Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, magazine stories or picture books or chapter books or novels, brainstorming a basic plot structure to use will improve your manuscript guaranteed.
I often use a worksheet, “The Basic Plot Worksheet A,” I created for my own writing projects. The results have been amazing! For the first time EVER I’m getting feedback from editors that my manuscripts are much stronger…and sometimes don’t need major edits at all!
You can download and print out this worksheet by visiting my site, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends. Scroll down the page to CHARTS AND WORKSHEETS TO GET ORGANIZED FOR SUCCESS and click on the “Basic Plot Worksheet A.”
Here’s how to fill this out:
* Fill in the stats in the left column. If you don’t yet have a title for your article or story, just write down a keyword.
-Write your name as the Author.
-Write the name of your target publisher if you have one, otherwise leave blank.
-Write the year as the copyright date. You won’t know until you get a contract whether your publisher or you will own the copyright.
-Write the age of the reader as the Target Age.
-Write your estimated word count of the finished manuscript.
-Add any notes you want to add.
*Now let’s look at the plot chart.
Notice how each story or article has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The middle is divided into two halves.
1st half of the Middle
2nd half of the Middle
On your chart in the “Beginning” column under “How does the story start?” write down how you want your story to begin. If writing fiction or creative nonfiction, be sure to introduce your main character and the main problem she’ll be battling with throughout the story. If writing nonfiction, be sure to include a hook to grab your reader’s interest.
On the line for “Change 1:” write down a significant change (either emotionally or in the action or in the progression of information) that happens to the character or topic to start the middle of the story or article.
Then under the “1st Half of the Middle” column, write down 3 examples or anecdotes you want to write about in this section to show your MC trying to solve her problem (fiction) or that presents the information you want to share (nonfiction).
On the line for “Change 2:” write down the significant change that moves your character or topic into the next section.
This “middle line of the Middle” of the story or article is the turning point of the plot. It’s the place something important happens in fiction or creative nonfiction that moves the character toward the finish line with no turning back. It’s the place in nonfiction that the information you present is crucial to how your piece will wrap up at the end.
Next, for the “2nd Half of the Middle,” find 3 examples or anecdotes that I want to include here that propels your reader toward the ending. The obstacles should be getting bigger and bigger. The tension should be building.
On the line for “Change 3:” write the single incident that launches your character (fiction or creative nonfiction) or information (nonfiction) to the climax of your manuscript. Then in the column for “How does the story end” list 3 elements to wrap your story or article up with a satisfying end.
This exercise will go quickly for you if you already have solid ideas for your story (fiction and creative nonfiction) or have researched your topic (nonfiction) and already have the basic facts in your head. If you haven’t yet brainstormed your story or researched your topic, don’t despair! Just take your time and enjoy the process of filling out this form. Then take time to brainstorm your story or dig around and research your topic until you have the information you need to fill out each part of the chart.
When you’re done with the worksheet, make a file folder for it and label it “Plot Worksheet” so you can keep it in one handy place in your file pocket of folders.
This worksheet will really pay off at the end. Your writing will be tight and to the point. It will help you not get writer’s block because you will already have a roadmap to follow when you sit down to write.