In Part 1 of this 3-part article, you learned how to get your novel started. Now, here are some tips and tricks for plotting and writing your novel.
1. When plotting your novel, start from the ending and work your way back to the beginning. Where do you want your main character to end up at the end of the story? What will he/she have accomplished and how will this character have changed by the end of the story?
Think of some big culminating event for your novel and create a “ticking clock” so your main character must solve the overall story problem before time runs out (things must happen quickly so you can sustain the dramatic tension throughout the story).
2. Write the jacket flap copy for your book-just one or two paragraphs that let the reader know what the story will be about. By summarizing this, YOU will get a better idea of EXACTLY what your story is about, too.
3. Next, figure out all the steps it will take for your main character to get to the ending. First, where does your character start out? What does he/she want more than anything? What happens next to change things a bit and make it a bit more difficult for your main character to get what he/she wants?
4. Turn your plot into an outline of chapters. Try starting with a 12 chapter outline, although your story may end up being longer than 12 chapters. But 12 chapters keeps it manageable at the start. This will also help you create your story in 3 acts of 4 chapters each.
5. As you’re creating your outline, keep the plot triangle in mind. Introduce your characters and setting at the bottom left side of the triangle. Then, create rising action as you develop problems for your main character (your story starts moving up the triangle this way). These problems all lead to the climax of your story (which is at the top of the triangle). Generally, plan the climax for chapter 10 or 11 of the story, then resolve everything in the final chapter or so.
6. For each chapter, think of what MUST happen in order for your main character to move closer to the climax and the ending of the story. You’ll think of more complications brought about by the antagonist or other outside events as you do, so don’t worry about having all of this in place from the start.
7. As you’re outlining, think in terms of scenes you can create for each chapter. Plan for 1 to 3 different scenes per chapter, for the most part. Consider your main character. Based on what he or she is like, how can you use other characters to create an interesting subplot? In middle grade, you don’t want too many subplots and they need to be fairly simple.
Follow these tips to create a compelling plot for your story to avoid the sagging middle! Then, read Part 3 of Writing the Middle Grade Novel – From Start to Finish with tips for finishing your manuscript!