Plotting your story



Struggling to get started? Here’s a few tips on plotting your story.

Decide on your theme and plot. The theme is the subject of your story, such as love, jealousy, revenge etc. The plot is based on your character’s problems, it tells your character’s story in a series of connected events. It shows what conflict your character faces, why the conflict has occurred and how your character deals with it.

The basic structure of a plot is like the three act structure of a film in that it has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning of your story should set the scene, introduce the character and let the reader know what the main conflict in the story is. Make your beginning interesting, don’t waffle on or you’ll lose your reader’s interest.

The middle develops the action and conflict but this is the place when writers often falter and the story goes stale. Your story should ebb and flow like the tide, with conflict gushing in then some time for the reader to relax when things seem to settle down for a while, or perhaps some humour, before the tide of conflict sweeps in again.

The ending is where the conflict is resolved in some way – this could simply be the character having grown enough to cope with the situation they are in. Make sure your ending is credible so that your reader feels satisfied with the story. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending but it should be a satisfactory one.

It’s a good idea to do a bit of preparation before you start writing your story. Work out a rough outline of the plot so that you have a guide to work with. If you’re writing a novel you might find it helpful to do chapter or scene outlines so that you can make sure there’s enough going on and it all pans out.

Get to know your characters, especially your main character. Writing a paragraph about them or filling in a character profile form will help you make them more rounded and realistic. Think about what they look like, how they walk, talk, what they like doing, what they dislike, what they are scared of. Their likes and fears can come in useful when developing conflict in the story.

Your setting is where your story takes place. Where does your character live? Where do they work? What does their neighbourhood look like? Paint the picture for your reader but make it concise, don’t waffle on. If part of your story takes place abroad or in a place you haven’t been, do your research. You need to make your reader feel as if they are really there.

Getting organised





Writers are notoriously scatty but you’ll find your writing life easier if you can get yourself organised a little. Here’s a few tips.

Sort out a Writing Schedule

Set aside some regular time to write. It doesn’t have to be every day (although every day is best if you can manage it) but it should be at least a couple of times a week. Whether you can spare an hour a day, or two hours twice a week mark that down as your writing time.

Find a Quiet Place to Write

If you’re lucky enough to have your own study to work that’s great, if not the kitchen table, the conservatory, a corner in the lounge, your bedroom, the garden will all do providing you are undisturbed. You could even try a café, it worked for J.K.Rowling.

Have Achievable Aims

Set yourself a weekly aim but keep it achievable. Aiming to write 10,000 words in a week is probably unrealistic if you have a family or day job, aim instead to write character profiles, a plot outline, the first draft of a short story, a poem or a chapter of your novel depending on how many hours you have to spare. Then you’ll have a sense of achievement when you accomplish it. Unrealistic aims leave you feeling disappointed and a failure.

Use Folders

Folders are ideal for organising your work. Use the cardboard envelope folders for print outs of stories, research materials, letters, guidelines etc. Write clearly on the front what’s inside them. Create folders on your computer to keep your digital files in, e.g. short stories, poems, competitions, publishers’ websites.

Keep Records

It looks unprofessional if you approach a publisher or agent twice with the same piece of work (unless they’ve asked for a rewrite) so keep records. Jot down in a spreadsheet or notebook the title of your work, when you submitted it, who to, any contact name, the date of any response and any comments made. Keep a special folder for rejection letters and another one for work sold.  As soon as you’re making any money from your writing start keeping receipts for research materials, ink cartridges, stationary, etc as these can all be offset against tax.