The Ultimate Plot Creation Resource List

quill-175980_640Once you’ve figured out the basics of your world and gotten to know your characters pretty well, it’s time to start thinking seriously about the plot. If your novel planning process is moving along at the proper pace, you should already have an idea what your plot looks like.

Now it’s time to figure out all the details. Well, not all the details. At least a few details should be figured out as you go along, because the best stories grow organically.

But you do need to know the basic structure of your plot before you start writing the first draft of your novel, at least if you want to write a first draft you might actually be able to salvage someday. So I’ve compiled a pretty large collection of resources designed to help you plot a novel.

Remember: there is no right or wrong way to plot a novel. Try as many as you need to until you find the one that works best for you.

Plotting Resources

1. The 4 Story Structures That Dominate Novels – This is an article on Writer’s Digest that details different story structures commonly used in novels. If you have only a very basic idea—or no idea at all—how your story will be structured, this is a really good place to start.

2. How to Structure a Story: The Eight-Point Arc – An explanation of one way you can structure your story. It’s a fairly detailed article that should give you lots of food for thought.

3. Nanowrimo Prep: The Ultimate Plot Development Guide – I haven’t actually read through this whole thing yet, but there’s an interesting article and a downloadable guide that comes with a plot building worksheet. This seems like just as good a place as any to go when you’re prepared to start fleshing out your plot.

4. The Snowflake Method – One method for planning a novel that lots and lots of writers absolutely love. I find this kind of outlining to be way too rigid for my tastes, but to each their own, right?

5. The Best Approach to Story Structure: From Aristotle to Dramatica – This is a pretty interesting article with a lot of food for thought on the subject of story structure/plotting. Some good reading to do before you start nailing down the details of your plot.

6. How to Create Story Structure to Die For – A fairly detailed article about creating excellent story structure on the Write to Done blog.

7. 25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure – Although I’ve only read one of his books I can tell you Chuck Wendig is a great author. He’s also a great blogger and seems to me to be an all around great guy. If you found Limyaael’s rants entertaining, you’ll love this—and find it useful to boot.

8. Novel Plotting Worksheets – If you really prefer to use worksheets to plot your novels, or you’re simply interested in trying a different approach, you can find a couple novel plotting worksheets here. You’ll also find a handy character chart and a link to a resource with more worksheets.

9. How to Create a Book that will Keep Readers Reading – Plot Worksheet – This is a pretty detailed plot worksheet that should help you create an engaging story you’ll actually be able to edit into a publishable novel.

10. Writing a Young Adult Series – An article that, despite its focus on one genre, can be helpful to anyone planning a series. You might not be writing every book in your series during November, but you should have an idea what they’re all going to look like, and what the overall story is. This article has some useful thoughts on how you can do just that.

11. Plot Structures for Books in a Series – More thoughts on how to structure novels within a series.

12. The Challenges of Writing a Series – And one more post on the challenges of writing a series because frankly, it’s challenging. After all, you want to set things up in the first book so that there’s appropriate foreshadowing for things in later books, which means you need to outline the whole thing before writing the first book.

13. Michael Crichton’s Method for Plotting out a Story – I think the title really says it all for this one.

14. How to Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps – If you don’t want to use a worksheet but you still want to create a solid outline before you start your first draft, this article can help you do so.

15. Plot Development – A pretty detailed article about plot development that should help you create something worthwhile, especially when combined with one of the outlining methods linked to in this article.

16. Golden Rules for a Good Plot – Five rules and a couple useful links that will help you write a novel worth reading.

17. 6 Writing Outline Templates and 3 Reasons to Use Them – An article about the importance of outlines, with links to outline worksheets you can download.

18. Plotting a Romance Novel – If you’re considering writing a romance novel—or you’ve already decided it’s a good idea—this article is for you. It might also be helpful if you’re trying to write a book where romance is a major component, but not actually the main storyline.

19. Outlining Your Novel: Why and How – Another great article about the purpose of outlines, along with a guide to creating them.

20. First Steps in Plotting a Novel – A brief article that will help you plan the beginning of your novel.

21. Plotting a Novel – This article details the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. There’s actual software for this available if you’re interested in using the method yourself. From my understanding there’s also a book, if you prefer to learn that way.

22. How J.K. Rowling Plotted Harry Potter with a Hand-Drawn Spreadsheet – Admit it. Every time you finish reading a book that leaves an impression, you want to know how it was planned. Well, J.K. Rowling’s actually enlightened the public to a fair bit of her writing process. Enjoy!

