Skip to main content

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

Plot development can be one of the greatest challenges when you're working on writing a novel. If you're plotting a novel, these plot development charts and tips will help you with writing plot structure, outlining and more.

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!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

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

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave clues for people to find them.

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Author Sharon Maas discusses the 20-year process of writing and publishing her new historical fiction novel, The Girl from Jonestown.

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

While the writing process may be an independent venture, the literary community at large is full of writers who need and want your support as much as you need and want theirs. Here, author Aileen Weintraub shares 6 steps in becoming a good literary citizen.

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Journalist and author Daniel Paisner discusses the process of writing his new literary fiction novel, Balloon Dog.