chart what you understand about your story. Everything you write can be considered a placeholder until you develop a stronger idea. Sometimes what you think is the beginning hook may change to be the climax or a conflict once you better understand your story. For now, write what you know—and put it where you think it belongs. You can always change it once you have a clearer understanding of what you’re writing about.

USE PHRASES IN YOUR MAP THAT CAPTURE YOUR IDEAS BY SHOWING RATHER THAN TELLING—JUST AS YOU WOULD IN YOUR FICTION. For example: Mary lets Bill know she’s angry is telling, while Mary rips up their marriage certificate shows the story, has more energy and takes the idea to the next level, which oft en leads to the next idea.

Learn more and start writing plot ideas that can carry you through the tough spots and take your idea to completion.

Image placeholder title

Enter your email below to join the Writer's Digest newsletter and get your free download!


Bearing vs. Baring vs. Barring (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use bearing vs. baring vs. barring on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


15 Things a Writer Should Never Do

Former Writer's Digest managing editor Zachary Petit shares his list of 15 things a writer should never do, based on interviews with successful authors as well as his own occasional literary forays and flails.


Evie Green: Imaginary Friends and Allowing Change

Author Evie Green explains why she was surprised to end writing a horror novel and how she learned to trust the editorial process.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: The 3 Prime Rules of Horror Writing, Contest Deadlines, and More!

Welcome to the first installment of a new series! There's always so much happening in the Writer's Digest universe that even staff members have trouble keeping up. So we're going to start collecting what's on the horizon to make it easier for everyone to know what's happening and when.


Lenora Bell: When Fairy Tales Meet Reality TV

Bestselling historical romance author Lenora Bell discusses researching, avoiding info-dumps while still charming readers, and how her latest book was inspired by her life.


Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.


10 Epic Quotes From Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Here are 10 epic quotes from Watership Down, by Richard Adams. The story of a group of rabbits who escape an impending danger to find a new home, Watership Down is filled with moments of survival, faith, friendship, fear, and hope.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Quintilla Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the quintilla.