23. Famous Authors’ Hand-Written Outlines for Great Works of Literature – On this site you can actually see the hand-written outlines several famous authors have created. I don’t know how much it will help you plot your own novel, but it is really cool to see these famous novels planned out like this.

24. 7 Ways to Add Great Subplots to Your Novel – This is another article from Writer’s Digest, this time discussing how to add interesting subplots to your novel. After all, the best novels always have more than one thing going on.

25. 5 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist – Everybody loves a good plot twist done right. This article will help you get it right every time.

26. What is Plot – How to Write a Story from Beginning to End – A fairly detailed article that will help you think your plot through properly and make sure you write a story actually worth reading. After all, you don’t want to spend an entire month on something that isn’t worthwhile, do you?

27. Special Fiction Writing Week: Creating a Plot – You’ll find some great information on plot creation in this article and you’ll also find a couple useful links. Realistically, Men with Pens is a blog you should probably be following anyway. Just thought I’d throw the idea out there.

28. Thoughts on Plot by Famous Writers – This is a great collection of quotes which will hopefully help you plan a better novel and stay inspired when the plotting gets tough.

29. Before You Can Write a Good Plot, You Need to Write a Good Place – An article discussing the importance of your setting to creating a great story.

30. The Best Advice on Plotting I’ve Ever Heard – A pretty useful article that happens to be located on a writing blog you might want to spend some time exploring before moving on to the next resource.

31. Plots and Stories – An article that outlines the differences between plots and stories, discusses how they work together, and how stories without strong plots can still work on occasion. There’s some pretty interesting stuff here.

32. Constructing Plot – This article goes through the various elements of plot and shows how you can use them to construct a worthwhile novel.

33. 5 Major Plotholes in Otherwise Great Movies – Okay, I’ll be fair, this isn’t really a writing resource. At the same time, everything is a writing resource. Movies, just like books, consist of characters, setting, plot and story. And knowing what to avoid is just as important as knowing what to do.

34. How to Write a Good Game Story – Again, this article isn’t focused on books, but it is focused on story and plot. And studying any kind of story is worthwhile, so it’s on the list.

35, It’s Just a Phase – This article walks you through the creation of a phase outline, which is a pretty intensive form of outlining I find way too extreme that might just work for you anyway. There are also a lot of useful articles on the Forward Motion website.

36. 25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story – Another great article written by Chuck Wendig. If you go through all 25 you’ll probably end up with a pretty solid plot. I’ve never worked through them all in order from this list, so if you do, I’d love to hear about it and the results you get.

37. Choosing the Best Outline Method for You – One last article from Writer’s Digest which will help you decide which of these many different outlining methods you can actually use.

Outlining a novel might seem tedious, but it’s essential to creating a worthwhile first draft. Even with an outline you might find your first draft too messy to be salvageable, but I can almost guarantee you’ll be able to tell your story is still worthwhile.

Outlining your novel before you begin also helps you decide whether or not you actually want to spend a month or more on this novel. After all, you can’t really know if an idea is worthwhile until you’ve spent some time examining it and discovering more about it.

If you know of any plotting resources that really should be on this list, let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email at diannalgunn @ gmail.com .

The Ultimate List of 42 Worldbuilding Resources

setting2Do you need help figuring out how to plan your novel? Are you looking for writing exercises that will help you develop your setting?

UPDATED WITH NEW LINKS OCTOBER 2017

Well, it just so happens that you’re in the right place. This year as part of my Nanowrimo blogstravaganza I’ve decided to create three lists: the ultimate list of worldbuilding resources, the ultimate list of character building resources, and the ultimate list of plot development exercises.

My goal is to present you with all the options and the knowledge necessary to find your own way to success this Nanowrimo, and in every novelling endeavour you decide to take on after that.

Are you ready to start planning your Nanowrimo novel?

Is that a “yes” I hear?

Well then, let’s get to it:

Worldbuilding Resources

These resources will help you create a realistic, fascinating world that you can play in for years to come. Personally, worldbuilding is my favourite part of writing, which means two things: I have lots of resources on this list, and I decided to put worldbuilding first.

1. Limyaael’s Rants – One of the first blogs I ever liked and definitely one of the most entertaining and thorough resources you’ll find for writers. She’s stopped writing them now, but only because she’s already written on pretty much every topic that could be of value to a fantasy writer—and many that could be valuable to other writers as well.

