PLOT is CHARACTER revealed by ACTION. No, I didn’t make that up; that’s Aristotle. Basically, plot isn’t something that exists outside the rest of your story – the characters, the action, the setting. Make up awesome characters. Put them in interesting situations. Force them to make important and revelatory choices that change them. Make sure that at the beginning of your story your characters want something. Decide whether or not they get it. Those are the elements of your story. The most important thing to remember is that your first reader, and audience, is yourself. Make sure you’re telling a story you yourself are dying to read.
If you are really stuck with plotting — if you keep starting books only to lose track of where they’re going; if you can’t get past the first chapter, etc. — I would suggest outlining. That means sitting down and writing out a very detailed summary of everything that happens in your book beforeyou start writing it. Yes, some people can just wing it. But if it looks like you’re not one of them, the fact is that most writers outline.
- Here you can find Lynn Viehl’s extremely detailed posts about how to outline a novel, with examples.
- Simon Haynes talks about how to plot — with diagrams!
- More on the nuts and bolts of plot, from Luc Reid.
- Diana Wynne Jones has some great tips on plot structure here.
- And if you’re writing fantasy, don’t forget your worldbuilding.
- In fact, if you’re writing science fiction or fantasy, you might want to read this whole site.