8 Simple Tips for Plotting a Short Story or Novel

Following these steps will lessen the dreaded rewrites when creating your next short story or novel.

1. Write a synopsis 
Writing no more than a two-page synopsis will give you a summation of your story and keep you on track. Pretend you’re telling a friend about your book from beginning to end. What are the most important elements you would include?

2. Develop an outline
This goes along with the above-mentioned tip. Write down the main scenes in advance so you have a basic overview of where you’re headed. Freewheeling the storyline as you go, will probably involve many time consuming re-writes. This also includes deciding on an ending before you begin.

3. The antagonist needs love too
Authors usually spend the most amount of time on the protagonists; yet only pay attention to the antagonist until it’s time for him to do his villainy. Letting the reader see that the “bad guy” has a positive trait (even if it’s remembering his mother’s birthday or being kind to the dog), will make him a more believable character. 

4. Keep main characters to a minimum
The story should revolve around a couple of main characters. Choose one or two friends for each main character, and a small fringe group who get a scant amount of attention. Trying to develop too many characters cheats the reader out of getting really involved with the main ones and slows down the story.

5. Introduce conflict
As in real life, your story needs conflict to keep it moving. Introduce this fairly early so that your characters can work toward resolving it by the end. Your main characters should each have an inner conflict in addition to the outward drama happening around them.

6. Lighten up on settings
As with paring down your characters, keep the settings in your story to a minimum. Choose only a couple locales and introduce them into the story before the mid-way point. That way you are able to fully develop each setting and make your reader feel familiar with being there.

7. Keep true to your genre
Decide at the beginning what genre you want your story to be. If it’s a clean romance, don’t throw in swearing or gratuitous sex. The bait and switch technique will not cause a reader to become a fan of your work.

8. End on Time
When the protagonist’s real goals are met, don’t prolong the ending. You don’t need a long narrative to re-explain the plot.