2. 30 Days of Worldbuilding – This is one of the first worldbuilding resources I found through Nanowrimo. I’ve never gone through the whole thing, but there are certain exercises listed here that I’ve done every time I created a world. This originally was created as a writing course and now exists as both a website and an ebook, so you can download a copy and take it with you for writing on the go.

3. Creating Worlds in Science Fiction: Building Settings – This article goes through many different ways writers can play with science fiction worlds, and provides examples for each.

4. Fantasy World Generator – Of all the resources on this list, this is the one I found most recently. It generates maps, and can generate entire worlds upon request. I love drawing my own maps—though they don’t usually look very good—but this program is awesome.

5. Fantasy Worldbuilding Questionnaire – This questionnaire isn’t quite as in depth as the 30 Days of Worldbuilding course, but it has a lot of the same questions. It’s pretty thorough and a great place to start.

6. Magical World Builder – This was actually created by the same person who did the 30 Days of Worldbuilding course, and is also available as an ebook. It’s a thorough guide specifically designed to help fantasy authors build their worlds, whereas the 30 Days of Worldbuilding isn’t specific to either fantasy or science fiction.

7. Creating Religions – A great list of articles that discuss the different aspects of creating a religion. Creating religions is one of my favourite parts of creating a new fantasy world, and this list has quite a bit of information to help you get started.

8. Quick and Dirty Worldbuilding – Don’t worry, I picked this resource for more than the amusing title, though I’ll admit I chuckled the first time I saw it. If you really want to take the bare minimum approach to worldbuilding because you have limited time before Nanowrimo starts—trust me, I’ve been there, it’s all good—this is the website for you.

9. Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions – A great list of questions to help you build a realistic fantasy world. I haven’t looked through this in too much detail, but it’s on the SFWA website, which is a high recommendation, and seems useful from what I did read.

10. Water Geography – Pretty much everything you need to know about the geography of water when you’re mapping your world. You might not think this is particularly important, but it is something you really should pay attention to. Making the little details of your world realistic helps keep your readers entrenched in the larger story.

11. Defining the Source, Effects, and Cost of Magic – This is a fairly in depth article discussing different aspects of a good magical system and how you can create them. Combined with the resource above and some of your own creativity, this article will help you create a believable magic system. For some of you who have been writing fantasy novels for a long time, this might not be new information, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded, right?

12. Four Questions to Answer When Creating Your Own Magic System – A few simple questions to help you create a magic system that works.

13. How to Create a Rational Magic System – Rational magic systems follow firm metaphysical laws that guide what can and cannot be done with them. This article will help you create one.

14. Creating Religions & Belief Systems – A short guide that will heelp you build the basis of a believable religion for your world.

15. Myths, Creatures, and Folklore – This seems to be the ultimate resource guide for anything you might want to know related to creating your own mythology. You’ll only find basic information about most of the items listed, but it’s a great starting point.

16. Setting the Fantastic in the Everyday World – You don’t get out of worldbuilding just because you want to set your fantasy novel in the real world. This article discusses some of the concerns you should address before starting a contemporary fantasy novel.

17. Creating a Language – This is a pretty detailed article about creating a language. I’ve never actually created a full language before, but I’ve read a fair bit about the subject and this is one of the better resources I’ve come across.

18. The Language Construction Kit – This is the most highly recommended resource on creating your own languages that I know of. I’ve read through most of it, though as mentioned above I haven’t actually created my own language. I find it hard enough to think up names for my characters and countries, let alone an entire language. At this point you probably won’t have time to create an entire language before Nanowrimo starts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start working on it now.

19. Creating Fictional Holidays – I love creating holidays and festivals in my fantasy worlds. This article has some great information and food for thought that will help you create some holidays of your own. And remember, they can celebrate holidays in science fiction first.

20. Weather and Worldbuilding 101 – This article has just enough information about weather and worldbuilding to make sure you don’t screw it up—and to inspire you to use weather creatively during your novel.

21. Medieval Technology – This is a handy article that focuses primarily on weapons and will help you keep your work both original and accurate. Sure, swords might be cooler, but even if you don’t use these weapons it’s good to know they existed.

22. Music For Your Fantasy World – Music has been incredibly important throughout history and can add depth to your world. This article gives you a basic framework that you can use to create music for your fantasy world, even a musical history.

23. Mythic Scribes Worldbuilding Articles – The Mythic Scribes blog is a great resource for writers. This is the archive of all their articles about worldbuilding, and it has information on a variety of related topics.

