Cassandra Clare

I can’t figure out how to plot!

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.