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Plotting and Planning Your Novel

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About "Plotting and Planning Your Novel"

This course guides you through the process of creating a fantastic “character-first” plot. 

Plotting and Planning Your Novel

What is "Character-First Writing"?

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A welcome message + guided tour: all the ways you can use this course to improve your writing.

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There are three core principles to character-first writing. They may surprise you!

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Sometimes people think, when I talk about character-first writing, that I want them to write a BORING story where nothing happens. That's not the case, fortunately! In fact, I often tell coaching clients to add MORE story to their novel outlines.

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Here's a preview of what's coming: how to use "character-first" plotting to work through the "messy" middle of your story. This is an element of the course that writers love the most: you can conquer your fear of the long "second act" of your story.

The Secret Ingredient: Care

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Log In to View Lessons The Problem: Why Is Plot So Hard?

Let's get serious. Why is a course like this so valuable?

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Log In to View Lessons Why You Need “Care”

They didn't teach you this!

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Log In to View Lessons Plot = Care Changing Over Time

Plot isn't about events. It's about shifts in care.

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Log In to View Lessons Project vs Mood

Major characters should have a "project."

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Log In to View Lessons The Danger of Dropping Care

It's SO easy to do this. And it makes your readers give up on your novel.

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Log In to View Lessons Writing a Novel Character-First

Start your reader with a character.

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Can writing be taught? How seriously should you take the advice from this course?

A Story That Reads Quickly

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Log In to View Lessons The Goal

All right. What kind of book do we actually want to write in this course? What will the reader feel while reading it?

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The key to exposition is to sprinkle it lightly — very lightly — at the start. Here's how...

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Log In to View Lessons The Dragon’s Foot

Trick your reader with this easy technique

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Log In to View Lessons Connecting Story Elements

This is so powerful: when two parts of the story become one.

The Core of Your Story: Your Protagonist

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Log In to View Lessons Building the A-Plotline

Here's how to start your novel: with several scenes devoted to your protagonist's "project."

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Log In to View Lessons Bonus: What if I can’t do A?

A few frequently asked questions about the A plot-line.

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Nine questions to help you develop your protagonist and build your A plot-line.

You Should Narrate More

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Log In to View Lessons Push and Look Scene Design

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Log In to View Lessons Scene and Satellite

This is how we convey to the reader all the information they need to enjoy, understand, keep reading your novel.

Download the Pre-writing Manual (it's amazing)

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This interactive guide helps you design your own ABC-style plot.

Plot Your Whole Novel (+ examples)

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Log In to View Lessons From a Protagonist to a Plot

We have the building blocks. Now we're going to use them to create a great plot.

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Log In to View Lessons The Four Stages of the ABC Plot

By this point in the course, we've studied how to build our scenes, establish "care," and build a great protagonist. Here is the framework to turn those concepts and building blocks into a detailed plot.

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Here's how the character-first approach enables you to conquer the "messy" middle.

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It's critical to give your protagonist a way forward with their A plot.

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Your character has issues! But -- which ones?

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Sometimes the C plot-line requires a ticking clock.

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Log In to View Lessons How Long Should Each Stage Be?

How many pages, roughly, you might picture each stage being.

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Here is how the ABC plot is working in the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor.

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The ABC plot works just as well for a classic literary novel like The Age of Innocence as it does for Jack Reacher. 

How to Set Limits on your Novel

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Log In to View Lessons Don’t Hate Me, But… Cut It?

The very real dangers of fake plot.

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Log In to View Lessons The Rule of Five Ones

My advice: for this course, write a five or four "one" novel.

How to Write Each Stage (1-4)

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Log In to View Lessons How to Write Stage One

This might be the second most popular video of the whole course.

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Log In to View Lessons How to Write Stage Two

This is when your hero starts to care about your "big" plot.

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Log In to View Lessons How to Write Stage Three

This is the longest, most substantial part of the novel: the middle.

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Here is a low-stress way to plan out a great ending to your novel.

Your Problems, Solved!

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The most common issue writers have, when they try to follow the ABC plot: leading with B.

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Log In to View Lessons ABC with Multiple Protagonists

What if I want more than one main character?

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Maybe you've worked through this course and noticed you don't actually have a C plot? Here are three solutions.

Alternate Openings For Your ABC Plots

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Here's how to use the stage one opening with multiple timelines.

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Sometimes the plot takes your character in an extreme direction: perhaps they get a magical job (they become the new tooth fairy, for instance) and have to leave their old life behind. Here's how to make it feel real for your readers.

The Quick Win

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Log In to View Lessons This How You Get Started

This is my strategy for getting a "quick win" for this novel project.  

Drumroll: The Plotting Manual!

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Now it's time to plot.

Bonus Videos: Start a Novel from Scratch

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Log In to View Lessons Start with your Dream Story

This chapter of the course is specifically for people who are starting from the beginning. And for them — I recommend that you DO NOT start your planning and sketching with a character. Instead...

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Log In to View Lessons Imagine the Best Bits

Think back to the stories you love. When did you really feel yourself commit, to the story, as a reader? My guess is that there were two main moments: the late beginning and the late middle. Let's sketch out those two areas of your new book now.

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Log In to View Lessons Picture An Unhappy Visitor

Now we picture a main character who doesn't care about any of that stuff.

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At the start, the character is doing his or her thing. But strong hints imply there is more going on. 

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Log In to View Lessons Sketch the Backstory

You might not know everything yet. But start now: let's sketch out the secrets.

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Log In to View Lessons Begin the World-building Bible

Describe the divisions in this world.

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You're in a great place. You've imagined your ideal story. You've pictured how that story might develop and build. You've created a character and events that might happen to that character. And you've done some world-building and backstory writing. Now comes the fun part: writing out the scenes and chapters and moments that this pre-writing suggest.

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Fantastic. Now it's time to turn these sketches into a real story, with the plotting manual supplied in this course and the lessons of the ABC plot.

Conclusion

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Log In to View Lessons Send Off

You did it! You finished the course. Now I just want to say…

Resources and Downloads

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For ease of use, all downloads mentioned in the course are also available here.

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Log In to View Lessons Acknowledgements

A few brief thank yous and credit dueings. 

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Log In to View Lessons How to Get Help

Do you need technical support? Do you want to run your idea past other students in the course?

Live sessions

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Log In to View Lessons Protagonists and their Projects

A great conversation about our protagonists and the idea of an A plot line.

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How to balance and finetune a plot with the ABC framework (live webinar).

Audiofiles

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Log In to View Lessons The ABC Plot

PS Feel free to download, but please don't share this audio-file! If you have friends interested in the course, let me know and I can give you a special discount code.

Preview of the NEXT course: "Write A Great Chapter"

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Log In to View Lessons How to write dialogue

Five tips that will shape how you think about writing dialogue.

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Log In to View Lessons How to prepare a plot twist

Okay. You know you want to surprise your reader. How do you make sure the twist lands correctly?

Collected prompts and challenges

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Log In to View Lessons Prompts & Challenges

A collection of prompts and challenges.

About the Teacher

Daniel

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  • Enjoying the course. Looking forward to the rest.

  • barbaradenz says:

    I took my sweet time with this course. Like … a year. I know I should just be writing, but after 3 false starts and feeling all tangled up in my own verbiage and planning, I needed time to think. Well, I have thunk. Thank you for your patience, Daniel. I have a few videos I want to play again before the October 2021 Summit, but … it all feels so much better now.

    • magnoliajem says:

      Hi Barbara! We haven’t been in touch in a LONG time, but we seem to be on similar journeys. I loved the Escape the Plot Forest Summit & just bought this course. Hope you’re well, Judi Wildfeuer

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