24. Internet Sacred Text Archive – For those of you who have as much fun as I do creating religions, this website is a wealth of incredibly useful info. It’s the home of hundreds of sacred texts from different cultures, and should help you create sacred texts of your own—or provide some inspiration for a story based in our own world.

25. The International Phonetic Alphabet – Audio Illustrations – This allows you to see all the different human vocal sounds, so you can mix and match to create a language that sounds just right.

26. Cartography, Maps, Star Charts, and Writing – An article about how maps should influence fantasy stories, along with some examples of good fantasy maps and several useful links. This one was actually written up by a Nanowrimo participant.

27. Decorative-Maps.com – This website has a pretty thorough collection of articles on the subject of map making, and is a handy resource for anyone thinking about creating a map.

28. Fundamentals of Physical Geography – This is a free online textbook that explains how the planet works, written in such a way that anyone can read it, not just science geeks. I haven’t read through it all, but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve learned so far.

29. SolStation – Are you thinking about writing some science fantasy? This website has local star maps and lots of information about different stars in the area to help inspire you.

30. Orion’s Arm – You’ll find that a lot of these links are more directed at science fiction writers, but quite a few are useful for both fantasy and science fiction authors.

31. Project Rho – Here you’ll find more star maps and more useful information for building a science fiction world.

32. Encyclopedia Mythica – If you’re looking at creating a religion or writing about characters who follow an ancient religion you’ll find this resource incredibly helpful. It’s a collection of myths from all over the world, during every time period.

33. The Ancient History Encyclopedia – Want to base your fantasy world on an ancient civilization? Or maybe you want to base your fantasy novel in an ancient civilization. Either way, this site can help you make sure you get the basics right.

34. Historically Accurate Sexism in Fantasy: Let’s Unpack That – This is a great article about what discrimination really looked like in history with some thoughts on how to treat it in your fiction.

35. Debate with the Squirrels: Sexism in Fantasy – This is an article which takes the topic of how writers can address sexism in fantasy and turns it into an entertaining debate between the author and… Themselves.

36. Feudalism – This article explains how feudalism works and a bit about the history of feudalism in European countries.

37. Feudal Japan – A basic explanation of how feudalism worked in Japan, with enough to get you started on the task of creating your own feudal society if you so choose.

38. English Monarchs – This website is a great springboard for learning about the various English monarchs throughout the ages.

39. Everyday Life in the Middle Ages – This article from the BBC is a great summary of what daily life looked like for nobles in the Middle Ages.

40. Peasant Life in the Middle Ages – This one’s for those of you writing about the less fortunate in the Middle Ages.

41. Victorian Era Family Day Life in England – Thinking you want to base your world off something a little more recent – but not too recent? This website details daily life in England during the Victorian era, and is sure to give you dozens of ideas.

42. The Story and Structure of the Iroquois Confederacy – If you want to break away from the mold of traditional fantasy, one of the best ways to do it is by basing your government off one most authors ignore. The Iroqouis confederacy comes complete with a fascinating story and an intriguing structure. I think most modern governments could learn a lot from these guys.

Take this list, copy+paste it into your word processor and keep it on hand so you can work through these articles and exercises on your own time. And remember these two things:

Not every exercise will work for you, but that’s okay. You won’t have time to get through them all before Nanowrimo starts anyway.

Oh, and there IS such a thing as too much worldbuilding. It happens when you get so caught up in the details of creating a realistic world that you never write a novel. So make sure you stop when November first comes around and start actually working on your novel.

Did you find this list useful? Do you know a resource I should have included but didn’t? Let me know in the comments section below!

What Nanowrimo 2014 will look like on The Dabbler

As you might have guessed from Tuesday’s post, I’ve got some pretty big plans this Nanowrimo–for both myself and this blog. My goal for this blog is simple: I want to create the ultimate resource for anyone participating in Nanowrimo who needs some help along the way.

I haven’t chosen an actual word goal yet–I’m working on some outlines right now and I want to finish them before deciding how far I want to push myself–but I promise you, it will be massive. This is a big year for me, and I’m determined to make this Nanowrimo suitably grand. It might also be my last time aiming for a massive word count, at least for a few years. I really need to focus on editing, and it’s hard to edit a book while also trying to write over 100, 000 words in a month.

I’m sure my ridiculous word count will entertain you at the end of November, but here’s what’s going on between now and then:

The Schedule

October: Planning

The right amount of planning is important if you actually want to complete Nanowrimo. How much is the right amount? Well, that depends on the novelist and the novel in question, but no matter how much planning you need to do, I guarantee you’ll find some useful advice and exercises here next month.

You’ll also find three posts a week: an exercise each Tuesday, advice from a published Nanowrimo author every Thursday and a resource list on Sundays. Planning a novel is hard work, and I’ll be here to help you every step of the way.

November: Writing

In November I’ll be going back to posting twice a week because I’m going for a massive word count. There should be a couple guest posts to help you stay inspired, just in case the weekly pep talks Nanowrimo sends you aren’t enough to satisfy.

This November you’ll get some inspiration, tips and tricks every Tuesday and a word count update every Thursday. The word count updates will be brief but keep you informed and keep me accountable.

If you’re not interested in hearing about my Nanowrimo adventures or writing a novel, sign up for my newsletter to be reminded when I return to discussing freelance writing.

Otherwise, let’s have a fantastic fall together!

5 Great Resources For Writers

Creativity As September draws to a close the time has come for me to really start planning for Nanowrimo–and to help other aspiring novelists do the same. Next week I’ll be diving into the subject of how to plan a novel and prepare for a crazy month of quick writing.

Of course, not every writer wants to do Nanowrimo. Some people are naturally slow writers, other people are deep in edits, and others simply don’t like the idea. And some of you will simply want to continue reading about other topics.

Since I know you all have different writing processes–and different goals–I’ve compiled a list of writing resources to keep your mind busy while I’m focused on Nanowrimo(after signing up for my newsletter  so you can be reminded when it’s over).

The Renegade Writer

Run by successful freelance writer Linda Formichelli, The Renegade Writer is chock full of great advice for writers of all stripes. It is focused on freelance writing, but the time management and productivity themed posts are useful to any type of writer.

I’ve actually been following The Renegade Writer for a long time myself, and I’ve found the advice incredible. I’ve also recently joined The Freelance Writer’s Den, where I’ve made a number of valuable connections and gained a lot of useful advice. The webinars are invaluable and the price is well worth it–even if you just stay for the time it takes you to work through the classes.(Note: I am an affiliate, and you automatically will be too if you join).

Writing-World.com

Writing-World.com houses a massive collection of articles about all things writing. Their articles cover everything from freelance writing to novels to poetry. It’s one of the most extensive article databases you’ll find where all the information is legitimate, and by the time you’ve read them all, I’ll be done Nanowrimo. No, really. Unless you have nothing else to do next month.

I’ve also been subscribed to their newsletter for a number of years and they have a great combination of useful articles and links to other resources. No matter where you are on your writing journey, subscribing to their newsletter is a great idea.

The Creative Penn

Run by successful author Joanna Penn, this awesome blog has great advice for writers of all kinds. It also happens to be home to a podcast, where Joanna talks about all manner of things, mostly related to writing and more specifically the business side of writing.

I’ve only been subscribed to The Creative Penn for a few months now, but I’m always happy to see Joanna’s name appear in my inbox. Whether or not you subscribe, I’m sure if you spend a few minutes on Joanna’s site you’ll get some useful advice.

Magical Words

I’m sure at some point in the distant past I’ve linked to this blog before. I’ve actually been following Magical Words longer than I’ve been following… Well, pretty much any blog I still follow.

Magical Words was created by a group of speculative fiction authors–primarily fantasy authors–who wanted to shed some light on the processes of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. They’ve got awesome advice and I’ve read books by some of the authors and quite enjoyed them.

Never Give Up by Joan Y. Edwards

It might sound more like a self help book than a blog, but this is actually a fantastic blog for writers–and realistically creative people of all types. In fact, if I had given more advice about how to build your self confidence, it probably would have included Joan’s blog.

Her blog offers a combination of writing tips, interviews with awesome authors, and encouragement. She’s an excellent blogger who’s truly dedicated to helping writers become authors.

There are dozens of great blogs about writing and marketing your writing work. Hell, there are probably hundreds, maybe even thousands. Each one offers its own brand of advice, and all of them have some validity.

Your search for great writing blogs shouldn’t end here. Take some time to explore what’s easily available online and discover all kinds of authors. Figure out which advice works for you and which advice doesn’t.

I’d love to hear about where your search for great writing blogs leads you.

What are some of your favourite resources for writers? Let me know in the comments section below!